The teacher’s best friend

March.22. 2014

Years ago, in a far off country, there was a scandal involving a daycare center.

The whole thing came to light when a parent left her child at the daycare center one day. Due to a change of plans, she decided to go back and pick up her child for the day.

When she arrived at the daycare center, she was surprised to find her child sleeping peacefully.

How could this be, she wondered. The child was positively jumping up and down when she had left him there just a short while ago.

Turned out, it seems, as soon as her child was dropped off, he was given some milk to drink. And yes, you guessed it. The milk was spiked with sleeping medication.

You’ll have to admire the ingenuity behind the plan.

We all know children are filled with energy so how do you suppress all that energy and get them to quiet down?

No problem, just administer a small dose of sleeping medication.

I forgot the finer details of that case but I remember it caused quite a stir in the country

Now, fast forward to the present and to another country – a country that is far more advanced and enlightened, and should I say, a country that is particularly protective of everyone’s rights, especially those of the weak and the helpless.

But children will be children, even in this advanced country.

So how do you control all that energy in these children too? How do you make them behave and sit quietly in their places so that they can ‘learn’ in the classroom?

Enter the teacher’s best friend, otherwise known as Ritalin.

Different place and different time, but same strategy and same outcome.

With the teacher’s best friend, you can produce perfectly behaved children without any effort. There’s no need to teach discipline, no need to teach responsibility and respect. All you have to do is to administer the drug and voila, instant model children.

Just one more example of the wonders of modern science.

And everyone lives happily ever after.

The teachers, because now their job is easier, and the parents, because they can enjoy their lives without having to deal with the frequent calls from the school principal and counselors.

PS.

To be fair to teachers, their options are severely limited when it comes to curbing the boundless energy of young children.

In less ‘enlightened’ societies, the standard practice is to achieve it through physical means, but that option is ruled out by child psychologists in advanced countries as damaging to the children’s psyche.

So the only option left to teachers in these enlightened societies is to achieve it  through chemical means.

“Spare the rod and drug the child” is the new maxim.


Yelp (really)

March.10. 2014

I’ve posted a few reviews on Yelp, mostly 5-star kudos-type comments in appreciation of outstanding food and service.

But the other day, after a particularly distasteful dinner at a ramen place here in Palo Alto, I decided to post my first 1-star review and imagine my surprise when I found it was made invisible the next day, and my less than enthusiastic 1-star review was not factored into the overall rating of this establishment.

Apparently, Yelp does not like negative comments and only allows glowing reviews.

That was a surprise as I always thought ‘yelp’ was supposed to be a cry of pain, as opposed to a whoop of joy.

Even Google seems to agree with me:

yelp/

noun

noun: yelp; plural noun: yelps

1.

a short sharp cry, esp. of pain or alarm.

“she uttered a yelp as she bumped into a table”

So why call the website ‘yelp’ if all you want are positive rave reviews from your users?

I suspect the answer might lie in those two magic words — sponsorship dollars.


Corruption done right

March.7. 2014

There’s an art to corruption and in this short essay, I’ll try to give a few basic pointers on how to do it right.

(I must add that these pointers are not drawn from actual experience, but rather from the perspective of one watching from a distance.)

First, create trust.

As in everything else, trust is an important factor in corruption – you must deliver on what you promise.

A number of years ago, I was talking to a timber tycoon in a country in Asia and he lamented on how amateurish the politicians were in his country.

He said, “Look at —–,” and he named a neighboring country, “those guys are pros. When you pay them, you know they will come through. But these guys here,” and he named his home country, “you pay them, and you still don’t know whether you’re going to get what you want.” And he sighed.

You have to sympathize with him. It must be hard doing business in a country where you can’t even trust your corrupt officials.

Second, you must walk a fine line between efficiency and inefficiency.

If you’re too efficient, there’s no incentive for anyone to pay you. Why should anyone pay you if they’re already getting what they want?

But if you’re too inefficient, you might get fired for not doing your job.

A few years ago, I heard about this guy who was extremely honest and tried his best to do his job well.

One day, his colleagues came to him and said, “What about us, James? You work so fast, there’s nothing left for us.”

This honest official did not know how to play the game and eventually he had to resign – there was too much hostility from his colleagues. Which was exactly what his colleagues wanted. Now, they could take their time with their work, and all that extra cash that came from impatient members of the public who needed their paperwork done in time.

Third, don’t do it too openly.

For example, if you’re a politician and you want this piece of premium land which unfortunately belongs to a private entity, don’t try to appropriate it too directly.

Instead, claim it for the public good. Build some public park there first, and when no one’s looking, you can slowly transfer it to yourself.

Because if you were to try to appropriate it from a private entity, you will meet with strong resistance, but if it’s already public land, it’s only one small step from there into your private portfolio.

Fourth, there’s no such thing as ‘enough’ in corruption. You can never have enough.

Remember, if you don’t grab it, someone else will, and if it’s going to go to someone, it might as well be you. And you never know when you might need all those billions on a rainy day.

