2013/11/22

Making of the children of tomorrow

I made a post over at tumblr about something I care deeply about - making sure that the next generation grows up to be "world citizens" and humanists, people who do not discriminate on race, class, sex, religion or nationality. People will rarely fight or do wrong to their own kind, so if their view of what is "their own" is widened to include all of our species, as well as other species for that matter, the wars from the past can no longer happen.

My tumblr post actually started out with a photo of my son, playing on his computer in a otherwise very rural environment. It looks somewhat out of place, but not for him. This made me think about how he has experienced the world, which led me down the path to how our children are experiencing the world as the diverse place it is rather than the single sided view nearly everyone in the past had, simply because they couldn't move around like we do now. And how this makes them better adapted to changes, more inclusive and more culturally aware.

2013/10/20

Philippine customs - unpredictable as usual! But in this case, it's a good thing...

Living in the Philippines is nice, but it robs you of some great advantages more "civilized" countries enjoy, such as predictable customs and postal service.
It's not abnormal for the customs in the Philippines to delay any package for more than a month, while they supposedly check it, without telling anyone. The result of such check could be that they decide to charge you more than the package is worth in fees and duties, or it could be that they just give it to you. They could sit on your package for 6 weeks, or 1 week, or not at all.
If they decide to charge you a fortune in import tax, you can go to them and bargain the fee! I kid you not, it is actually negotiable! Although that sound great, I think the discerning reader can figure out what really is going on - they're just trying to get you to pay as much as possible (which surely they will pocket themselves), with no regard to what the actual customs duty or tax really is. Also, it's not consistently negotiable of course, only sometimes, and sometimes only after you tell them they can shove the package where the sun won't shine...
Whether you get the package right away or have to wait until they've examined it for a few weeks or months, and whether you have to pay or not, seems almost random. I've read that the customs in the Philippines regard any package sent from abroad not the ownership of the recipient until they have released it. Apparently it is a privilege, not a right, to receive packages from outside of the Philippines. They also, apparently, though not consistently, calculate the import tax based on their assumed retail value - not the purchase price. To me, that's the weirdest way to calculate import tax that I've ever heard of!
I have noticed though that lately it has become better. I'm not sure if this is because they've learned that I'm going to put up a fight if their fees are too high, so they don't bother, or if they've actually got some guidelines to follow, including a minimum value, where packages below that value should not be delayed and just forwarded right away. Or maybe the post office here in Magalang, who are very friendly, simply told the customs to stop messing around with my packages as they have other things to do!
In any case, I am now happy to confirm that for the first time I've received packages from abroad (one from Singapore and one from China) which both arrived only around 10 days after being shipped, using regular mailThey were both low cost electronic components (not consumer electronics, but electronic components that a normal person would have no idea what to do with, or even what they are). That could also be why they didn't bother - they were of no value to them, so there was no hope that I'd just abandon it to them because I refuse to pay their ridiculous fees.
However I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt, so unless proven otherwise I'm going to assume that the customs have improved and are now on the way to becoming like the customs in industrialized countries. If this is the case, commerce in the Philippines will benefit greatly!
As a result of this positive surprise, I've now ordered loads of stuff from eBay. Obviously, they're all things that I need for my electronics projects, but had delayed for a long while because I was uncertain about what kind of problems I'd get in customs. I will pay close attention to how long each of the packages take to arrive here.
Here's the customs declaration the sender used on the last package I received:

Ebay/PayPal - to make is easy for you, we're going to waste your time by splitting your order...

Lying is not going to make customers less annoyed! Quite the opposite!

I recently bought more than 40 items from eBay in a single shopping cart. I had collected them there to prevent having to enter my PayPal password 40 odd times. When I finally checked out, I got the a message like this:
To make it easy for you, we have split your order. Please pay for there items first. Don't worry, the other items are still in your shopping cart. (my highlighting)
What?
I ended up having to enter my PayPal details not only twice, but three times. It seems that they don't support more than 18 products a time. How is splitting my order making it easier for me? I don't get it! It's exactly the opposite.
I think this is just a blatant lie, the real reason being some technical issue. Couldn't they just tell the truth? "Unfortunately our system can't process more than 18 products at a time, so we have to split your order. We're really sorry about it and we're planning on improving this soon. In the meantime, some of the products you have ordered will remain in your shopping cart so you can check them out later."

