Thursday, December 23, 2004


"525,600 minutes, 525,600 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes - How do you measure, measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee? In inches, in miles, in laughters, in strife? In 525,600 minutes -- How do you measure a year in the life?"

I adopted the nickname Cup'oCofi from a phrase in the theme song "Seasons of Love" from the popular musical "The Rent" which I saw back in 1999. I guess I like the phrase because it keeps reminding me to ask "how have you been measuring a year in your life?" As Mel Gibson's William Wallace puts it: "Every man dies. But not every man really lives."

So I started this Blog to log all the ways to measure a year in my life. I hope it can be a source of inspirations and motivations for me, and for all who care enough to read my postings.

(Please continue reading this month's archive for some catch-up blog in chronological order.)

Pre-1997: Home Sweet Home Jakarta

Honestly, it was difficult to make the decision to leave home. Especially when "home" provided me with everything I needed.

Food? OK, at about 2 dollars per meal, McDonald's was probably a luxury, but Indonesia was home to some of the best cookings in the world, available from the street vendors for about 20 cents per meal. And I'm not talking fast food. Real cooked meals.

Laundry? If I put my clothes in the laundry basket--instead of on the bathroom floor--my mom would be happy.

Parents? They lived some 3 hours drive away. No, I did not live in boarding school. I had a townhouse all for myself.

Well, almost everything.

When, in 1997, I received offers of admissions to reputable universities in the US but was denied admissions to Indonesia's public universities, the decision was made for me. If I had to go half-way around the world to get better, so be it.

Which, in retrospect, was a blessing in disguise.

1997 - 2001: Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University was my school of choice because of both its location and reputation.


Yes. Most Indonesians would have gone to either the West coast or East coast school where they could form their own "little Indonesia" community. At the conclusion of their studies, they still spoke broken English.

I chose St. Louis so I would not get that option.

What I did get was the luxury of knowing some of the brightest--and friendliest--minds in America who just enjoyed of having me around. My roommates Ralph and Chris, my RA Saskia, and my entire "Shepley 5" floormates helped me to integrate into American culture and college life. They helped me break the language and cultural barriers.

In my second year I became close friend with Laura, a Wisconsin girl who invited me to Wisconsin to celebrate the traditional American holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and to see the 6 foot of snow in Wisconsin's December landscape. With her help, by the third year I had mostly American and international friends, and English began to take over as my first language.

In retrospect, I really don't think I could've done any better (though the credit really goes to Shepley 5, Laura, and many others--including my acting teacher Andrea).

Wisconsin snow, December 2000

Take me out to the baaallgame ... graduation ceremony

Suitemates (J, Kev, Tim) - graduation ceremony

Graduation gala with the special friends

Post-Graduation Road Trip!

St. Louis --> Chicago --> Wisconsin --> South Dakota --> Montana --> Yellowstone National Park --> Idaho --> Seattle --> Portland --> San Francisco --> California SR-1 --> Los Angeles --> San Diego (Surf Camp) --> Santa Cruz --> Berkeley, California

Summer Destination: University of California, Berkeley (Chinese Class)

Mt. Rushmore - May 2001

The Old Faithful - May 2001

Yellowstone - May 2001

Seattle Space Needle - May 2001

SoCal Sunset - June 2001

San Francisco's "Queer" Parade

San Francisco "Queer" Parade - June 2001

San Francisco "Queer" Parade - June 2001

Yosemite Backpacking - July 2001

Dangerous Road Lies Ahead!!!

For my first job in Memphis, my return trip (Berkeley, Calif. --> Reno --> Utah --> Colorado --> Kansas (unfortunately) --> St. Louis --> Memphis) was yet another adventure ...

... it involved dealing with rattlesnakes ...

... and Big Foots ...

... dangerous reptiles ...

... through the magical archway ...

... up the steep cliffs ...

... but somehow my little blue car made it on top of Pikes Peak!!!

... and the view ... was simply breathtaking ...

2001: New Job, New City, New Friends, New Apartment

Well, I thought the fun was over. Actually, no. It was just beginning. Memphis might not sound that much fun ... but it is fun.

Sunset from My Apartment's Window

August 2002: A New House!

Funny. Just a week before I bought my house I told a colleague: why would I want to have a house? Then I have to cut the grass, etc, etc. But then I was ticked by the low interest rates: it was actually cheaper to own a house twice the size than to rent an apartment!

My House

... and the house was right on a golf course, too!

View from My House's Window

China Assignment 2002 - 2003

Well, I only had the house for 2 months when I was asked to help lead start-up of our new facility in Zhengzhou, China.

And let me repeat the city name. Zhengzhou, Henan Province, China. Most of you probably never heard that name! It was by the Yellow River (Huang He). Supposedly near the epicentrum of the start of Chinese Civilization. Well maybe you've heard of "Shaolin Temple" in Song Shan, the ancient capital "Luoyang", and Longmen Grottoes ... which are all close by.

And uh, by the way, our company put us in a five-star hotel (thanks Alan!) with a huge room, marble bathroom, and nice view from 16th floor.

My bathroom in the five-star hotel ... of course, remember this was China, so everything did come at a bargain ...

Re: DZZP Start-Up Success

Zhengzhou, People's Republic of China
January 20, 2003, 09:47 AM China Standard Time

To: Anthony
Cc: Everyone else in Memphis

Greetings from the Land of the Dragons! And Happy Sheep (Goat) Year!

Hey, needn't thank me ... I am the one who really needed to thank you and everyone at DPT in Memphis. I gained all the lessons, skills, and experience (uhm, and the awards too) while working with y'all. Everything that I learned was what made the impact on my assignment here with DZZP. Stephan in his email made a mention on that story of the two school builders. One says that he's building a school, one says he's helping educate our children. Well, we do our part in solving China's problem in feeding its 1.3 billion mouths, and in improving these 1.3 billion people's nutrition, health, and living standards. And more importantly: in educating these Chinese people on modern engineering techniques and management concepts.

