Monday, March 30, 2009

Cheap Chow

An HK-Online Magazine item on its March 27, 2009 issue is causing the latest furor on the local blogosphere. The racist article from Chip Tsao; who usually defers to history, his former colonial masters, and world superpowers (shows how cowardly he is); is a blatant insult to Filipinos. The magazine has since pulled out the offending article and issued an apology. Some Filipino bloggers are wont to just dismiss it as satire and thus should not be taken seriously. Funny or not, I think all the outrage is justified. Mr. Tsao thinks he has a hostage when hostilities break out? He does not realize what his hostage can put in his coffee, even before the hostilities start.

Below is a screen-cap of the article before it was pulled out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fw: TO ALL THE KIDS WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1950's, 60' s, 70's and early 80's !!

Posting here, from a forwarded email, memories of the simple life:
=================================================================

TO ALL THE KIDS WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1950's, 60' s, 70's and early 80's !!

First, some of us survived being born to mothers who did not have an OB-Gyne and drank San Miguel Beer while they carried us.

While pregnant, they took cold or cough medicine, ate isaw, and didn't worry about diabetes.

Then after all that trauma, our baby cribs were made of hard wood covered with lead-based paints, pati na yung walker natin, matigas na kahoy din at wala pang gulong.

We had no soft cushy cribs that play music, no disposable diapers (lampin lang), and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, no kneepads , sometimes wala pang preno yung bisikleta.

As children, we would ride in hot un-airconditioned buses with wooden seats (yung JD bus na pula), or cars with no airconditioning & no seat belts (ngayon lahat may aircon na)

Riding on the back of a carabao on a breezy summer day was considered a treat. (ngayon hindi na nakakakita ng kalabaw ang mga bata)

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle purchased from 711 ( minsan straight from the faucet or poso)

We shared one soft drink bottle with four of our friends, and NO ONE actually died from this. Or contacted hepatitis.

We ate rice with star margarine, drank raw eggs straight from the shell, and drank sofdrinks with real sugar in it (hindi diet coke), but we weren't sick or overweight kasi nga......

WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, and get back when the streetlights came on. Sarap mag patintero, tumbang preso , habulan at taguan.

No one was able to reach us all day ( di uso ang cellphone , walang beepers ) . And yes, we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our wooden trolleys (yung bearing ang gulong) or plywood slides out of scraps and then ride down the street , only to find out we forgot the brakes! After hitting the sidewalk or falling into a canal (seweage channel) a few times, we learned to solve the problem ourselves with our bare & dirty hands .

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 100 channels on cable, no DVD movies, no surround stereo, no IPOD's, no cell phones, no computers, no Internet, no chat rooms, and no Friendsters....... ...WE HAD REAL FRIENDS and we went outside to actually talk and play with them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no stupid lawsuits from these accidents. The only rubbing we get is from our friends with the words..masakit ba ? pero pag galit yung kalaro mo,,,,ang sasabihin sa iyo..beh buti nga !

We played marbles (jolens) in the dirt , washed our hands just a little and ate dirty ice cream & fish balls. we were not afraid of getting germs in our stomachs.

We had to live with homemade guns " gawa sa kahoy, tinali ng rubberband , sumpit , tirador at kung ano ano pa na puedeng makasakitan..pero masaya pa rin ang lahat.

We made up games with sticks ( syatong ), and cans ( tumbang preso )and although we were told they were dangerous, wala naman tayong binulag o napatay.paminsan minsan may nabubukulan lang.

We walked, rode bikes, or took tricycles to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them to jump out the window!

Mini basketball teams had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't pass had to learn to deal with the disappointment. Wala yang mga childhood depression at damaged self esteem ek-ek na yan. Ang pikon, talo.

Ang magulang ay nandoon lang para tignan kung ayos lang ang mga bata, hindi para makialam at makipag-away sa ibang parents.

That generation of ours has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers, creative thinkers and successful professionals ever! They are the CEO's, Engineers, Doctors and Military Generals of today.