I don't understand why they feel the need to sugar coat it so much that it transforms into a blatant lie.
If they just told it as it was, I wouldn't have anything to write a blog post about... It's acceptable to have limitations. It's not acceptable to try to hide it behind lies.

2013/10/07

Geologic Time / Geological Eras Booklet / Cheat Sheet

My daughter is studying the geological eras at school (in 3rd grade - something I find quite fascinating), so I made her this booklet (meant to be folded into an A5 size booklet), which can be quite handy. The website I got the information from - https://sites.google.com/site/paleoplant/geologic-periods - has a wealth of useful information about the different eras and periods. I removed the ages in their list when making this booklet though, as they don't seem to study the different periods and epochs to that depth, so too much information, basically.
Here's the link to our booklet: http://ronny.ager-wick.com/6d3e7726/Geologic Time Booklet.pdf


2013/07/26

History of the world in one sentence

On a 12,742 kilometer diameter rock about 149,600,000 kilometers from a yellow main sequence star, members of a bipedal species that had only been around for 0.0043% of the rock's entire 4,600,000,000 year history thought that they were significant.

This is such a great summary I feel it deserves being repeated.
Source: http://qr.ae/I2uqG

2013/07/24

Older children reading for younger siblings

I didn't have the heart to interrupt the beautiful moment
by taking a photo, so in lieu of that I'll recycle this old photo
they wanted me to take of them in front of a Caterham 7.
(There's also a very cool old Porsche in the background)
This is a milestone I enjoy very much. Yesterday Maxine read How the rhinoceros got his skin by Rudyard Kipling for Maximilian. He wasn't the easiest of listeners, as he wanted to play a game on the smartphone, but he settled down eventually. I feel phones and tablets (and computers if they're only used for entertainment) are almost as bad as TV for children and should be used with extreme care - not as an automated babysitter. For children, they're practically useless devices for anything but a few minor exceptions, such as basic coordination skills - which they learn fast anyway and after that the device is more a nuisance than anything else.
Anyway, she has been reading for quite some time now, years even, but it just dawned on me that she's now so good at it that she can read fast enough not to become boring for smaller children, as well as having full comprehension of what she reads. I will encourage her to continue reading for her little brother, it will be good for her, as well as for her little brother, as he too will learn to love books.

2013/07/22

Our 4 year old son is addicted to numbers and counting!

Our son Maximilian, age 4, has become come completely obsessed with counting lately. He has always been obsessed with cars, which in this is a good combination, counting the wheels, number of cars, etc. He's doing this all by himself, without us prodding him, and often when we want him to do something else, like putting his clothes on...
He can now count to 29 in English, and can count from 30 to 39, 40 to 49, etc., but can't remember 30, 40, 50, etc. yet. [EDIT 2013/07/24: He can now count straight to 100 - things move fast here!]
The other day he suddenly said "Seven zero four" while sitting with me in the office. I had no idea where he got those numbers from so I asked. There, he said, pointing on a set of ink cartridges - HP 704.
Now is the time to capitalize on the new-found interest, so I've started to teach him the numbers in Norwegian too. He's fine up to 12 and occasionally gets some of the teens right, but isn't quite as advanced as he is in English. In Kapampangan I think he knows up to 10.

