The Spin Cycle

Aug 30

Song of (Jestoni) Aragorn

Di lahat ng ginto ay kumikinang,
Di lahat ng naglilibot ay nawawala
Ang matandang malakas ay di lumalamya,
At ang malalim na ugat ay di nalalanta.
Isang apoy ang liliyab mula sa abo,
May liwanag na manggagaling mula sa anino;
Tatalim ang tabak na minsan nang nabali,
Ang nawalan ng korona’y muling maghahari.

Jul 31

“To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.” — Gabriel Garcia Marquez,
"Love in the Time of Cholera"

Apr 10

Do You Want To Build Engagement?

To the tune of “Do You Want To Build A Snowman”

Do you want to build engagement?
Come on, look at my page
I never see you anymore
Coz my feed’s full
Of paid sponsored content

We used to poke each other
And now we don’t
I wish you can tell me #why

Do you want to build engagement
But you want it all organic…
(Go away Anna)
OK… Like.

Do you want to build engagement?
Or revise our content plans?
I think some scheduled posts are overdue
They got me started talking to
Those epals on the walls


It gets a little busy
All these apps are live
Counting shares, comments, and likes…

(click click click click click)

Please I know you’re in there
Why don’t you approve my content
You say “make it more hardworking,”
And I’m trying to, just put a budget in

We only have this many
You want a million likes
But you never tell me #why…

Do you want to build engagement…

Mar 19

Illusions Lower Efficiency

In the workplace, ideas can be tested right away. For example - and I think this is true just about everywhere - it is thought that doing things in batches allows you to do them more quickly. The idea is that it is extremely inefficient to have someone handle one item at a time. People are convinced that efficiency and pro­ductivity improve when they repeat the same thing over and over.

I once observed the way a woman performed an inspection task. She took a number of items, lined them up, and then inspected them. She would not listen, no matter how often I pointed out that it would be easier and more efficient to take each item as it came off the line, inspect it, and then pack it in a box.

"Look," I said, "your method is fine. But, just once, why not do them one by one, the way I’m suggesting? I know it’s a little tedious, but I think you’ll be able to inspect more pieces with my method."

I had her try out the new idea for a day - a day in which she normally would not be able to inspect 5,000 pieces without running into overtime. By doing one piece every 20 sec­onds, she was able to do 5,000 pieces during regular hours. Even so, she could hardly believe such a relaxed method could result in such efficiency.

I suppose it is natural to succumb to the illusion that more is done if you busily gather pieces into lots, take 20 or 30 in one hand, and line them up in neat rows. But what happens if, as described, you inspect the items one by one? It is more like play than work. And if you play around with it and find that you finish during regular work hours, it means no overtime and less pay. So, while the idea seemed fine to me, it turned out to be a loss for the worker.

Inspecting the items one by one, however, made the task more relaxed and less tiring. What is more, the worker could accomplish the same quantity of piecework as before without going into overtime. After trying the new method, she was won over. This involved a relatively simple ap­proach. Yet, surprisingly, simple approaches like this are often not put into practice in the workplace.

Let me tell you an old story from the postwar years, a story that takes place at Toyota Jiko. The job was to drill holes into round rods that is all we wanted to do. Now, it happened that this operation was expected to turn out 80 rods a day. A young worker fed the rods manually into the machine where the holes would be drilled. But why feed them by hand? Why not leave out the manual part of the operation so the worker could relax while the holes were being drilled?

Well, somehow, feeding the rods by hand seemed faster. If we fed them in automatically, the bits would break off lose their edge, and produce defective holes. The objection to automatic feeding was that you could tell how well the bit was cutting when you fed the rods by hand. Therefore, manual feeding was faster.

So I asked the worker, “How long does it take to drill each hole?”

"About 30 seconds," he replied.

"Thirty seconds?" I said. "That means you could drill two per minute, doesn’t it?"

The worker nodded.

"In an hour, then, you could drill 120 rods," I continued. But this time the worker did not respond. Why?

“I’m drilling these rods by hand,” he had said, “and be­cause I work like the dickens I can do 80 a day.”

Now, however, the suggestion was that, with 60 minutes in an hour, he could drill 120 rods an hour. He stopped answering me because it was awkward being told that he could drill 120 rods per hour, when he had boasted about being able to drill 80 rods in 7 hours. Why would he need 7 hours to do 80 rods when he ought to be able to do that many in 40 minutes? That would mean that he was only doing 40 minutes of work a day!

"Look here," he said. "I’m working my tail off. What are you complaining about?"

"It doesn’t matter how hard you’re working or how much sweat you’re putting into the job.” I said, "You’re still only drilling 80 holes in 7 hours. Maybe we should just have you come to work for an hour every day.”

Don’t be ridiculous!” he replied.