Fifth, and this is the most important point, don’t be too greedy, don’t try to take it all. Mr. Marcos made that mistake in the Philippines. He grabbed everything for himself.

Here, you must take a lesson from all those famous Mr. Ten Percents who did corruption with so much finesse, they actually became much beloved in their respective countries and some even went down as the “Fathers” of their countries.

Ten percent is the sweet spot.

It’s not so much that your constituents will complain, and you’ll still get rich, very rich.

That’s what Mr. Marcos did not understand. He was Mr. 100 percent and he left the country in abysmal conditions, whereas his counterparts in other countries were smarter.

They were not seen to be taking it all. In fact, for them, the ten percent is an incentive for them to work harder for their countries. Because without their lavish projects, where would all their extra ‘bonuses’ come from?

This system works great. The country gets its ‘development,’ and they get a big fat check. Some people might call this kind of payoffs ‘kickbacks,’ but kickback is a dirty word. Let’s call them financial incentives for politicians to work harder for their beloved countries.

This is just a short essay and I’m sure I’ve overlooked some other salient points.

My hope, however, is that it will help young and upcoming corrupt politicians and officials to do corruption right — with style, finesse, and complete professionalism.


Filial Piety

January.24. 2014

Life is great when you’re young (or perhaps not so young).

You’re blessed with a good job, a good family, a nice home, perhaps even a grandchild or two. What bliss.

The only thing that can put a damper on this idyllic life is perhaps the presence of an aging parent.

Yes, aging parents can be so inconvenient.

They don’t do much, all they do is laze around the house, repeating the same things over and over, things you’ve heard many times before.

For those burdened with the presence of an aging parent, the standard solution is to ship them out to some ‘home for the aged,’ also known as senior homes.

Out of sight, out of mind.

But what if they fall sick and need constant care?

That’s always the biggest issue.

One man I knew decided to slap his old mother around when she fell sick and had to live with him.

The strategy apparently worked –  the old mother died within four months of living in his house. Rumor has it that she died of a broken heart. How is one supposed to feel when your eldest son, whom you have recently given your life savings to, decide to slap you around for entertainment?

But there’re others who are a little less proactive.

They prefer to let others do the dirty work.

Every health crisis that afflicts the aging parent becomes an opportunity for the Good Lord to ‘call them home.’

I heard of this woman whose mother was diagnosed with a serious ailment. Unfortunately, the old mother received good treatment and recovered, but what did this filial daughter say?

She said, “If this doctor is so good at curing her, maybe he can take care of her from now on. Who asked him to cure her?”

Truly, the milk of human kindness knows no bounds.

It brings to mind a saying my mother used to tell me.

“An eight year old child is to be loved, an eighty year old grandmother is to be despised.”


Way to go

January.5. 2014

One of the best ways to make money in a free capitalistic society is to make it off the sick and the handicapped.

Why?

Because they’re helpless and easy pickings.

That’s something the healthcare industry in the US found out long ago.

Their modus operandi is to wait until someone is in their clutches, or as they call it, under their “care.”

And then it’s a free for all.

You can pretty much charge anything you want when the patient is in your facility with a serious condition. Where else could he/she go?

I’ve heard that they charge $15 for a Tylenol pill, and $53 for a pair of gloves in some hospitals. (I got these figures simply by googling “hospital charges Tylenol”).

In any other business, this kind of practice would be called price gouging but here in the US, if you’re a hospital, it’s politely called “overinflated prices.”

Yes, they say we have the best healthcare system in the world.

And no one disputes that.

But after they heal you, you might want to commit suicide when you see your hospital bill. Bankruptcy is not a fun way to enjoy your new lease on life.

And what do these profiteers do with all their ill-begotten gains?

They line the pockets of their CEOs with cash and bonuses. I admit these “rainmakers” definitely deserve part of the loot for presiding over one of the biggest scams on the American people.

But the US health industry is not the only one with their sights on the sick and the handicapped.

I recently read a headline from a newspaper in Borneo.

“Exorbitant fees for usage of wheelchairs at airports”

(If you want to read the article, just google that with quotes.)

Apparently, a local airline, Air Asia, have decided that they will also get into the business of ripping off the sick and the invalid. They’ve now increased the fee for using their wheelchairs from RM12 to RM60 (US$4 to US20).

So now their new tagline is:

“Now Everyone Can Fly (except the wheelchair-bound who have to pay a hefty premium for the use of our wheelchairs)”

Way to go, Mr. Fernandez, congratulations on discovering another way to rip off your unwary customers.


Another commentary

January.4. 2014

I stopped using Google Chrome a few years ago. Somehow a browser that keeps on nagging me to log into my Google account scared the bejesus out of me.

Who are they kidding?

Provide a better web-surfing experience for me? Or enable them to track my every move online so they can sell more ads?

(As an aside, apparently, Google was among six tech companies who sent a letter to Congress recently, calling for enhanced privacy protections. Nice! If anyone knows “privacy protection,” it’s Google!)

