Friday, 26 September 2014

The Seaman and The Midnight Sun

The Seaman and The Midnight Sun

          Bembol was gesturing as four other men were listening at the pergola overlooking the river. Bembol is a seaman and he, at that precise moment, was talking about a place in a faraway land.  He had been there before as part of a crew of an oil tanker. The four men were all ears as Bembol talked about a natural phenomenon called The Midnight Sun. And the place he was referring to was Svalbard in Norway.

Map shows Svalbard in Norway located within the Artic Circle.
Another map showing Svalbard's proximity to the North Pole

          Svalbard is a group of Islands in the Arctic Ocean in Norway which is in Northern Europe. Norway has Sweden, Finland and Russia as neighboring countries. Svalbard is near the North Pole. With an Arctic climate, what one sees are glaciers, fjords and mountains.  Polar bears, seabirds, reindeer and foxes are in abundance in Svalbard. The coastline and other parts of the archipelago offer stunning views.  In Svalbard, there is this natural phenomenon called Midnight Sun. The sun does not set in summer. It is always above the horizon. You see the sun night and day from April to August. Conversely, there are polar nights during winter. This is when climate is brutally cold. You do not see the sun from October to February. You see the aurora or the northern lights.

The much-talked about Midnight Sun at Longyearbyen in  Svalbard, Norway. (panoramiopic; caption is mine)

Polar Night in Svalbard, Norway.  You do not see the sun in winter. Temperature can dip below -30 degrees C. (wikipic; caption is mine)
Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis as seen in Svalbard, Norway (inmaginepic; caption is mine)

Fjord is an inlet between high cliffs. (visitnorwaypic; caption is mine)

Fishing is a preferred activity in most parts of Norway.(visitnorwaypic; caption is mine)

The midnight sun in a low position as reindeer are seen grazing in Svalbard, Norway.(travelaolpic; caption is mine)
Large bodies of ice called glaciers seen in Svalbard, Norway (sophiesworldpic; caption is mine)

Polar bears outnumber residents of Spitsbergen, the largest island and the only one populated, of Svalbard in Norway.(solutionsitepic; caption is mine)

          In Svalbard, the incidence of crime is almost zero. It is such a peaceful place that policemen usually do not carry firearms.  Svalbard' s population is a little over 2,000.  Polar bears outnumber the residents of Svalbard who are mostly employees of mining companies, oil exploration sites, research centers and other firms. The animals are well protected by statutes or ordinances. You are allowed to shoot bears only in self defense.

Longyearbyen is a town in Svalbard, Norway. When traveling outside the town proper, residents are required to carry firearms to protect them from Polar Bears. It is the northernmost town in the world. (nytimespic; caption is mine)

Houses of company employees in  Longyearbyen in Svalbard, Norway.  They reportedly receive very high salaries. Persons who are unemployed are not allowed to stay in Svalbard. (sophiesworldpic; caption is mine)

Berthed at Ny-Alesund is MV Nordsyssel.  It is the Governor's official vessel.  Ny-Alesund is a research town in Spitsbergen, the only permanently populated island in Svalbard. (wikipic; caption is mine)
NASA station at  Ny- Alesund in Svalbard (wikipic)

Visitors getting near the world-renowned glaciers. (wikipic; caption is mine)

About 3 hours past midnight in Longyearbyen. Snowmobiles are popular in Svalbard. (wikipic; caption is mine)
University Center in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway (forksningsradetpic; caption is mine)

Svalbard Airport (panoramio)

Svalbard Global Seed Vault where samples of seeds from around the world are preserved.  The vault is dug deep in the mountains of Svalbard. (solutionsitepic; caption is mine)
Alcohol is tax-free in Svalbard. (flickrpic; caption is mine)

           Bembol's voice was becoming hoarse. A good story teller, he ended his narration with a bragging statement: Madami akong nakita sa mundo na hindi niyo pa nakikita.  He then drew from his pocket a Zippo lighter and a pack of blue seal cigarettes, offering his listeners one stick each. Puffing out smoke after smoke, he said: Sasakay uli ako sa isang buwan. Malayo na naman yun. Masarap nga madami ang napupuntahan. Pero malungkot pag wala ka sa Pilipinas.  Wala, eh. Talagang ganyan ang buhay ng seaman."  He then mounted his road bike, a pricey one he bought in Italy, en route to the mountains of Antipolo for the challenging ascent.


Oil tanker (securityworldnewspic)

Ship illustration (largestshipspic)

Refuelling station in Norway (FPpic)

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Halo Effect

The Halo Effect
             Aside from the mandatory 13th month pay, many companies give other bonuses or incentives to employees. Christmas bonuses, 14th month pay, 15th month pay, merit bonuses, performance bonuses, anniversary incentives, mid year bonuses and other perks are acts of generosity on the part of the company. The company shares whatever gains realized for the years past.
While the 13th Month Pay is mandatory, other company bonuses are discretionary.  The company decides when and what to give. (5Snewspic; caption is mine)

Bonuses may be given based on certain percentages of an employee's basic salary. (primexpic; caption is mine)
Bonuses motivate employees to perform better. (philippinespluspic; caption is mine)

Bonuses serve as incentives that prop up the sagging spirit of  an employee feeling burned out. (jantoopic; caption is mine)

It is management prerogative to give or not to give bonuses. (optimizeupic; caption is mine)

              But before anything else, a performance evaluation is done on each employee. This assessment is based on certain criteria, some of which are Quality of Work, Interpersonal Relations, Work Attitude, Punctuality, Communication Skills and more. The immediate superior is always in the best position to gauge the performance of his subordinates. And he is supposed to do it with objectivity. It is incumbent upon him to do it with "the cold neutrality of an impartial judge." 
Companies conduct yearly Performance Appraisal on employees. It is used as basis when giving bonuses, increases or promotions.(slidesharepic; caption is mine)

