Indonesia Anonymus

We are a group of Indonesians, ranting about our beloved country. This blog is a result of many people grumbling about many things in many ways.
Feedback: indonesia.anonymus at gmail dot com


Anonymus is the Latin word for anonymous, the correct English spelling. The Latin spelling, however, is traditionally used by scholars in the humanities to refer to an ancient writer whose name is not known, or to a manuscript of their work. Read more at Wikipedia.

Our blog in Bahasa Indonesia (but rarely updated) can be found here.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

As part of our work (the 16-hour-day that we have been doing for the past few weeks), we needed to recruit some people to work for the new project we setup. This is a supervisory position, where the selected individuals would oversee a team of 10-25 people, so understandably we are looking for people with some experience in managing people. We of course did not do the recruiting on our own. We relied on our recruiting agency, who would advertise it and did the preliminary selection. They then came up with a list of candidates, and we would then together with the agency, set up time with the candidates for yet another interviews with us.

Not long ago, some of us watched Prof. Robert Winston's documentary on the BBC. (Yes, to young readers who prefer MTV, let us remind you that we are most likely a lot older than you are, and trust us, as you get older, documentaries will get more appealing. That and gardening show...). It is about the human mind. Pretty much explaining how our brain works and all. It was a good documentary. But there is one thing we found particularly interesting: a segment about how to spot a liar.

Presumably our brain reacts differently when we are telling the truth and when we are lying, and because of that, we behave differently as well. How interesting.

So we thought, since we were going to have the interviews anyway, we would give it a try. Surely we all have "bent the truth" somewhat during job interviews. We know we did (to certain extent, of course). After all, if you want the job, you must act like you know how to do the job.

We will not tell you everything Prof. Winston said about how to spot a liar, but we will tell you two. (The rest you can probably watch it on the DVD or something. We don't want the BBC to chase us for spoiling their show...). We could not remember exactly how Prof. Winston described it, so here it is in our own words:

  • Watch the hands. When we tell the truth, we are more animated. We move our hands more, trying to describe the story we are telling. When we are lying, the hands do not move as much, or worse, do not move at all.

  • Watch the "I" and "Me" in the sentence. When we are telling the truth, there will be more "I", "My", and "Me" in the sentence than when we are lying. When we lie, we distance ourselves from the story and the "I" and "Me'" are dropped along the way.

For you who are psychologists, professional recruiters or head-hunters, this probably is not new. But for us, this is really interesting.

Now this is how the method got into the picture of our recruiting activity:
We would like to make sure the candidates really have good experience in managing people. We know that in interviews facts can get a bit exaggerated, and numbers tend to get inflated. If say in the past an individual had managed a team of 5 people, then he/she could say it's a team of 10, or 15. We would not know, and there is now way we can check. Time to give Prof. Winston's recipee a try.

So we decided, as part of the interview, that we will ask the interviewees to tell 2 stories.
The first story would be about something that they love. Their kids, family, hobby, hometown, sport. Anything that they love. We thought when it comes to something you love, you would not need to lie. You don't need to exaggerate how cute your kids are. They already are the cutest in the world!
We would watch the hands, and watch the "I" and "Me" and "My".

The second story would be about a typical day at work, when they are managing their team. We would then see if there is any drastic change in the behavior.

Did it work? Did we spot the liars?
Well, it helped. But we still could not be 100% sure and certainly could not based our decision on that.

To make the story short, in the end we crossed-out some candidates and selected our men (and women).
It would be unfair to say that our decision is based solely on the experiment, because it was a long interview and the story-telling thing is just a small part of it.
But it is interesting to know that there are certain indicators you can watch for to spot a liar.

Some of us would be skeptical and say "Well, That works only with bad liars. if the person is a good liar , or worse, a pathological liar, you wouldn't be able to tell."

Very true.
But then again, good liars wouldn't be interested in the jobs we offered.

They would rather be in politics.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Defender of Our Nation

One day we arrived too early for a meeting. Bored waiting for the rest to arrive, we flipped through some old magazines laying around in the meeting room, hoping to find something interesting.

One article in the old Economist got us talking: To be more effective in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American army has created a huge training ground for battle simulations. It's a 200,000 acres of land in the state of Louisiana, with a dozen mock villages and plans for a $50 million mock city.
Since it is a battle simulation, there will be 'enemies'. 160 American soldiers dressed accordingly: As al-Qaeda terrorists based in the forest, or as Taliban insurgents, living in 18 mock villages. Another 800 role-players live with them, acting as western aid workers, journalists, peacekeepers, doctors, etc, all with fake names, histories and characters. Quite elaborate, really.

And read this: Two Hollywood companies have been hired to improve the army's flashes and bangs, and to give acting classes to the role-players[1].

How about that. Looks like Hollywood has reached full circle: Before, Hollywood companies would hire military consultants to help them create a more realistic war scenes on movies. Now, the military hires them to create a more realistic war simulation.

Now here's the kick: What if (and this is a biiiig if) Indonesian military would hire Indonesian TV Drama (or sinetron, in Indonesian) companies to help them with war simulations? How do you think it will turn out?

Below is what we came up with. Feel free to add if you think we miss some. (This is of course only for fun, so do not take it seriously please).

  • There will be a lot of screaming, crying, and cat fighting

  • The 'good guys' will mostly be half-caucasian-metrosexuals, dressed in designers-clothes, and drive expensive cars. The 'enemies' will be badly-groomed men in leather jackets and jeans, drive an old jeep, and laugh incessantly among themselves for no apparent reason. Or, alternatively, the enemy can be a psycothic woman with evil laugh and strange eyebrows, who always talks to herself whenever she comes up with evil plans.