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had failure, success, and responsibility. We learned from our mistakes the hard way.

You might want to share this with others who've had the luck to grow up as real kids. We were lucky indeed.

And if you like, forward it to your kids too, so they will know how brave their parents were.

It kind of makes you wanna go out and climb a tree, doesn't it?!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Face yourself

Do you believe that your personality is written all over your face? Jean Haner, an expert in understanding facial features believes so, and in fact has written a book about it. The author of "The Wisdom of Your Face" says your face is the blueprint of who you really are.

Haner says people who undergo surgery to remove wrinkles could actually be doing a disservice. "There are good wrinkles and bad wrinkles," she says. "We are supposed to get some, and if you erase them it's not healthy, you might have to learn certain life lessons all over again."

Some of the tips Haner gives to women in search of the perfect man:
  • -Behind a guy's big mouth and full lips is a sensitive man who is emotionally available.
  • -Spiritually sensitive guys have a bony nose [and] sunken or hollowed cheeks.
  • -An upper lip much thinner than his lower one on guys is a sign they're more hedonistic and have a tendency to be unfaithful.
And her tips to guys:
  • -"Back away slowly from the woman who plucks her eyebrows into a tiny line. That's suppressed rage."
Even so, she notes, "You can't tell everything about someone just by looking at one feature. It's how all the features work together that really gives you the true picture."

But her analysis of a hairline that goes straight across - that guy is a rule breaker and paradigm shifter; big ears? they are a positive trait: they suggest a strong sense of confidence and the ability to take risks.

The last time I looked in a mirror, I have a hairline that goes straight across and I have big ears.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What are the odds?

Lotto Game Lotto 6/42 MegaLotto 6/45 SuperLotto 6/49 Power Lotto 5/55 +Powerball
Numbers in Pool
42 45 49 55
Chosen 6 6 6 5+1
No. of combinations 5,245,786 8,145,060 13,983,816 34,787,610
Amount needed to bet for all combinations 52,457,860 81,450,600 279,676,320 1,739,380,500

The biggest lotto jackpot ever (around PhP350M) has been won recently by two lucky bettors. Conspiracy theorists who say the usual suspects were busy defending themselves against World Bank charges that's why they haven't won the big thing yet.

Just what are the odds of getting six numbers correctly from a pool of Lotto numbers? Using basic prob formulas and a spreadsheet, we compute the odds presented in the table above. For the ordinary Lotto (6/42) alone, the number of possible combinations is more than 5.2 million. For the Megalotto (6/45), the number of combinations is more than 8 million and for the Superlotto (6/49), the combinations total just under 14 million.

From 1:5 million to 1:14 million. Statistically, that is how hard it is to guess the winning numbers. At the ticket price of PhP10 per combination, you have to invest PhP52 million (for Lotto6/42, PhP81M for Megalotto and Php280M for Superlotto) to bet for all the possible combinations. Even more staggering is the odds for the Powerlotto, where you have to invest PhP1.7 Billion to be assured of the Php50 million jackpot. The latest big jackpot is big enough for someone bold enough to bet for all combinations. But imagine the logistical nightmare of filling up all those tickets. Hahaha.

But Filipinos are so good in getting the lotto jackpot that whenever it is won, it is often shared by 2 or more winners. Statistically, having one winner is hard enough. But getting two or more? The biggest lotto prize ever was won when the World Bank controversy waned. Just what are the odds of 2 winners sharing the PhP350Million? Go figure. Conspiracy theorists may have a point.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A long awaited revolution: Our own fight against the “fannulloni”

An Italian economist and cabinet member (the equivalent of our Civil Service Commission), Renato Brunetta started a 'revolution' within the their public administration. He started a personal war against the fannulloni – sluggards – of the Italian workforce: “In a few months there has been an almost 50% drop in the number of sick days and I’m no magician”, he said during a press conference. On a yearly base, that means 60.000 workers were added to this sector, without spending a dime.

