Which SIM card should I use in KAUST?

There was this weird debate on my Whatsapp group about which telco cellular operator is the best for KAUST residents (and probably anyone living in Saudi in general). I ended up doing a free promotion for Jawwy in that group. Since the information might be useful for fellow KAUSTians and maybe expats in Saudi, I decided to list the details about Jawwy here.

For me personally, I once received a Mobily business SIM card from KAUST, but I don’t really like it because the cheapest data package available is 2 GB for 60 SAR – and if you spend most of your time inside KAUST you won’t need that many data because of the ubiquitous iCampus wifi access point. Since I occassionally leave campus for Umra or shopping in Jeddah, I need something cheaper.

I found out about Jawwy, a part of STC – the major telco company in Saudi – from a Facebook ad. Yes, Facebook ad is actually helpful for once.

Anyway, just to keep this post short, the main advantages of Jawwy which I have experienced so far:

  1. Cheap. The basic package is only 20 SAR per month, which gives you 500 MB of data and 50 minutes of call time. Most of the time it’s enough for a KAUST student like me.
  2. Flexible plan. If I run out of data in the middle of my plan, I can just upgrade my plan on the go using the Jawwy app. The reverse is also possible, where if you start with more data plan but ended up having unused quota, you can just downgrade and refund the difference.
  3. It’s linked to credit cards, making payment really easy. One of my major annoyance with mobily is the need to buy recharge vouchers, which is not always available in Tamimi.
  4. Promos and addons. If you use 50 SAR plans and above, you get unlimited social media data usage. If you don’t feel like upgrading your plan when you run out of data, you can get a 10 SAR addon that gives you 1 GB for a week. Roaming works well -tried in in San Francisco – and 100 SAR gives you 2 GB for a week. Currently they’re still trying to attract more users so there are lots of promos going on.

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Ordering the SIM card is easy. You can go to http://www.jawwy.sa and buy the sim card online. If you have existing phone number, you can transfer your old number to Jawwy to skip the hassle with changing phone number. Note that this doesn’t work with business accounts. It will be delivered to your house within 2 business days, and in case of KAUST residents you need to go to the visitor parking lot in gate 3 for fingerprint and signature.


Sapiens part 1

I just picked up Harari’s Sapiens for reading (hurray to KAUST’s library for adding this amazing book to their collection upon my request), and it’s a really fascinating read. I just touched upon the first part of the book, about the difference between Homo Sapiens and the other human species – yes, there are other human species, those with “Homo” in their name such as Neanderthals, Homo Soloensis, etc.

The argument is that after “cognitive revolution” several hundred thousands of years ago, the Sapien’s mind becomes capable of thinking beyond physical stuffs, including fictions, myths, and social constructs. This sets them apart from other animals because now sapiens can understand abstract concepts such as religion, money, and nationality. For example, I can’t teach my dog that if she’s a good girl, then she will go to doggie heaven. No, I have to go through the carrot and stick approach, reinforcing good behavior through tangible rewards such as snacks – and maybe some belly rubs – and repress unwanted behaviors through punishment.

On the other hand, sapiens, because they can understand abstract concept, have the ability to establish more flexible, complex, and larger social interactions. For example, because of the abstract concept called ‘money’ (at the end of the day the value of money is just something that everyone agrees on), individuals can quickly establish business relation with each other without personally knowing the other party. As long as the fictional concept of money is believed and agreed upon by everyone, then trust can be easily established. The same can be said for patriotism, where the fictional concept of ‘nation’ glues group of people together, even to the point where they would go to war for the sake of this so-called ‘nation’.

Will continue reading and update with what I’ve learned.

Between research and side activities

My lab manager told us that as PhD students we have to think about our research 24/7 to make breakthrough – which is just wrong because based on my observation, the highest performing members of my research group are those who actually have hobbies and do physical activities outside of the lab. These guys spend at least a few hours a week doing their hobbies – be it cricket, football, or badminton. Even my PI plays badminton regularly each week.

In his book “Letters to a Young Scientist” by Edward Wilson, he suggested scientists to take some side activities on the weekend to distract themselves from the research work (he advised against taking vacation though). Even Feynman does weird side activities – lock picking for example – when he was participating in the atomic bomb research.

So I decided to squeeze more of my hobbies into my schedule, to ensure that I can keep my mental health intact when having to deal with the MBE (the MBE is governed by Murphy’s law so in addition to having to perform maintenance on it, I have to pray as hard as I can that it doesn’t just commit suicide randomly). It might also be a good idea because based on my  mental health counseling, my counselor suggested that I stop being so fixated on the future and try to achieve small goals everyday.