  • The General will set the strategy and make all the decisions, although it will not be quick. Confronted with problems, the General would slowly gaze through the window, staring at the horizon. He would take a long, deep breath and talk about his childhood, his love life and his dreams, before he could make one single decision.

  • Shots will be fired, of course. After all, this is a war simulation. But not too many. Maybe up to three shots in one war simulation is sufficient. The remaining time will be filled with really really tight close-ups, lengthy, unnecessary conversations, and pointless arguments ("you stole my boyfriend !", "NO, he is never your boyfriend!", "Well, he was, before you stole him from me, MOM!")

  • When shots are fired, there will be delays between the actual shooting and the sound of the bang. Sound travels slower in Indonesian TV dramas. So does bullet. There will be a long delay between when the shot was fired, and when it hit the enemy.

  • The enemy who got shot, would then fall to the ground, but did not die right away. He would lie there on the ground, with his hand on his bleeding chest. Although he was shot from the back, his back was fine. In TV dramas, no matter where you are shot, the wound will end up on your chest.

  • It would take another half an hour of talking about love, life and forgiveness before the enemy finally died.

  • In a one-hour war simulation there will be 55 minute-time for developing complicated plots and attack strategies. However, no matter how complicated the enemy's battle strategy is, all will be solved and all enemies will be killed or captured in the last 5 minutes of the simulation.

  • At the end of the simulation, the good guys will walk hand in hand (yes, even when they are all men) to the sunset, the currently-popular hit song will be played, and brands of clothings, furnitures, cars, cellphones and any other merchandise used during the war simulation will be announced.

[1] The Economist, December 17th-23rd 2005, Page 25, American MIlitary Tactics: How to do better.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Bajaj Unplugged

First of all, we would like to thank some of you who have left comments on our last blog which discussed bajaj drivers and how their profession may cause damage to their hearing. (If you don't know what we are talking about, maybe you'd want to click here first). There are some suggestions coming from Maya, Agus Set and Nad, while Jakartass has kindly dedicated one posting to offer a sensible solution to the problem. Thank you, folks!

(There seems to be a problem with the comment box. 2 comments did not appear although we could see them in our mailbox and we have published them. Strange. We should mention them here: thank you, Boywashington and Toyboy.)

We have summarized the suggestions as follows:

Agus Set seems to offer the most immediate and practical solution:
To avoid a permanent hearing ability risk, I think there is an easy solution for them: why don't used an "earplug" to reduce the intensity of the noise when they do their job?

Now why didn't we think of that. Agus Set, you're a genius. That's right folks. Earplugs. Those little things we use when our spouse snores...

Will it work? Yes! This is what NIDCD said [1]:
Can NIHL be prevented? NIHL is preventable. All individuals should understand the hazards of noise and how to practice good health in everyday life.
1. Know which noises can cause damage (those above 90 decibels).
2. Wear earplugs or other hearing protective devices when involved in a loud activity.

There you go.

How do we make bajaj drivers to use earplugs? Maya said:
...Maybe that could be a start...a conscious choice at least from the start for the bajaj drivers and being a responsible employer for bajaj recruiter to mention risks involved in the job s/he is offering...

Yes. Mention the risk and distribute earplugs. So the employer would tell the bajaj driver something like this:
"Here's the key to the bajaj, and here, some earplugs. Wear 'em if you still want to hear your little baby saying her first word and calling you Daddy..."

Boywashington is offering a similar yet more creative solution :
...just tell driver to put a headphone, better have musics on it. Spare some headphones for passenger as well...

Yes, we believe there is a risk to the passengers (although not as severe). Especially people like our colleague's maid who takes bajaj regularly.
Earplugs for the passengers? Or maybe just a sticker of warning and BYOE (Bring Your Own Earplugs)...

Any suggestions on how we can promote awareness among bajaj owners and drivers on the importance of earplugs? Is there some kind of organization out there that can help with this kind of thing? An NGO, or a charitable organization, or something?
Don't look at us, we are lucky enough to be able to blog once a week...
But if there is such organization that is willing to take on the challenge, we for sure will give some support. We (hopefully that includes you our beloved readers) can contribute either money, or earplugs.

In the meantime, we can work on Nad's and Jakartass' medium to long term solution, aiming at a less-noisy bajaj engine.

Nad said: we need to hold regular fun-competitions by which owners of bajaj with the least noise will be rewarded; or those who can come up with most effective yet affordable designs of mufflers for that matter.

While Jakartass suggested:
A bank of rechargeable batteries are the power source, so we have a vehicle that is quiet, doesn't pump out noxious fumes, is sturdy, quick (capable of c.80 kph) and comfortable for its drivers.

An electric-powered bajaj. That's just excellent. We have a name for it already: e-bajaj.

One final note, we should also mention a comment from Toyboy:
pantas supir bajaj enggak ada yang beli ipod...
Roughly translated: No wonder bajaj drivers don't buy ipod...

At first glance we thought it's one of those (not so) funny jokes. But then we saw this article on the inside page of the International Herald Tribune [2] (printed edition, sorry, no link) :
U.S lawsuit claims iPod use can cause hearing loss.

It is written that:
... The devices can produce sounds of more than 115 decibels, a volume that can damage the hearing of a person exposed to the sound for more than 28 seconds a day, according to the complaints. ...

If you remember, bajaj noise on average is 91 decibels [3].

Well Toyboy, at least now we know why bajaj drivers don't buy iPod...

[1] National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders - Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
[2] International Herald Tribune, Friday, February 3, 2006, Page 11
[3] Kompas - Kebisingan dan Getaran Bisa Akibatkan Kecelakaan Kerja