Thursday, February 28, 2013

Racism, Arrogance and Greed - Such Nice People

The South China Morning Post reports that a Beijing restaurateur was forced to take down a sign barring customers from nations with which China has maritime territorial disputes (which currently means just about every neighbouring country that isn't landlocked, including some so far away - see maps here and here - that they stretch the definition of "neighbouring" to breaking point).  Personally i'd like to see him put his nasty little sign back up to avoid any chance that I might inadvertently put any money in his racist pocket by patronising his establishment next time I visit Beijing.

Meanwhile, over in the UK the Royal Bank of Scotland proves that bankers have learned nothing (certainly not humility) from the 2008 financial crisis caused by their greed, by declaring a loss of
£5.2 billion (much of it as a result of penalties for past misdeeds) and admitting it may not be able to pay back the money it owes British taxpayers, but still paying out £697 million in bonuses to its staff.  The bank's chairman claims this is necessary to compete for good staff - in other words, everyone else in the banking sector is just as greedy despite the fact that hardly any major bank in the world is untainted by the scandals and blunders of the past few years.

And while we're looking at such nice people, let's not leave out the charming lady back in China who wore a false belly to make her appear pregnant so people would give up their seat to her on the train - then officially complained that the device didn't live up to its description when her ruse was rumbled.

So many jerks out there, and so little time to be rude about them all...

Butt what does it mean?

After more than three decades in Hong Kong, I pride myself on my ability to interpret Chinglish, but occasionally I find myself at a total loss.  Presumably "optianal" means the best combination for my bum, but why would I want to perm my previous vehicle?  And if 3 tupe (whatever they may be) cost me $388, why would double price cost me less?  So many questions, so little time...

Monday, February 25, 2013

What's missing here?

As South Korea inaugurates its first woman president today, this may be a good time to look at China's incoming Politburo Standing Committee and observe what's missing from it.  All seven members are drawn from the 696,340,752 Chinese with a penis (give or take the odd eunuch).  Not one of them is drawn from the 644,994,400 Chinese with a vagina.  (2010 figures)

Fact 1: China's constitution guarantees sexual equality.
Fact 2: China has one of the worst gender imbalances in the world.

The Hong Kong government's brilliant plan for bringing down soaring peoperty prices

er, make it more expensive to buy property...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mixed Metaphysics

Our Chief Executive's usual opaque transparency was never better exemplified than by this gem on last Sunday's "Newsline" on ATV:
"Records show clearly that this government grabs the nettles by the horns"
So don't be afraid of those fearsome horned nettles out there - our government has them well in hand.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Open to Error

"I want something that keep me on my toes..."

declares the latest televsion advertisement for
Many people have expressed alarm at the declining standard of English here in recent years, which threatens to erode Hong Kong's international competitiveness.  If even our universities can't get their basic grammar correct, such fears are clearly well-founded.  The question is what can we do about this situation when the institutions which should be part of the solution are part of the problem?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Making It Count

I can't resist passing on this one whcih a friend (thanks Rob) posted on his Facebook page:

It's reported that 300,000 people turned out to watch the New Year fireworks in Hong Kong. The police put the figure at 800.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dumbing Up

Memo to TVB (and maybe ATV as well; I didn't catch their coverage):  when you are showing a fireworks display with accompanying music, absolutely no commentary is needed.  And when you interrupt one of the most sublime voices of the past century singing Nessun Dorma with your inane prattle, well, cutting out people's tongues as a punishment has gone out of fashion since the Middle Ages, but you make a strong case for its revival.

Disclaimer - I get a small commission from Amazon UK if you buy the CD through the picture link here.

The First Koel

There is a long-established tradition in Britain of writing letters to The Times newspaper to announce hearing the first cuckoo in Spring - an event which also inspired a well-known musical composition by Delius..  It is in that spirit that I report hearing the first koel in Spring this morning.  The koel is in fact an Asian member of the cuckoo family, whose distinctive two-note cry is commonly heard in Hong Kong's rural areas, and indeed elsewhere in Asia; one can be heard in the background of the Aung San Suu Kyi biopic "The Lady", filmed in Thailand.  Its meaning is presumably the same as that of most bird calls: "hey babe, let's make some eggs together".

There is something endearingly loopy about the koel's cry, particularly when the bird repeats it several times, each at a slightly higher pitch, until it reaches a demented crescendo, only to pause before repeating the entire sequence a minute later.  You can hear samples - along with the sounds of other local birds - at the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society website.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Van-ity

The fact that someone has personalised licence plates on their car tells you something about what kind of person they are.  The contents of the plate tell you more.

Perhaps the silliest I've seen in Hong Kong is one I saw recently which just said VAN.  I can only think of three possible reasons for choosing this:
  • The owner's name is Van.  However, the only person I've ever heard of with this name is Van Morrison.  "Van the Man" doesn't live in Hong Kong (though I wish he'd give a concert here), and isn't the type to draw attention to himself anyway.
  • Post-modern irony - so subtle that others won't grasp it.
  • The owner is so forgetful he may not remember what type of vehicle he's driving.
Whatever the explanation, I wish "Kung Hei Fat Choi" to all my readers.  Have a Van-tastic Year of the Snake!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

CNET Sells Its Soul (and Google irritates)

CNET used to be a pretty reliable download source for a variety of software.  Like many other download sites, it encouraged you to install various toolbars and other crap with each download, but I just unchecked those options and had no problem.  (If I installed every toolbar I'm invited to, my whole screen would be filled with them.)  But now it seems CNET has sold out completely - when you download anything from CNET now it installs the Blekko search bar without warning or advising you in advance.