Your baby sister plant here in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, People's Republic of China officially started up at 11:45 AM January 15th 2003, China Standard Time. I presented Allan--our plant's general manager--with the 2nd pound of product. I got to keep the first pound (there's another story about this ... hint: that sample port is right on top of the transfer line that utilizes a blower).

This is one heck of an experience. I think we probably faced more challanges than what you would starting up a plant in the United States. First of all, it was probably more like starting up Phase 1, as we are pretty much in the dark here trying to start everything up from almost a complete scratch. P3, MSP, and MS2P were built around the same technology so everyone was familiar with everything ... due to time and budget constraint, we are stuck with some Chinese engineering and equipment sets. Things don't work the way they are supposed to. And with Niro's screwed up design that caused more problems that benefits. Couple this with no experienced operators to help training ... people with most significant process experience would be Jon and me. Second of all, we don't have the luxury of using natural gas as an energy source (heavy oil burner makes this plant perhaps the most difficult to keep up of all DPT's). Third of all, we are dealing with some different types of people here, with totally different culture, educational background, and perspective in looking at things. We have engineers that don't believe that thermodynamic laws apply. We have operators that keep shutting things down (steam, water, electricity, cooling systems, burner, etc) because they keep thinking we are wasting energy (we still couldn't convince them that we are wasting even more resources when shutting things down because then we would be causing some downtime). We have lab people that don't want to use their brand new oven for experiment because they think it's too nice. We have maintenance crew that let our dryer down for 6 hours because they wanted to finish building a table instead of fixing our pipes. And the worst part ... people just practice what they believe and what they are used to regardless what is logically makes more sense.

Alright, some exagerations to that.

But honestly, I won't trade this experience with anything. All set and done, I'll be able to say: been there, done that. This is in no way easy ... pretty painful I would say. But what I gained, what helped me grew up faster ... are what made me feel how lucky I am to get this opportunity.

By the way, I started composing my own list of "you've been in China for too long if ..." I'll add more to the list as we go on ...

You Know You Had Been in China for Too Long if…

10. When your fellow American tries to talk Chinese to the Chinese taxi driver, you try to help the taxi driver by translating your friend’s words into English. You say “ni hao” and “xie xie” to everyone that looks Asian, even when you are in Chicago airport.

9. When your friend asks what food you just ordered in a restaurant, your simple answer would be “it is famous in China and is good for health”.

8. You start believing that all thermodynamic theories are some piece of craps invented by American conspirators.

7. “Medical stores” and “art shops” have “another meaning” to you. (The Chinese are so prudent that you can't openly discuss anything about sex ... this being said, you could find more porn books and sex shops in the streets and malls of Zhengzhou than you could in the streets and malls of Los Angeles! When we confronted the Chinese about this, they replied lightly: "Oh, those shops are OK, because they sell medical devices!" or "Those are not porn ... those are art!")

6. You think you can dress any way you want and tell other people it’s the new style (and the next day they will all try to dress the way you do).

5. You wear long johns everywhere throughout the winter--you think electric and gas heaters are bad for health.

4. You turn off all utilities after doing 2 hours worth of work to save energy although that means you will have to spend 8 hours the next day with a steam gun unfreezing water lines. Then you do 2 hours worth of work, shut utilities back down, and go home. You prefer to work harder than to work smarter because you think working smarter will put people out of jobs.

3. You learned that “No smoking” does not really mean “no smoking”.

2. You learned that no does not always mean no after all. And you learned that “yes” or “OK” 90% of the time means “no”.

1. You wake up one day and scream, “Screw you guys, I’m going home!!!”

Beijing, en-route to Zhengzhou

Of course, I did not miss the opportunity to visit the "Northern Capital" Beijing before duty started!

Forbidden Palace

Summer Palace

China Great Wall

The China Great Wall ... It's so HUGE it's almost ridiculous!!!

Ming's Tomb

Beijing's pedestrian-only shopping street Wangfujing Dajie

Zhengzhou Sightseeing: Song Shan - Shaolin Temple

Shaolin Temple Pagoda Garden

Tom and Danny in Shaolin Temple

Shaolin Temple ... my interpreter later told me the writing on the right means "Do Not Take Pictures" ...

Zhengzhou Sightseeing: Chinese New Year Festival

CNYF Lion Dance in Zhengzhou

CNYF Dragon Dance in Zhengzhou

Zhengzhou Sightseeing: Longmen Grottoes, the Ancient Capital Luoyang

Longmen Grottoes

Xian Trip: The Ancient Terra-Cota Warriors

Xian Terra-cotta Warriors ... another one in China it's so HUGE it's almost ridiculous!

Xian Trip: The City of Xian

Xian's City Walls

Xian's Terra-Cotta Warriors

Trip to the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang)

Chang Jiang / Yangtze River before the flooding for the Three Gorges Dam takes place. The dam was under construction during this time.

Wuhan, a City Along the Yangtze River


A Trip to Shanghai


Shanghai - Pudong skyline viewed from Shanghai

Shanghai - Pudong Skyline

Six Sigma Training

After China ... came probably one of the most important steps in my life and career--Six Sigma Black Belt training. But let's not talk about the statistics here ... let's just talk about the weekend trips and the pretty pictures!

The Country Club where we had the Six Sigma class! See? Six Sigma had its benefits already!

Six Sigma Training and East Coast Weekend Trips

E. I.'s residence in the Hagley Museum


The Liberty Bell, Philadelphia

Cheasapeake Bay Bridge ... a damn long bridge!