The civil service is there to help citizens in their interactions with the government and make things easier for everyone. But in many places the government service is some sort of safe haven for people who don’t like working. This leads into endless queues in public offices and an enormous waste of public money. Governments, in fact, allocates billions to public sector wages but still productivity level has been consistently less than the private sector. Government employees tend to produce less than private workers do.

In order to reverse this trend of inefficiency, Brunetta revised the Italian public sector pay scheme. The salary is now made up of two parts, one is fixed while the other is linked to productivity, usually between about 10 and 15 euro. Brunetta made it clear that, if a public worker is at home due to illness, the second part will be reduced.

Journalists contend that “It is too early to tell if Mr. Brunetta's reforms have revolutionised national behaviour. Italians have a tendency to react swiftly and prudently to draconian new laws, but then to slide quietly back into their traditional ways when vigilance slackens and the immediate danger has passed”.

That may be true, but Brunetta’s predecessor, Luigi Nicolais, raised the wages of over 200,000 ministerial employees by 101 euro per month. He also introduced a new productivity based system which recognized the hours of overtime work, by increasing the salary, without any guarantee that the workers would actually increase their level of productivity. This, however, proved to be a rash move that did not result in any improvement.

Here in the Philippines, we have the Salary Standardization Laws. Some agencies even implement automatic 1-step annual pay increases and pay for overtime work. But overtime pay is counterproductive and accounts for greater inefficiency as more resources are infused to achieve the same output. We need our own revolution against our own sluggards.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two wrongs don't make a right: Hypocrisy on the ides of March

Moral education taught us that two wrongs don't make a right. One should never assume that if one wrong is committed, another wrong will cancel it out. One cannot justify a wrong action by pointing to another wrong action of the accuser.

Why? Doesn't the two negatives (wrongs) cancel each other out? Isn't it a mathematical fact that multiplying two negative numbers produce a positive number?  The two wrongs don't cancel out beause this isn't math.

Text book logic tell us that tu quoque is a very common fallacy in which one attempts to defend oneself or another from criticism by turning the critique back against the accuser. Tu quoque, Brute, fili mi, by the way, is what Caesar said before he was assassinated. Literally it means "you too?". Shakespeare wrote "et tu?".

However, not all tu quoque arguments are fallacious. They are also used to show inconsistency, to indirectly repeal a criticism by narrowing its scope or challenging its criteria, or to call into question the credibility of a source of knowledge.

The ever reliable Google brings us to the Wikipedia page, and I quote:

A legitimate use of the you-too version might be:
    A makes criticism P.
    A is also guilty of P.
    Therefore, the criticism is confusing because it does not reflect A's actual values or beliefs.

Example: "You say that taking a human life is wrong under all circumstances, but support killing in self-defense; you are either being inconsistent, or you believe that under some circumstances taking a human life is justified."

Immediately ascribing an argument as tu quoque may be just a ploy to hide the original wrong. If a wrong has not been tolerated early on, the succeeding wrongs might not have happened. This inconstency, or uneven and selective application of moral standards, is pure and plain hypocrisy.

Equal application of policy is akin to equal application of the law. The US Supreme Court, in a case about an unconstitutional application of the law due to violation of the guarantee of equal protection, reasoned: “Though the law itself be fair on its face and impartial in appearance, yet, if it is applied and administered by public authority with an evil eye and an unequal hand, so as practically to make unjust and illegal discrimina­tions between persons in similar circumstances, material to their rights, the denial of rights is still within the prohibition of the Constitution.”

Monday, March 9, 2009

The SNAFU Principle

Ever wonder why the bureaucracy always fouls up everything. Here's an explanation floating on the web.

The SNAFU Principle

In the beginning was the Plan.

And then came the Assumptions.

And the Assumptions were without form.

And the Plan was without substance.

And darkness was upon the face of the Workers. And they spoke among themselves, saying, "It is a crock of shit, and it stinks."

And the Workers went unto their Supervisors and said, "It is a pail of dung, and we can't live with the smell."

And the Supervisors went unto their Managers, saying, "It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong, such that none may abide by it."

And the Managers went unto their Directors, saying, "It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength."