So, trying to list my hobbies:

  1. Anime and manga
  2. Playing video games (number 1 and 2 already indicates that I’m a nerd)
  3. Running (no treadmill, only outdoors. I super hate treadmills.)
  4. Cycling (again, outdoor, trying to raise my stamina so I can go with the cycling club to the mountains because doing laps around KAUST is boring)
  5. Photography (I’m running out of objects to photograph inside KAUST, and travelling inside Saudi is not the cheapest or easiest thing to do).
  6. Travelling (see point 5)

As doing creative endeavour contributes to better mental health, I’m trying to allocate more time to 5. 3 & 4 should be done daily to improve my health. 1 and 2 is not that productive, so I’m only doing it at night. 6, as I mentioned, is not that straightforward in Saudi due to the lack of public transport and tourist-friendly facilities (Saudi doesn’t have a tourism visa, mind you). And I’m not a religious person, so going to Mekkah and Madinah doesn’t give me that much inspiration. I should totally move to Japan after graduating.

Anyway, work hard, play harder.


Kelinci dan kura-kura

Ada yang menarik soal cerita kelinci dan kura-kura, di mana ada dua versi mengenai cerita ini. Saya lupa dari mana saya membaca ini, tapi kalau tidak salah ini disisinggung di novel Anansi Boys kalangan Neil Gaiman.Yang pertama, yang terkenal di barat adalah tentang kura-kura, yang dengan kegigihannya akhirnya berhasil mengalahkan kelinci di lomba lari. Cerita ini lebih dominan di daerah-daerah di mana hasil jerih payah masing-masing individu dihargai, dan mindset utamanya adalah apabila kita mau bekerja keras, maka kita bisa mencapai apa yang kita inginkan.

Namun saya ingat waktu saya masih SD, cerita yang saya baca dari buku teks Bahasa Indonesia agak berbeda. Ceritanya mirip, mengenai lomba lari antara kancil dan siput. Akan tetapi bedanya adalah di sini siput tidak menang menggunakan cara yang jujur, akan tetapi dia menaruh saudara-saudaranya di interval tertentu mulai dari start hingga finish. Karena kancil tidak bisa membedakan siput-siput tersebut satu sama lain, ia seolah-olah selalu ketinggalan sepanjang lomba, dan akhirnya iapun kalah akibat kecurangan siput. Bahkan waktu itu dengan otak anak SD saya, saya merasa ini bukan cara menang yang benar. Cerita kedua lebih populer di kalangan bangsa budak dan terjajah, di mana kerja keras mereka tidak bisa mengubah nasib mereka. Satu-satunya cara bagi mereka untuk bisa menang dari tuan mereka adalah dengan mengandalkan tipu muslihat.

Lucu juga bahwa yang masuk buku teks Balai Pustaka waktu itu adalah nomor 2.


Ampas adalah udah semangat beli sepeda di Indonesia buat dibawa ke Saudi tapi caliper rem belakang bocor. Jadilah brake pad kontaminasi, kalo pake rem belakang bunyi keras banget, dan tenaga ngeremnya hampir nggak ada. Dan karena sepeda dan segala aksesorisnya di Saudi sangatlah overpriced, untuk ganti satu set rem harus kena biaya 580 Riyal – yang tentu saja gak gw lakukan karena sepedanya kalo diconvert harganya cuma sekitar 2700 SAR. Biarlah gw bertaruh cuma dengan mengandalkan rem depan.

Entah keampasan ini karena si mas-mas Rodalink nggak becus ngecek remnya sebelom dipacking (gw beli udah dipacking, gak mungkin gw bongkar sebelom check in di bandara), atau karena keampasan petugas bandara Jeddah yang kualitas layanannya sama ampasnya dengan terminal bus (lengkap dengan kamar mandi pesing). Ah tahik, emang lagi apes.

Buka puasa

Kemaren buka puasa, berhubung diundang sama temen, jadinya makan super buanyak. Jadilah mulai kemaren gw dan istri sepakat untuk buka puasa pake korma aja dan gak makan malem, berhubung rasanya eneg banget makan segitu banyak.

Oh dan menurut CNN, binge eating abis buka puasa merupakan salah satu penyebab obesitas, terutama di daerah timur tengah.