I remember his sister Maxine's time in AMI Maria Montessori Children's House in London and when she had a similar fascination with numbers around the same age her teachers gave her access to all their maths materials, and she did almost only maths related activities for a whole trimester. The next trimester she was almost exclusively practising reading and writing, and hardly touched maths, as her interests had changed. That's one of the beautiful things about the Montessori method - the children get to work on what interests them. Because they want to work with it, there's never a need to teach in the classic sense of the word, or force them to do anything, you just need to show them the maths materials and they'll happily work with them for hours without getting bored. When I say work, that's what they call it in children's house. But the children are having fun while learning and don't really know the difference between work and play - which is how it should be!
The Christmas play, one of the few opportunities parent get
to enter the classroom. Note the white circle on the floor.
If a child misbehaves in a way that disturbs others, something that is quite rare, it is not uncommon to hear a 5 year old say "Please stop it, you're disturbing my work!", and if they persist they may be asked if they'd like to walk a few rounds on the white circle on the floor to calm down - one foot in front of the other, slowly but surely. Amazingly effective according to the teachers. When I get myself a bigger office, maybe I'll make one of those white circles there! Maximilian got to try two trimesters there before we moved back to the Philippines, and I'm glad he got that good start. He loved it from day one, and never looked back when he went in the door every morning.
Now both of them attend OB Montessori in Angeles City, Philippines. It's the oldest Montessori school in the Philippines. We'd prefer AMI, but there's only one AMI in the Philippines and it's in Manila, and that's a bit too long commute (probably 3 hours each way), and we don't want to live there. OB Montessori has, like most Montessori schools apart from AMI, adapted the Montessori method in various ways.
Personally I don't really understand why, as the way Maria Montessori did it, and which she passed down to her organisation AMI, is already very good. I'd say perfect, but perfection is really not achievable in the case of education. But if there is perfection, I'm sure AMI has nailed it. Every single adaptation of the Montessori principles I've seen so far that deviates from the way AMI does it has ended up inferior to the original. I'm not opposed to trial and error, but I'm against taking out the things that work and replacing them with things that obviously don't. A good example is replacing the basic Montessori principle of letting the children play (work) with what interests them at the moment with the proven-beyond-all-doubt ill-conceived and non-functional "traditional" school system of having the school day split into fixed subjects that everyone has to follow.
"Now you have to be interested in maths for an hour, then be interested in English, then be thrilled to have an hour of physical education. After that you should be interested in Geography". The human mind doesn't work like that, and certainly not the one of little children.
I was quite disappointed to hear that OB Montessori does exactly that from grade 1 and up. At least Casa (Children's House) is not affected. I am really surprised by this given that the owners of the school were educated at AMI in Italy as well as in London. I can only guess why they chose to modify this fundamental principle. My guess is that it's harder to implement and probably more expensive, but I could be wrong here. There may be other aspects, such as the populace not being ready for such a radical change. Regardless of reason, I doubt it was to make the education better. It's almost certainly a compromise of some kind. Granted, it may have been a necessary compromise at the time, but it's still a compromise. I'd love to discuss this with the owners of OB Montessori actually, should I get a chance. I did actually have the pleasure of meeting the founder of OB Montessori, Mrs Preciosa S Soliven coincidentally a couple of weeks ago in their canteen, but obviously that kind of philosophical question was completely out of place there and then. She seemed like a knowledgeable and good lady, and is obviously looked up to by all her teachers and students. She is very passionate about education, that's beyond any doubt, so I'm very curious as to why she chose that way of conveying knowledge to the little brains.
That said, I can't think of any better school to send our kids to here in Pampanga, or anywhere in the Philippines really, maybe apart from the single AMI school somewhere in Manila (providing they follow the same principles as AMI London, and didn't "philippinize" their methodology). Compared to the previous school they went to here, also a private school, supposedly a good one, OB Montessori is not only a huge improvement, it's in a completely different league. I may be obsessed with perfection here, but I happen to like the original Montessori principles, because they were made for the benefit of the children, not for any other reason or purpose.
Maximilian got homework last week. Homework in Casa? They're between 3 and 6 years old - what do they need homework for? Not even once did they bring homework with them back from AMI Montessori in London.
His homework was writing letters - two sheets of vowels and one with consonants. Maximilian can recognise most letters, yet he's not very interested in writing, but he's happy to give it a try when I ask him. However he insists on writing a, e and o clockwise rather than counter-clockwise. He needs more practice with the sandpaper letters, I believe. I held his hand to practice writing letter a starting on top right, going counter-clockwise all the way back to where you started, then down and out to the right. I did this a few times and then let him try on his own. As soon as I let go of his hand he was back to clockwise - with the obvious problems this results in (inverted e for example). After writing one a, he started counting "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13. Pappa, det er 13!". I got him to write one more. "14, hahaha!" (very happy). I kept trying a bit more, but it was obvious that counting the number of letters was way more fun than writing them.
OK, never mind I thought. This is not the right time for letters. He has a maths period now, I'll just focus on that. I wrote a note to his teacher asking if she could also just let him do maths now that he's addicted to it anyway, then we'll just get back to writing later. Hopefully she will honour Maria Montessori and do just that.
Maria Montessori teaching children

2013/07/05

Is China's communism actually a meritocracy?