And the Directors spoke among themselves, saying to one another, "It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong."

And the Directors went to the Vice Presidents, saying unto them, "It promotes growth, and it is very powerful."

And the Vice Presidents went to the President, saying unto him, "This new plan will actively promote the growth and vigor of the company with very powerful effects."

And the President looked upon the Plan and saw that it was good.

And the Plan became Policy.

And this is how shit happens.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

“Pag gusto may paraan, pag ayaw may dahilan”

The word ‘bureaucratic’ has a negative connotation. I bet Weber did not intend it to be that way. When something with a positive connotation is described as bureaucratic, it becomes an oxymoron. So we have oxymora like “bureaucratic wisdom”, “bureaucratic efficiency”, and “bureaucratic intelligence”.

Just like in basic math, the negative connotation of bureaucracy gives a neutral word a negative connotation when described as such. So “bureaucratic procedure” and “bureaucratic layer” have negative connotations.

But unlike in math, when something with a negative connotation is described as bureaucratic, the double negative does not resolve to a positive connotation. On the contrary, the double negative resolves to a negative. It affirms even more the negative connotation. So we have “bureaucratic mess”, “bureaucratic idiocy”, and “bureaucratic snafu”, which brings to mind a terrible mess, tremendous stupidity, and monumental foul-up .

Bureaucracy is characterized by the system of control based on rational rules--that is, as Weber nobly thought, rules meant to design and regulate the whole organization on the basis of technical knowledge and with the aim of achieving maximum efficiency.

But why has the bureaucracy come to this negative connotation? First let us understand how bureaucracy works. Bureaucracy works like this – if you are given a job/task, get an assistant to delegate that task to. If there is no assistant or deputy at the moment, create one or better yet a task force to study how to give you one. The bureaucracy grew leaps and bounds because of this.

With the increasing complexity and bureaucratization due to insatiable appetite for expansion of the workforce, all power is concentrated at the top, in the hands of an organizational elite. The organizational elite always has as its primary aim the consolidation of its own power position. Whenever this aim clashes with other goals of the workforce, the elite will sacrifice the others rather than jeopardize its own privileges. Kaya uso ang laglagan, at kaya hindi nagkakamali ang boss.Organizational elites have a common interest – maintain the status quo, thus they form a strong power group determined to oppose any demand for change.

Sociologists observe that while Weber thought that rules and control of all actions would mean reliability and predictability, the rules and control also lead to lack of flexibility and the tendency to turn means into ends. The emphasis on conformity and strict observance of the rules induces the one to internalize them. Instead of simply means, procedural rules become ends in themselves. The goal becomes the adherence to rules. The instrumental and formalistic aspect of the bureaucratic role becomes more important than the substantive one, the achievement of the main organizational goals. The predictability and precision envisioned by Weber becomes dysfunction.

A government corporation I am very familiar with is led by an Administrator. The Administrator has two deputies. They also have four assistant administrators; the first three administrators handle the three main functions of the agency: licensing, technical services, and marketing. The fourth assistant administrator handles corporate administration. This means the bureaucracy grew so large that it now needs a full time assistant administrator to handle it alongside the core business functions. Another example is the government financial institution tasked with policy creation and supervision of institutions. It has two deputies to the top boss; one deputy for policy and another for supervision. But wait, there’s more. It has another deputy, again for corporate resources.

Organizational elites are primarily interested in the pursuit of their narrow interests and the consolidation and improvement of their own power position, even at the expense of wider organizational interests. There is a saying: “Pag gusto may paraan, pag ayaw may dahilan”. Organizational elites can manipulate the rules in order to enhance its own prerogatives. Because rules obviously can never cover everything, "areas of uncertainty" always emerge that constitute the focal points around which collective conflicts become acute and instances of direct dominance and subordination develop. The group that, by its position in the occupational structure, can control the "unregulated" area, has a great strategic advantage that it naturally uses in order to improve its power position and to ensure a greater share of organizational rewards. (some material from the Encyclopedia Brittanica).

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