Friday, August 31, 2007

Hard Beancurd

Couldn't resist this one, seen in a mall in Mongkok (thanks Dion for the photo). I will, however resist the obvious jokes about getting a rise out of it, having a hard time, etc.

And since I usually try to keep this blog suitable for parents: Mum, don't look at this entry!

Damned if you dude

The BBC reports that some Blogger blogs (not this one, fortunately) are being hijacked to propagate spam.

One basic rule that should be part of your anti-spam precautions: never click on anything which addresses you as "dude". Does anyone except spammers actually use this word?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance, says Wikipedia, is "a psychological term describing the uncomfortable tension that may result from having two conflicting thoughts at the same time, or from engaging in behaviour that conflicts with one's beliefs, or from experiencing apparently conflicting phenomena." In other words, pretty much what US Senator Larry Craig must be feeling these days.

One thing that puzzles me about the endless parade of American politicians and preachers caught with their pants down, is why their wives so often stand meekly by them on the platform when they make their public confessions. Once in a while, it would be rather entertaining to see the wronged wife trying to do a Lorena Bobbitt on the jerk, rather than being so patiently forgiving. Or maybe she's saving that for when he gets home...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Glad to be unhappy

The Standard reports that, according to a recent Citibank survey:
  • Hong Kong's middle class has little money to spare at the end of each month;
  • The majority of respondents have insufficient time to manage their financial affairs properly;
  • Most do not think their MPF returns, and their property investments for those who have them, will be adequate for their retirement;
  • Most expect little help from the government; and
  • More than half said they could not expect financial help from their children in their old age.
Despite all this, more than half the respondents expressed satisfaction with the economy, the economic situation and the business environment.

Er - why?

Happy Birthday Dear Blog

Today marks exactly a year since my first post. Since then I've subjected my ever-growing (but still tiny) band of loyal readers to over 100 posts, or about one of my ramblings every 3 days or so. Looking at the category listings, my favourite subjects have been Politics (44), Hong Kong (34), the Environment (13), and Stupidity (22). Looking at the way the world is going in the first 3 categories, I expect my rants on the last category to multiply enormously in future.

I can't say I've changed my opinions much on anything in the past year, except that I now detest most politicians even more than when I started this blog, particularly the gang of war criminals around George W. Bush - many of whom are now deserting the sinking ship of state as he continues to steer it resolutely onto the rocks.

If this blog stands for anything, I hope its guiding values would be compassion, common sense, and a sense of humour to cope with the absence of the first two qualities in much of what goes on around us. I hope you enjoy it, and welcome feedback through your Comments. Have a nice day!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Disappearing Acts

The excellent music blog I Am Fuel, You Are Friends laments the disappearance of the Weekly World News. This is sad news indeed - where will I go now to find out which supermarket Elvis has been spotted in lately?

Meanwhile Spike fears that Hong Kong's Ritz-Carlton Hotel will follow the WWN, as well as the former Hilton and Furama Hotels nearby, into oblivion. It is clearly environmental insanity on a massive scale to demolish perfectly sound and serviceable buildings that have decades of usable life ahead of them just to squeeze a few more bucks out of the site, but this is Hong Kong.

Spike also takes a well-deserved swipe at "the soulless Cheung Kong Centre" (or Center, as they insist on spelling it). It says a lot about the architectural and environmental judgement of Cheung Kong boss Li Ka-Shing that his company's flagship building is a dull box totally devoid of character.

Another disappearing act is reported by the BBC: the once numerous house sparrow has been placed on a list of British birds that need greater protection. What the hell are we doing to our world, when even the most common creatures are being driven towards extinction by our arrogance and carelessness?

Making It Better:
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Honk if you're stupid

With the entertainingly irascible Fumier sadly retired from blogging (don't be fooled by the impostor who's usurped his blog name), someone has to keep up his valuable tradition of skewering Hong Kong's awful drivers, so let's get started. Last night our car broke down in Kowloon Tong, leaving me and my wife sitting just off Cornwall Street for half an hour awaiting the tow truck, with the emergency flashers on. During that time, I can't count the number of idiots who drove up to within a couple of feet behind us, then hooted irritably on finding we weren't moving, and they would have to reverse out in order to get past us.

See here dummies, it works like this: when a car is flashing its emergency lights, that's a sign that something's wrong. If you're smart, you don't wait until you're almost bumper-to-bumper with it to find out that it's blocking your way. You slow down, observe the situation, and change to another lane in plenty of time.

Oh, I forgot. You're not smart, are you? How the hell did you even pass a driving test in the first place?

Monday, August 27, 2007

One country, two (or three) UN seats

Next month Taiwan will again attempt to get accepted to UN membership, and once again China's overwhelming influence will no doubt defeat it. But China is not being consistent here: it argues that Taiwan, which it considers as part of China, is already represented through the PRC's membership. But back in the days of the Soviet Union, Ukraine and Belarus (then known in English as Byelorussia) had their own UN seats in addition to being represented as constituent republics of the Soviet Union. We didn't hear China complain about double representation back then, so why now?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Wheeling in the beers

The World Socialist Web Site thinks I was too hard on Paris Hilton. What do you think?

There's one thing I don't understand about the infamous trio of Paris, Nicole Richie and Lindsay Lohan. Apart from being buddies, they all have two things in common:

  1. being arrested for drunk driving; and
  2. being filthy rich.