This is somewhat mind boggling. Personally, I have no belief in communism. I think it's a plainly ridiculous system basing its perceived perfection on impossible criteria. It does not take into account that humans are in control, not machines. And with no opposition with any power, and the ability to pick and choose human rights based on what suits them, this leads to corruption and bit by bit the whole system disintegrates like we've seen with a lot of communist countries. But not China, at least not yet. Being a believer in capitalism, or more specifically the secular freedoms we are used to in the west - freedom of speech, press, religion (including irreligion), etc. Capitalism can be seen as just one of many freedoms - the freedom to engage in business for profit, or something like that. So in a way you can say the ability to be a capitalist is just a side effect of all the other freedoms we have.
China today is today a corrupt country in great agony - with a huge need for improvement. I haven't been there, but that's what I've understood from people that have. People in power can apparently get away with practically anything, including hit and run when a car (with some high ranking official or their family members) take to the pavement (sidewalk) to save time. I read this on a blogpost by a non-Chinese who had been driving in China for some time. I'll link to it if I can find it again. It's safe to say there's corruption in all levels. Don't get me started on human rights - clearly they have a long way to go!
But Eric X. Lee claims China is actually more a meritocracy than a communist country. This I find interesting. I know meritocracy definitely has its merits. Meritocracy is what runs practically all open source projects, which as we know beats most proprietary equivalents hands down. So could a country run as a meritocracy work? Based on experience from the open source world, I will give it the benefit of the doubt - but only if they can manage to get rid of the plague that eventually will bring down all socialist/communist regimes - or any regime really, if it has too much of it - corruption.



Link to original:
http://www.ted.com/talks/eric_x_li_a_tale_of_two_political_systems.html

2013/06/27

How to deal with a minor traffic accident in the Philippines

tl;dr - go to short version below if you're in a hurry

This is more a story about what I see as a defect in the Philippine society than about my minor, insignificant, accident. I just use the accident as a vehicle to bring the defect to the surface, as it so clearly shines through in a situation like that.

So, I was in Angeles City today when a tricycle hit our car. This, I think, is quite normal. If you have an accident in the Philippines, there's a very high chance a tricycle or a motorcycle is involved, most likely the former. Whatever the drivers of these miscontrieved vehicles learn to get the drivers license (which is not much, trust me) is clearly immediately forgotten as soon as they leave the LTO (Land Transportation Office) with their brand spanking new drivers licenses - that is if they bother to take it in the first place.

Tricycles - a nuisance on the road!

Motorcycles and tricycles generally drive like there are nobody else on the road and as if they had stolen both the vehicle and the gasoline. They will overtake in a curve when they can't see if there are oncoming traffic, and even when they can see oncoming vehicles, just trusting them to give them enough space to squeeze by. Often to stop only a few hundred meters ahead. You only need one driver that is not 100% alert to create a bloodbath - because that's what an accident normally becomes due to the fact that they think being hard headed means they don't need to wear a helmet. They will overtake on the inside too, because usually there's more space there. As soon as an obstacle appears, they squeeze in between two other vehicles, 9 times out of 10 without looking at all, again just assuming that someone else will yield.

My life is worth... around 50 centavos (£0.01)

Given that few of these drivers make more than 30 pesos per hour, which is an average of 1.5 paid trips, and that it's very unlikely they manage to get to their destinations more than 1 minute earlier than they would if they drove like civilised primates, they're basically risking their (and their passengers') life or health many times per trip for an average saving of 0.50 pesos (less than £0.01) per hour. Even this is a bogus calculation, but regardless of that, they have a queueing system on the tricycle stations (equivalent to taxi ranks) and most of the time there are many more tricycles than there is a need for. In effect, when the tricycle drivers return to their station, they usually have to wait for half an hour upwards to many hours before he gets another passenger. So any time earned by driving like a maniac is a wasted sitting idle instead.

The accident

In town the chance of anything but a minor accident is slim, as speed rarely exceeds 20km/h. I was driving in a queue (that's really the only way) doing maybe 10km/h. I small gap appeared in the oncoming traffic and before anybody managed to turn their heads, there was of course a tricycle there. I kept driving 10km/h. A second later he decided we wanted my lane and started pushing himself in, bit by bit, like they normally do. There was an armoured van in the lane to my right, so I had no choice but to stay in my lane, and I kept the same speed. The fact that I was there didn't seem to upset this tricycle driver, so we went in anyway, accelerating in the process. His side wheel hooked on to the front bumper of our car, just in front of the wheel, and pulled in clean off. Plastic bumpers are easy to pull off that way - they're usually just fitted with a few small screws. We both stopped, and as soon as I got out he started to accuse me of bumping him. When dealing with stupid people who think they can fool you, there's only one thing to do - call the police. In practice this means talking to some of the numerous traffic enforcers (who by the way are not police officers and have no authority to do anything by stand in the middle of the road and wave their hands), who then called a real police officer.
Always get a real cop - otherwise you'll just be arguing and getting nowhere, and since tricycle drivers rarely knows a single traffic rule, trying to use reason and common sense to discuss the matter is hopeless. Discussions usually go in the direction of tricycle drivers have no money, and you have lots of money (because you have a car, after all, or because you're a foreigner), so you should pay.