Back to the subject at hand.

Since then, I’ve stopped using Gmail and opened a few other email accounts on some other sites.

Now they’re forcing youtube commenters to open a Google+ account.

I guess the word “over-reach” does not mean anything to them.

Or the fact that the internet is full of options and all of them just one click away.

True, youtube is a special resource and one that I’m reluctant to give up at this time – yes, I admit, they do have the upper hand there.

But perhaps the word “Yahoo” might ring a bell.

There was a time when Yahoo was riding high, when it was impossible to get your site listed with them. But now, you might say “Ya-Who?”

Back to the geniuses at Google.

A business plan that forces users to sign up for useless sites is clearly a sign of desperation, one that I have written about before.

But why?

Why aren’t they satisfied with what they have?

And leave the social media junkies to FB?

And focus on what they have – the greatest search engine in the whole worldwide web, the best video site (for now) and a (formerly) great email service.

As one Mr. Gekko might say:

“Greed is not good. It dissipates your energy. You end up chasing one bandwagon after another, and pretty soon, you’re just another has-been with no special niche.”

I think Mr. Yang might concur with that assessment.


Mohu and Roku

December.19. 2013

Two innocent sounding words that should strike fear into the hearts of greedy cable operators across the country.

Yes, the writing’s on the wall.

Cable TV is going the way of the old telephone landline.

And not a moment too soon.

For years, America’s been chaffing under the yoke of the cable slave masters who would exact their pound of flesh every month from their captive audiences.

$28 a month just for basic TV?

That’s the definition of greed and that’s what they were charging before I cut the cord and bought the twins, Mohu and Roku.

And liberation has never tasted so sweet.

Slave masters all throughout history have never understood one thing.

Nothing lasts forever. The more you would squeeze your unwilling captives, the faster your end will come.

Because as one of my good friends would say.

“People can count.”


Desperation

December.15. 2013

Desperation can make people do crazy things.

And such is the case, it seems, with Googleplus, the FB wannabee and sorry loser in the battle for your trivia pursuit.

So now, to try to boost their numbers, they’ve hit on a plan to require all youtube commenters to join their community.

I’m sure that strategy is going to go down really well.

People love to be forced against their will to join redundant and stupid ‘communities.’

In the meantime, if someone can recommend another good video site…


Why don’t they eat cake

November.16. 2013

I just heard Gov Rick Scott of Florida offering this bit of advice in an interview on Bloomberg News:

“The best way to get insurance is to get a job.”

Amazing why the President didn’t think of that solution to our healthcare crisis instead of creating the mess that is Obamacare.

I can think of similar advice that can be offered.

To the starving millions affected by drought and famine, “The best way to avoid hunger is to find food.”

To the homeless on the streets of America, “The best way to have a roof over your head is to buy a home.”

And to Gov Rick Scott, himself a potential member of the Hair Club for Men, “The best way to avoid baldness is to grow hair.”

It brings to mind that other bit of profound advice offered by a famous Queen. On finding that her subjects had no bread to eat, she asked. “Why don’t they eat cake?”


Unsustainable

November.10. 2013

When one young Cuban boy washed up on the shores of Florida, in late November 1999, few could have predicted the outcomes that would result from this seemingly inconsequential event.

For it set off a chain of events that would ultimately cause the near collapse of the world economic system and the present calamity facing the US — a massive national debt.

How so, you may ask?

What did little Elian do?

First he caused Al Gore to lose Florida.

Whatever you may think of the role the High Court played in the Bush-Gore recount debacle, the margin either way was small, 537 votes out of almost 6 million cast.

And that you can squarely blame on Elian.

Without him, Gore would have gained more Cuban American votes, at least enough to avoid the recount. (As an aside, who wouldn’t feel outraged by the pictures of Federal agents pointing a machine gun at Elian?)

Then 9/11 happened.

And the rush to war began.

A war that would never have occurred had Gore won the recount because the combination of factors that led to the war was a unique Bush WH phenomenon.

Fast forward to 2008.

6 years of draining the country’s resources — 2.5 billion a week just in Iraq alone. How many weeks did we stay in Iraq?

And the amazing thing was, none of it paid for, all kicked down the road to the next occupant of the White House. Brilliant calculation.

Yes, you can argue that the subprime loans caused the 08 meltdown. That’s another debate altogether. But no one can deny that the hemorrhaging of the country’s resources the way we were doing it in Iraq was unsustainable.

And fast forward to 2013.

17 trillion in debt and counting.

True, part of that debt is caused by the country’s entitlement programs, to the poor and the rich alike, but a large part of it is war expenses coming due (someone’s got to pay for all that shock and awe), and the massive tax cuts under Bush, and the loss of revenue caused by the economic collapse.

Some will say that the present occupant of the White House has been there for five years and that he’s to be blamed for the present economic mess.

I say that little Elian is to be blamed.

This unlikely Black Swan is probably living a charmed life in Cuba, blissfully unaware of the mess he left behind on the mainland, one that is still playing out as we speak.


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