Let’s think about this. If somebody is drilling by hand as fast as he can, he will have the impression that he is working quickly. Automatic feeding would take 40 seconds, but he can do it by hand in about 30 seconds. So he concludes that it is more efficient by hand. If he continues at that pace, however, the drill bit will overheat, lose its edge, and not cut as well. He must then take the bit to a grinder and re-hone the edge. He brings it back and drills about three more holes. Then the bit overheats and goes bad on him again. After two or three more holes he must re-grind the bit again, an operation he considers part of the job. He thinks that by really working at it, he can drill a hole in 30 seconds. But he is deluded when he assumes that continuing at the same pace will improve efficiency.

If he had to drill 80 holes per day with automatic feed, however, he would only have to process one rod every 5 or 10 minutes. Ideally, an appropriate cutting speed would allow him to drill a hole in 40 seconds, leaving 4 minutes and 20 seconds for the bit to cool down. The unit would again be at room temperature when it came time to drill the second hole. Whenever the bit gets a little too hot, you can either put it aside for 4 minutes or apply cutting Oil to cool it down to the temperature of the oil. This permits a bit that used to be sharpened between every hole to hold its edge for 30 or 50 rods.

What’s more, workers do not have their own whetstones. There is one whetstone with five or six people lined up to use it, each going through pretty much the same pro­cedure. Lathe bits, for example, may also be used to the utmost which means that they, too, will lose their edge quickly - so workers who have to grind lathe bits will be lined up at the whetstone as well. So, even if in theory it only takes 30 seconds to do the grinding, with five or six other people in line, it ends up taking about 10 minutes to grind the bit and get back to the machine. When we consid­er that occasionally the new edge will not be good enough, forcing us to return and regrind the bit, we might end up processing only two rods in 10 minutes.

On the other hand, we might work through a number of rods one after another. If we find that the table of the old-style drill press is too small, we might take 10 or 15 unpro­cessed rods and line them up on the drill press stand. On the other side, we might have 10 or 20 rods already processed that we can place in a wire basket.

The worker doing all this is imagining he is working. So, while he can only process three or four rods every 10 min­utes, the worker himself concentrates on the 30 seconds it takes to actually drill the hole and compares this to the 40 seconds it takes if a rod is fed in. The truth is that, if we only need one rod every 5 minutes, we can cool the bits for 4 min­utes between each rod and get away with only taking the bits to be reground once a day. You can also take the bits to be ground three at a time. So in the end, while employees may be working up a sweat and thinking that they are working skillfully and efficiently, the shop is, in fact, operating inefficiently.

- From “Workplace Management” by Taichi Ohno. Mr. Ohno is the father of the Toyota Production System and “Just-In-Time.”

Feb 12

Don’t Stop The Flapping (A Flappy Bird Song)

(To the tune of “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey.)

Just an 8-bit bird
Living in a lonely world
He took his tiny wings going anywhere

Just a sh*tty bird
Flapping round in Mario World
She took her tiny wings going anywhere…

A coder in a quiet room
Released a game free through iTunes
It became so popular overnight
It goes on and on and on and on

Strangers, flying
In between the Mario pipes
And shadows not rendering in the light
Rhythm, people
Throwing phones in sound frustration
Medals, high scores through the night…

Working hard to get my fill
Every high score is a thrill
Payin’ nothing just to flap the wings
Just one more time
Some will win, most just lose
Pull out the app when it makes the news
But the tapping never ends
It goes on and on and on and on

Strangers, flying
In between the Mario pipes
And shadows not rendering in the light
Rhythm, people
Throwing phones in sound frustration
Medals, high scores through the night…

Don’t stop the flapping
Hold on to the tapping
Oh pixels, creatures

Don’t stop the flapping
Hold on
Oh pixels, creatures

Don’t stop the flapping
Hold on to the tapping
Oh pixels, creatures

(Parody. No infringement intended.)

Nov 15

When you come to think of it, it’s underdevelopment.

According to the NSCB, one of every three families in Eastern Visayas are poor.  There’s a 43.3% poverty incidence in Southern Leyte in 2009.  Just where exactly did this disaster take place again?  Yup.

The provinces and communities that experienced Yolanda’s wrath the most are also those that are frequently at the mercy of typhoons and natural disasters.  With that also came decades - generations - of underdevelopment.  It should also be pointed out that those who suffered the most - and lost the most - are those who do not have access to the things that can aid in both development and disaster.

Things like ports and depots and runways.  Well-built roads and fast, convenient access to other communities.

The havoc caused by Yolanda is immeasurable, perhaps even incomprehensible.  It’s hard to wrap your head around it.  It’s also hard to wrap your head around the scale of poverty and underdevelopment in these vulnerable areas, and the sense of loss and misery among our most vulnerable people.