Also, tricycle drivers are often very experienced in accidents. Their vehicles are inherently unstable. The side wheel is neither driven nor braked, leading to the side car pulling the vehicle to the right when accelerating and to the left when braking. The drivers don't know and/or don't care about traffic rules, and by default will force merge into traffic by blocking it with any part of their vehicle (or part of their body) or slowly pushing themselves into a gap that does not fit, expecting other vehicles to both see them and make space for them - all while not looking, or pretending not to look. So the chance is, they've done this before, and you are at a disadvantage because they know both the people and the procedure.

The police officer

Luckily the police officer was a sensible one. After listening to both of us for a few seconds, he told everyone to go away, so he could take two pictures, one from the front and one from the back. I knew this meant the tricycle driver was on thin ice, because the position of the vehicles was pretty revealing.
As you can see from my sketch, there's really only one thing that could cause this type of damage. Just to make sure the police officer understood the situation, I asked him politely, "Officer, you see the position of the tricycle and the ripped off bumper? How do you think that happened?" He then turned to the tricycle driver and explained in Kapampangan, "You say he bumped you, but that could not have happened, because if he did, the bumper would not fall off like that. When the nut on your side wheel hit his car when overtaking him, you pulled the bumper off. If he had hit you, he would have pushed it in." There was a short silence. "OK, Officer, I understand", he finally said. The officer turned to me and asked "So what do you want to do?". "I want him to pay for the repair", I said. "I can get my mechanic in Magalang (20km away) to look at it."

The mechanic

If possible, get someone you can trust to estimate the damage. My mechanic is as honest as the day is long. The police officer suggested going to a mechanic he knows that do body repairs, which is risky, but as I understand Kapampangan well enough and know how things work here, I figured it wasn't worth the extra time and effort to insist on my own mechanic. I could see it wasn't a huge job, but there were some plastic bits around the headlights that were now in a few pieces. The police officer asked me if I would show some consideration (for the poor tricycle driver) and pay for half of the damage, so if it was 4000 pesos in total, I'd pay 2000. If this happens to you, imagine huge warning bells ringing at this point.

I said no. I explained that it wasn't my fault so I should not be liable to pay anything. OK, he said, knowing I have no obligation to pay anything, let's go to the mechanic. I picked up the bumper and put it in the boot (trunk) and followed the tricycle driver with the police officer on the back.

One mechanic glued together the plastic around the headlight while the rest were fitting the the bumper back on. Eventually I heard it would cost 1500 pesos. That's about £25. I was asked one last time if I would chip in 500, but I repeated, no, if he didn't hit my car, I wouldn't be here and I certainly would't need to pay anything, plus I want him to learn a lesson and look before he turns.

The important thing is here, if it's not your fault, don't chip in, regardless of how sorry you feel for the poor sod that caused the accident. If you do, you'll probably end up paying for all of it, if not more. Don't believe me? Well, read on.

The official and the unofficial procedure

The police officer asked me if we would like to take the complaint to the station. This would mean we both would have to pay 750 pesos, because we caused a violation, and pick up the drivers licenses the next day. I asked why I would need to pay, considering I was not at fault. He said, that's how it is. I have been long enough in this country not to bother to argue this further. At least not at this time and on this place. I think in many cases that answer means "I don't know, that's just what I've been told to do, and I really can't be bothered to find out why - it's not in my job description."

Instead apparently, we could settle this between us, sign a paper the police officer, who had found himself a shaded desk in the car repair shop - likely much more comfortable than walking under the sun, had written. He said if you agree that the damage has been paid you can just sign, get your licenses back and that's the end of it.

"Is it legal?" I asked. Apparently it was. I was not convinced, but considering the officer was bright enough to understand who was at fault, I figured there's a fair chance he's telling the truth. I waited a bit, just to mentally torture the tricycle driver, before I agreed. I saw no point paying a fine, plus having to get my license at the police station tomorrow if not entirely necessary, not even to teach the tricycle driver a lesson. The money he had to pay was probably lesson enough.

