Archive for March, 2014

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.


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:



noun: yelp; plural noun: yelps


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.