Watching the story unfold, it’s easy to see why the criticisms of “lack of preparedness” echo from all fronts.  Preparation does not come from mere evacuation procedures, but sustainable development where roads, hospitals, schools, markets, and government facilities, etc. are accessible to all.  Preparedness by development, and vice versa.

You cannot prepare for evacuation without strong roads that can withstand the worst weather conditions, much less the weight of the very trucks that build it.  You cannot assure ample healthcare - disaster or no disaster - when the health budget is at less than P10 per person.  You cannot educate people on disaster preparedness when kids have to traverse dirt roads to go to into a cramped school room, and the underpaid teacher doesn’t even have chalk.  You cannot build depots or stock up on supplies, without a market stocked and supplied with goods that people can afford.

You cannot have a functional government on the ground when it is susceptible not only to disaster, but to greed.

When your community is underdeveloped - when your people lack access to things like good roads, hospitals, and connections with other communities, and when poverty is forced upon you by everything from graft to dependency and everything else in between - you become vulnerable and susceptible to the worst things a disaster can bring.  We’ve seen it happen.

The aid will be brought in.  Life will go on.  But as these communities are rebuilt from the waste and debris, we all have to keep a watchful eye open toward this rebuilding.

Let it not be said that the poorest and most vulnerable among us lived on the crumbs that fell from the table of the wealthy and the powerful.

The immediate justice of aid and relief is absolutely necessary. The sustained justice of equitable development that uplifts the lives of the poor and vulnerable is essential.

Sep 10

An attempt at “Bildung” J. Pilapil Jacobo’s review of “On the Job” as something readable

On the Job is too preoccupied with Pinoy action film techniques.  It doesn’t even work as a police report from CCTV.  While recent cinema is entitled to “critiques” of what it considers as the “establishment,” this is a badly-written commentary.

The film is the story of Mario Maghari (Joel Torre) in his last days as an assassin.  However, he comes across as somewhat a heroic character, eliminating the enemies of a military general whose grand ambitions end at the Philippine Senate.  Yet he has been granted his date of release.  Two documents bear the meaning of freedom: first, the photograph of the target that orders an occasional foray to the “outside.”  Second, the parole that sends Mario back to his wife and daughter, and to be finally free from the life he has somewhat identified with.

Without a doubt, there is thrill in what Mario believes in: his deliverance.  There’s the date of release, but it becomes a drama particularly for those considered the scum of the earth.  And then, there’s the coming of age of the apprentice, Daniel (Gerald Anderson).  The film could have just concentrated on Mario training Daniel into becoming a death machine.  Or on the sequences that drive Mario to meet his “end” at his parole.  But then there’s the “good guy” story to this anti-hero film, dramatized by Atty. Francis Coronel, Jr. (Piolo Pascual).  Then the thrill becomes cheap, a lot like the action films of days gone by.  Coronel’s becomes the redeemer, only fulfilled after seeing the light of the things that go on around him, his skills forcing him to self-destruct.

Pascual, I think, ruined this movie.  He tries too hard to fulfill his role, resorting to his muscles, his clothes, his hairstyles, his gadgets, his stances, and everything else forced into him by the studio for him to play the role of the suave hero.  The gifts of Jay Halili as editor, Erwin Romulo as musical scorer, and  Ricardo Buhay III are wasted here.  Their skills somehow hide Michiko Yamamoto’s bad writing, Erik Matti’s bad direction, and Piolo’s bad acting.

As far as technique is concerned, On the Job proves that cinema has come a long way.  But technique can only do so much.  Too many times, the “hyper-realistic” take of this movie is just smoke and mirrors; Ishmael Bernal turns over in his grave.

The supporting actors should also take the blame.  Leo Martinez’s comedic timing was off in this film.  Michael de Mesa doesn’t work well as a Senator; he just lacks the “politician” character.  Shaina Magdayao’s exposures are a lot like Vina Morales’s bad attempts to create good acting in obscure films by Viva.  Angel Aquino’s banshee-like shrieking was terrible.  Gerald Anderson still reveals a stereotypical Filipino-American conyo personality that’s out of place in this “realistic” film.  Joey Marquez doesn’t make for a good “impartial” policeman, but he makes a very good “dumb” policeman impression.  And Vivian Velez’s acting is shallow; she relies on her tone of voice and wardrobe too much.

Lito Pimentel’s portrayal of fear is good, and acts as a good counterpoint to Joel Torre’s performance.  The story he tells is simple: freedom can never be taken back once he commits to violence.  And all hope is eaten away from him.

I do not understand why this film was selected at the Director’s Fortnight in Cannes.  Can sheer technical skill give meaning to crime and punishment: something that’s so suppressed in the Philippines?  It’s a nice, slick-looking movie, but only because there are too many jumps and inconsistencies in the story.