The real price

After everyone had left, I returned and asked one of they boys working there, whom I had befriended while I was there, how much the tricycle driver actually paid. 500 pesos, was the answer... So, if I had agreed on the first deal 2000 each, I would probably be paying the mechanic 1000 and the other 500 each for the police and the tricycle driver, or maybe the police and the mechanic would split them, and give the tricycle driver nothing. In any case, he wouldn't pay, even if it was his fault. If I had agreed to the second plead for "consideration", 500 pesos, it's clear to see that I would be the only one paying, even if I was not at fault. So keep this in mind. Forget compassion, if you're right, you're right. Just be friendly but firm.

If you are at fault in an accident, and you don't know an honest mechanic, I would insist that you visit at least 3 random ones to ask for price quotes.
If you don't speak the local language (there are around 100 of them in the Philippines), you'll have a great chance of being cheated, and even if you do, you have to pay attention all the time to prevent any under the table deals being made. The mechanic is likely to heavily overprice you and split some of his profit with the police and the owner of the vehicle you damaged. Always, always bargain the price!

The Spaniards, the cheating culture and the Americans

Filipinos are so inventive when it comes to finding ways to cheat. I think if they used their imagination to producing something actually useful, they wouldn't be a poor country! It's the Spaniards they can blame for this mentality. They came a few hundred years ago and decided the Philippines would be a great addition to the Spanish crown. The fact that someone already lived there didn't seem important to them. Then they forced Catholicism on them, grabbed most of their land and got them to work on their fields and haciendas for a pittance, while they send the gold and other produce back to Spain. The only way a Filipino could gain wealth back then was to cheat the Spaniards in some way, steal from their crops, claiming the item they bought cost more than it really did, etc. Do this for many generations, and you get some pretty advanced cheaters!

Take away the Spaniards, which the Americans did at the turn of the century, and what you're left with is a people who's so used to cheating being the only way to get ahead. It's not the exception, but the rule. Add to that almost a century with the Americans, and their dirty political system - enough said! It's almost like a country full of politicians! Granted, there are exceptions, there are some people who are so honest and unselfish that anyone would feel ashamed, some just ordinary hard working people with no intention of cheating. But unfortunately they are surrounded by small-time cheats and opportunists. I think most countries have their fair share of potential cheats and opportunists, but a functional legal system and enough jobs that with decent pay makes it both too risky to base your life on cheating and not really worth it, given you can easily survive and thrive without it. But when people are paid 150 pesos (less than £2.50) a day, like the mechanics that fixed our car, then there's a great benefit to doing an occasional cheat, especially when the legal system is so corrupt and non-functional that people mostly avoid using it. This, I think, is what  makes a large portion of otherwise good people resort to occasional cheating and petty crimes. It is unfortunate, but that does not make it less of a fact. Such a shame because I'm sure this was not part of their original culture before the Spaniards destroyed it.
All that said, just because you know who to blame for a cultural defect, doesn't mean you shouldn't do everything in your power to fix it!