PhD work pt 1

Keuntungan masuk KAUST memang banyak, mulai dari sisi materi di mana kita dapat stipend yang gede, housing gratis, dibiayain pulang. Buat yang muslim pun ada keuntungan tambahan dari sisi ibadah seperti bisa umroh dengan mudah dan bisa haji tanpa harus antri sebelumnya. Meskipun begitu, tetap saja tujuan utama kuliah di KAUST ini adalah untuk belajar dan melakukan riset. Meskipun kentungan lainnya banyak, tetap saja keuntungan utama yang harus diperhatikan adalah sarana riset kelas dunia dan dana riset yang melimpah ruah. Sebagai perbandingan, seorang mahasiswa ITB yang mau menggunakan SEM bisa mengantri di nomor urut 300, sementara di KAUST ada 7 SEM (kalau nggak salah), sehingga bisa dibilang kalau gw lagi senggang dan in the mood for SEM, gw tinggal booking dan turun ke bawah untuk menggunakannya.

Entah mengapa kalau gw perhatikan yang minat ke KAUST justru pengen keuntungan lainnya, baru mikirin keuntungan dari sisi risetnya. Ya mungkin nggak salah juga sih berhubung KAUST masih tergolong muda (baru 6 tahun) jadi dari sisi pamor tentu masih belum seterkenal univ-univ top 10 dunia. Tapi percayalah, dari sisi fasilitas riset kita sudah bisa dibilang sebanding dengan univ-univ tersebut.

Yang ngeselin adalah kadang ada aja orang yang nanya anehnya kelewatan. Misalnya baru-baru ini ada mahasiswa sastra arab yang nanya apa dia bisa lanjut S2 di KAUST karena dia merasa salah jurusan dan kayaknya lebih seneng kalo meneliti di lab. Errr lo kira kuliah sastra sama engineering itu sama? Terus kalo lo kuliah sastra kenapa lo bisa dapet gambaran kalo kerja di lab lebih seneng? Jangan-jangan lo kira kerjaan di lab tuh cuman nyampur sugar,spice, and everything nice terus jadi powerpuff girls gitu? Apa jangan-jangan dikira semacam mythbusters gitu kali yah. Pengen kayang rasanya.

Supaya KAUST bisa lebih menarik kandidat yang beneran tertarik bidang riset di science and technology dan bukannya kandidat random ntahpapa, gw akan mencoba sharing apa aja yang gw kerjain di sini. Dan supaya rekan-rekan gw di KAUSTINA nggak heran kenapa gw weekend ada di lab atau kenapa gw punya sleeping bag di lab.

Photonics Lab


Lab gw tersayang, because home is where the lab is :p. Info selengkapnya bisa dilihat di photonics.kaust.edu.sa, tapi di sini akan gw jelaskan singkat tentang apa yang gw kerjain. Secara garis besar, yang kita kerjain adalah

  1. Semiconductor growth. Di sini kita menumbuhakan semikonduktor nitride menggunakan molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) dan di masa depan akan ditambah dengan metal organic chemical vapor phase deposition (MOCVD). Ini adalah bahan dasar untuk device optoelektronik. Saat ini yang ditarget adalah material dengan wavelength di ultraviolet dan visible.
  2. Device fabrication. Seperti namanya, ini adalah bagian fabrikasi device, di mana kita menggunakan material entah yang kita tumbuhkan sendiri di nomer 1, dapat dari kolaborator, atau beli material komersial dari perusahaan di luar sana untuk kemudian dijadikan device. Device bisa berupa photodetector, laser, LED. Selain active device, kita juga melakukan fabrikasi passive optical component seperti misalnya grating.
  3. Optical communications. Saat ini yang sedang kita kerjakan adalah visible light communication di mana ke depannya tidak menutup kemungkinan bohlam yang digunakan untuk menerangi ruangan bisa digunakan juga untuk mengirim data ke gadget kita, mirip seperti wifi. Selain itu kita juga melakukan riset underwater communications untuk transmisi data kecepatan tinggi menggunakan laser, yang cukup penting mengingat di dalam laut gelombang elektromagnetik diredam.

Untuk gw sendiri, gw ada di nomor 1 dan 2, di mana gw menumbuhkan material nanowire gw sendiri dengan menggunakan MBE, dan kemudian melakukan fabrikasi device. FYI untuk nomer 1, dibutuhkan ketabahan, ketegaran hati, dan kemampuan menahan air mata (atau biasanya kalo gak ada orang gw kerja sambil nyanyi lagu f*ck you nya Lily Allen) mengingat MBE adalah mesin keparat yang sulit untuk digunakan dan dimaintain. Nomer 2 adalah bagian favorit gw, karena di sini kreatifitas bermain, dan banyak hal lucu yang bisa dilakukan kalau kalian menemukan metode-metode menarik dari paper-paper di luar sana. Curhatan akan dilakukan di postingan berikutnya.