Now Blekko - a name which sounds like someone throwing up - may or may not be good software, but that's not the point.  I want to select my own software.  It is totally unacceptable and unethical for anyone to install anything on your PC without your prior consent.  I may still look at CNET for its user reviews, but I will never again download anything from there.

I got rid of the Blekko toolbar by uninstalling it via the Control Panel (taking the opportunity to clear out the unwanted Bing toolbar, which had somehow crept into my system earlier, at the same time), but found it had also changed the home page on all my 3 browsers to Blekko search.  Then, having been angry with CNET, I also became annoyed with Google.  I tried to reinstate google.com as my home page, but Google kept detecting my IP location and redirecting me to google.com.hk - something that a Google search tells me is also annoying many others who want to use the version of their chocie.  I sorted this out eventually, but I shouldn't have had to.  Software should do what you tell it to and respect the user's choice, not impose the provider's choices on you.

So, black marks for CNET and to a lesser extent for Google - why don't they go to the version you specify but ask if you want the localised version of the country you access it from? Instead they do it the other way round - take you to the one they think you should want, then offer google.com as an option in inconspicuous grey letters at the bottom right corner.  If I ask for a mango I don't expect to be given a strawberry then asked if I want to switch to a mango.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The More the Messier

says today's South China Morning Post.  Singapore wants (or at least its government does) to increase its population to 6.9 million by 2030, a move which would see non-citizens making up 45% of its population.  So should we also plan to eliminate every bit of green from our landscape?  As if we didn't already have too much overcrowding, air pollution, traffic congestion, and all the other ills of overpopulation.  As if we didn't already have the world's least affordable homes.

Officially we now have over 7 million people, though the government recently admitted it cannot be sure of the details.  (Indeed, the revelation that some census officers made up figures rather than conducting interviews makes the total rather doubtful as well.)  The previous Chief Executive Donald Tsang talked about planning for a population of 10 million by 2030.  So just imagine 40% more traffic fumes, 40% more pople crowding the streets of Moingkok, 40% more people on Repulse Bay beach on a hot summer Sunday, 40% more people trying to squeeze on to the MTR and buses in the morning rush hour,40% more cars driving around in circles looking for somewhere to park...

In a city that is already having difficulty finding sufficient land for its current housing needs, how are we ever going to find space for 40% more homes, schools, universities, shops, markets, restaurants, hospitals, clinics, sports fields, swimming pools, libraries, police stations, fire stations, sewage treatment plants, cinemas, theatres, pubs and bars, parks, car parks, and all the other things that make up the social infrastructure?  Not to mention the businesses to employ all these extra people.

When we are already running out of landfill space, where are we going to dump 40% more rubbish?  And what will 40% more sewage do to our water quality?  And with China's own needs growing and its pollution worsening, can we be sure that the mainland will continue to be able to supply us with adequate clean water for so many additional people?

Do we have docking space for 40% more ferries, and 40% more ships bringing in the necessities we import?  The questions go on and on.  And these projections don't even take into account the demands created by our expanding number of tourists - 42 million in 2011, and probably even more in 2012.

It should be clear to any sane person who knows Hong Kong that talking about 10 million as a desirable - or even feasible - population figure is utterly crazy.  Yes, we have to meet the needs of an ageing population and we obviously need to import some skills that benefit our economy, but we should be taking advantage of our low birth rate to keep population growth as low as possible.  Indeed, I would argue that Hong Kong's optimum population should be about 5 million - large enough to support the amenities of a modern city but leaving enough space for a civilised quality of life.  If we grow to 10 million, I fear for our future.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

20/13 Vision

Having commented a couple of days ago on the Singapore government's plan to build housing on golf courses, I now learn from the excellent Big O that Singapore's official "Vision 2030" is "Live better through sports".To promote this in parallel with destroying sports facilities reaches unprecedented heights of absurdity.  It must be a rather short-term vision.

Still some Singaporeans are already living better - or at least richer - through sports, since the city is alleged to be the base for a major football betting syndicate accused of fixing nearly 700 matches around the world.

Can't read, can't...

I have received 2 spam emails today trying to sell me "Vigara".. They also offer "Levtira" and "Cilais".  I had no idea there were enough impotent dyslexics out there to make up a target market.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Eye con

"I think comedians have a function in society, which is to make fun of our icons."
--Julie Brown

But what is an icon?  Hong Kong's property developers would have you believe it's a new housing estate.  Now whether or not you like Norman Foster's style, some of his designs - the HSBC Building in Hong Kong, the Millennium Bridge in London - can justifiably be called iconic, but I don't think even the most devoted Foster acolyte would count this run-of-the-drawing-board residential development among them.  It's doubtful that Foster even saw it - he probably delegated it to one of the anonymous junior "+ Partners" (is a plus sign more trendy than spelling out "and" or using an ampersand?)

The sad fact is that the word iconic - like awesome - has been so overused and trivialised that it has become essentially meaningless.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

New motto for Singapore

From today's South China Morning Post:

The Lion City wants to increase its population by 30 per cent over the next 17 years to sustain economic growth and counter the problems of an ageing society, according to a white paper released...

Clean, grey and boring?

Friday, February 01, 2013

Have a heart

Porn star Ron Jeremy is in hospital with heart trouble.  Funny - that's not the organ most of us expected he would wear out first.