Short version

There's nothing stopping the mechanic from splitting the huge profit they can gain by overpricing with the police and/or the other driver at a later day, when you're gone, so if you're at fault and have to pay, make sure you take all of this into account.
  • First of all, be professional and respectful, even if you're not treated that way.
  • Unless it's not your fault and the other party offers to pay cash for damages and you're happy with the amount (this is as unlikely as snowfall here in the Philippines), call the police. Anything you say before the police arrives is generally a waste of energy.
  • Focus on the facts. The horde of bystanders with little or no knowledge about how vehicles work and how to repair them will surely offer advice and comments, which are safe to ignore.
  • Don't leave "the party". You then risk not finding the police officer nor the other driver again. If you have to leave, agree where to meet, and make sure you have written down the name and contact number of the police officer, the license plate number, phone number, name and address of the other driver. Test the phone numbers. Ideally, ask to meet in the other drivers house and get them to show you where it is. This way, you are sure you can find them. But much better, just stay until things are sorted.
  • If it's entirely your fault, agree to pay for the damage, but ask if it's ok that you select the mechanic. Any reasonable person would say yes to that. Ask the police if he knows anyone, unless he seems awfully biased against you.
  • If you are both to blame for the accident, agree to pay your share, but only if the cheapest mechanic is chosen. If it looks like both of you have about the same amount of damage or you don't care about the damage on your car, you can suggest that you just do the repairs individually and agree to pay for your own expenses. This is best for you, as the chance of being cheated is much less, and you get to drive away without any further delay.
  • If, as in my case, it's entirely their fault, don't budge - let them pay for everything - for reasons explained above. If you didn't read the above trust me, don't pay anything, even a single centavo.
  • If it fully or partially their fault, and there's no way they can pay, you have to be careful. I've never been in this situation, but I would insist on getting their vehicle impounded while they come up with the money, to make sure they can't run off. If their vehicle is in danger of impounding, I'm sure the money will appear quickly, as it's well known that the police will let (paying) looters strip all vehicles in the impound lot, including engines! If the damage is severe, you may also suggest you take their vehicle to cover your damage. In this case, make sure you get an independent estimation of its value. It's usually less than you think. I would not agree to much more than 2/3 of the lowest independent value. If you can find a buyer there and then, even better. If the seller doesn't like your price, tell them you're happy to sell it to anyone, if they can find someone willing to pay a higher price. If they end up selling their vehicle, a good idea would be to take the money the mechanic quoted it would cost in cash, pay them a small amount (like 500 pesos, depending on the amount quoted of course) for the valuation and say you prefer your favourite mechanic repair it. You'll surely get someone to do it for less than what they've quoted, and you'll come out on top. Of course, if your car is not drivable, you could ask the mechanic there to fix it just enough to be drivable, and doing the rest somewhere else. Asking the police officer for advice is also a good idea.
  • When looking for mechanics, tell each mechanic that you'll be asking for price quotes from other mechanics too and will give the job to the one with the lowest price. This way if only one mechanic is honest, he gets the job
  • If possible, ask some random people if they can recommend a good and honest mechanic. Preferably do this unseen, as not to agitate people (I know, that's hard - any minor accident normally attracts about 20-30 people with nothing to do but stand there and look - but of course you could ask some of them)
  • Explain you also don't have an unlimited amount of money. If you're driving a fancy car, this will be hard to believe though, but you could make up a story about it being given to you or something. I don't really recommend lying, but in some specific cases, like this, the white lie is just to save explanation, as it's all irrelevant in the first place. Some Filipinos (well maybe some people in general, Filipino or not) seem to have this twisted sense of fairness that people with money (or even people perceived to have money, often due to their skin colour) should pay even if it's not their fault. For me, people are people and you do something wrong you should pay for it.
  • If it's your fault , bargain with the mechanic, try to make them do it on the cheap. People here are used to it anyway, and they would definitely do it if it was their fault. They hardly ever replace any body parts here, just repair, be it broken plastic parts, dented metal or whatever. In industrialised countries the rule seems to be that the vehicle should be left in the same or better condition compared to before the accident, as not to inconvenience the innocent party. Here it's never better than before. So if you're at fault make sure you're not coerced into replacing parts unless absolutely necessary and make sure they don't fix anything that was already broken before the accident. Normally, everything is fixed doing a "remedio" - just a remedy, not a perfect fix. Use this to your advantage if you're paying and argue against it as much as possible if you're not and the result looks less than appealing.
  • When the repair of your car is done, test everything. Pull and push on all parts they have assembled to make sure they're properly fitted. Very likely, they're not. Test lights and anything else that may have been broken. 
  • Be in a hurry, and make sure everyone knows about it. Ideally then, if both vehicles need repairs, your vehicle has to be fixed first. When it's done and you're happy with it, shake hands and leave as quickly as possible. This way they can't invent new problems with their vehicle and get you to pay more. Alternatively, if this is not an option, make sure they don't start fixing something that you didn't break, at your expense. It's best to keep a close eye on the repairs and encourage them to stop fiddling with details by commenting on how beautiful the result is - as in "good enough - now finish it!" - not in those exact words.
  • You can bargain even after all work is done. Yes, I know it's pretty amazing, but you get used to it. Comment on how fast the work was completed and how little materials they used, hence why the price should be much lower than quoted. Take into account that some people are only paid 150 pesos per day  (yes, per day, that was not a misprint) for working for a mechanic, so their labour cost is minimal.

2013/06/02

Karl Popper, the “paradox of tolerance”

This quote, from Karl Popper in The Open Society and Its Enemies, is worth thinking through - especially in the light of religious tolerance - or intolerance...

Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even though those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.
In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols.

We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade as criminal.