Superiors tasked to make performance evaluation should be objective. (warestaurantpic; caption is mine)
The company sets the criteria. (drawshoppic; caption is mine)

               But this exercise is not that easy.  There is always that danger of the so-called "halo effect" getting in the way. It is a form of bias. There is "halo effect" when one good trait of an employee being evaluated is highlighted to the point that the one evaluating ignores the weaknesses of the employee concerned and instead gives him undeserving high points in the other criteria. A case in point is an employee who is "mabait, madaling utusan" who gets a passing mark even if his quality of work suffers, or sometimes fails to meet the quota. This is prevalent in cases where criteria are not quantifiable or measurable. This also happens sometimes during job interviews.
There is Halo Effect when one positive trait of an employee covers up for the other negative traits. (wsjpic; caption is mine)
Bonuses are given, most of the time, company-wide. A Performance Appraisal is done by the immediate superior. (wilkeningkopic; caption is mine)

Physical appearance sometimes may affect your judgment. (politicsoftheworkplacepic; caption is mine)

All criteria set by the company should be considered. (scenicreflectionpic; caption is mine)
                The reverse is also true.  When one negative trait is highlighted so as to create the tendency to give low marks in the other criteria, there is " horns effect". One negative trait pulls down the points in the other areas of concern. A worker who is "palasagot, mahilig mangatuwiran" is given a low grade even if he is one of the highest producers, surpassing even the quota set by the company. There is no objectivity. There is no fairness. This leads to demoralization, which in turn, affects production.


If there is Halo Effect, there is also Horns Effect.  Horns Effect is also called Devil Effect. (writerdekdpic; caption is mine)
There is Horns Effect when one negative trait is highlighted and a low score is given on the other criteria. (hrpeoplepic; caption is mine)

Performance Evaluation is centered on Job Knowledge, Skills and Attitude.(myanmarbusinesspic; caption is mine)



Monday, 15 September 2014

The Grand Flyover at Commonwealth Avenue

The Grand Flyover at Commonwealth Avenue
           We all have our own landmarks. They are markers or references which help us in establishing our location and provide us with driving directions.  But these landmarks, at this age of fast infrastracture development, may not be there always. At the Old Balara in Quezon City, for instance, time was when traffic moved slowly at the narrow road leading to Commonwealth Avenue and to the other side, which is Tandang Sora and the adjacent areas. It used to be a bottleneck. There was this Glori Supermart near the junction. 

Iglesia ni Cristo temple along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City (wikipic; caption is mine)

The Old Balara public swimming pool popular in the 60s and 70s. (manilanostalgiapic; caption is mine)

           But times have changed.  And the places as well.  The road at the Old Balara has been widened and concreted. And just as one gets past Zuzuaregui Drive, an imposing and massive flyover looms on the horizon. This flyover has a span of 500 lineal meters from the Old Balara Road to Luzon Avenue, which is on the other side of Commonwealth Avenue. What seemed like an eternity in the past, it takes a motorist only a minute to traverse that P520 million overpass. It is an engineering feat. Kudos to the DPWH and the Quezon City local government.

The Commonwealth Flyover connects Old Balara to Luzon Avenue whch is on the other side of Commonwealth Avenue. (carnavipic; caption is mine)

Approaching Luzon Avenue which connects to Congressional Avenue Extension.(doctrinepic; caption is mine)

           This overpass is a vital part of an ambitious government project that links South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) to the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX).  From Luzon Avenue, it connects to Congressional Avenue Extension leading to the NLEX. There is ongoing development in this major thoroughfare.  There are gasoline stations, cafes and restaurants, car wash shops and other business establishments. Subdivisions like Tierra Pura, Mira Nila and Tierra Bella have opened secondary gates along the stretch of Congressional Avenue Extension.

This is part of Congressional Avenue Extension which leads to the North Luzon Expressway(NLEX).(rentpadpic; caption is mine)
The wide North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) (wnpic; caption is mine)

Tierra Pura is a first class subdivision along Congressional Avenue Extension.  It has another gate at Tandang Sora Avenue in Quezon City. (homestrovitpic; caption is mine)

One of the principal roads of Tierra Pura.  There are still available lots for sale. (homesmistulapic; caption is mine)
House and lot for sale at Mira Nila along Congressional Avenue Extension in Quezon City (homesmistulapic; caption is mine)

House at Tierra Bella (fallingrainpic; caption is mine)

Romy' s safe house in the vicinity of Congressional Avenue Extension

            One commercial establishment along Congressional Avenue Extension is Brewing Point.  It is a resto bar near the gates of Tierra Pura. Perched on an elevated ground and with clear see-through glass panels, one can enjoy whiling away the time with old friends, engaging in quiet conversation while savoring the much talked about food delights of the place. Yema Cake, Blueberry Cheesecake, name it, they've got it. Beef Salpicao with mashed potatoes, Gambas Fritas, Quesadillas and Pasta Bolognese are best sellers. And to cap the day, a bottle of good wine stimulates the senses, and memory alike, for that short trip down memory lane. You surely will enjoy. To the last drop. Even when the rain pours, even when thunder roars.  For who cares about the weather when you are in good company?

Brewing Point along Congressional Avenue Extension near the gates of Tierra Pura 

Beef Salpicao with mashed potatoes.  The meat is tender.

Gambas Fritas: Both an appetizer and a main dish
Quesadilla is Mexican flour tortilla with cheese and other stuffed ingredients.

Pasta Bolognese is Spanish in origin.
Wine is good for the heart.

Romy I, Rouel Quito and Ted G.  Non-stop conversation for four and a half hours.