Now if they want to drink themselves into a stupor it's their business, but since they can all easily afford to employ an army of chauffeurs or grab a cab, why the hell do they insist on driving themselves after getting pissed?

In other law enforcement news, the BBC News website today has an arresting headline: How detective work uncovered a lost Constable. That's the trouble with the police today: you can never find a copper when you need one.

Favourite Colour: Anything but Green

From today's SCMP online edition front page:
Green pressure could harm city, says Li Ka-shing

"Li Ka-shing warned yesterday that conservation campaigns and calls for limits on high-rise buildings could damage the interests of everyone in Hong Kong."

Well, not quite everyone, Mr Li; only a handful of wealthy property developers and chain store owners. Mr Li is well qualified to speak for them, but has even less authority than our unelected leader Donald Tsang to speak for the rest of us.

Every cicilised society preserves the best of its history, and Hong Kong people increasingly want to see human values emphasised over purely economic ones. Far from being dismayed by Li's outburst, I think we should take heart from it. If the voice of the conservation movement has grown loud enough for Li to feel threatened by it, then green views are clearly moving from the fringes of society into the mainstream - which can only be good for most of us.

All in a good cause

I worry about these Christians. First we had the priest who killed his own son. Now we have US Arny Major John Cockerham, who has apparently acknowledged receiving US$1 million in bribes for giving out reconstruction contracts in Iraq (part of billions of dollars floating around in Iraq without proper accountability).

The money, says Cockerham's sister (also accused in the case), was to be used to set up a church. So, that's all right then...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Call Me Doctor Stupid

I am constantly amazed at how stupid spammers are - and even more amazed at how stupid some other Internet users must be to make their spamming worthwhile.

A Yahoo group I subscribe to has repeatedly received variations on the following message:

I am now to be referred to as Dr. Jenkins haha ;) Took me about a month to get fully accredited, but after ringing these ppl 1-801-xxx-xxxx they got me setup at an international uni and had me my BA in no time.

My first question: if your name is Dr Jenkins, why is the email coming from "muriel-berggren686", and later from "domenique-mcnally"? Don't you know your own name?

My second question: do you really think a BA entitles you to be addressed as "Doctor"? (You can only pull that trick if you have an MB,BS degree from Hong Kong U.)

Do people really fall for this crap?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Diaper Dilemma

Sorry, not a very good picture - I was in a hurry and didn't check it after taking, else I would have tried again with the flash turned off to avoid reflections from the metallic surface.

However, it should be clear enough to show the point: this is from the door of a male toilet on The Peak, indicating that there are baby changing facilities inside. That's fine - as I have written before, I believe Dads should share that part of childraising. However, whoever designed the sign appears to have been somewhat reluctant to accept this idea - although it's the men's room, the nappy-changing figure on the sign is clearly female!

Friday, August 17, 2007

One Restaurant, Two Menus

Spike's recent post on being taken to inferior Chinese restaurants in other countries when what you really want is to sample the local food reminds me of two amusing cross-cultural incidents in Birmingham some years ago (the original one in England, not the other Birminghams scattered around the world). Birmingham is well known for its many Indian restaurants, and has played its part in making chicken tikka masala "Britain's national dish", but it also has a sizeable Chinese community.

My brother (who's now travelling around the US with his wife) lived in the city then, and on a visit we wanted to take him and his then girlfriend out to taste some Chinese food. We found a reasonable-looking upstairs Chinese restaurant near the bus station, and settled into our seats to study the menu, which was in English. Then my wife asked for a Chinese menu, which was willingly supplied, only to find that the prices shown on it were about 10% lower than those on the English menu for the same dish!

Now two-tier pricing is not uncommon around the world - foreign tourists routinely pay double the local price at every tourist attraction in Thailand, for example - but it's not usually the natives who are being fleeced. When my wife asked the waiter which price we'd be charged, he squirmed with embarrassment, eyes downcast to the floor, but we ended up enjoying a decent meal and paying the lower price for it.

On a later visit we tried out a restaurant in south Birmingham somewhere (Moseley, perhaps?) Unlike most in England, it advertised itself outside as not just "Chinese" but "Cantonese", which looked promising. However, when my wife asked the waiter in Cantonese (which he spoke poorly - I suspect he was Vietnamese) for a popular Cantonese dish, they did not have it. Then another one - no. And another - still no. After several rounds of this fruitless exercise, frustration was setting in on both sides, when suddenly enlightenment dawned. "Ah," said the waiter, looking relieved, "You want real Chinese food. You'd better go to Chinatown." So we did.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Death merchants go phishing

Among my daily haul of spam today is one (obviously phishing) claiming that I have won US$5 million (why not sterling?) in the "British Tobacco Online Lottery". Wish it was true - the tobacco industry owes me at least that much for driving my father into an early grave with their poisonous products.

The Lesser of Two Evils?

A Catholic priest in Mexico killed his own son so the Church would not find out he had broken his vows of celibacy.

So to Catholics, sex is more sinful than murder?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

So. Farewell Then, Ma Lik.

At some stage in their careers, most politicians say something ill advised that haunts them afterwards: "The pound in your pocket will not be devalued" (Harold Wilson); "I am not a crook" (Richard Nixon); "I did not have sex with that woman" (Bill Clinton). The assertion by DAB Chairman Ma Lik, who died yesterday, that there was no massacre in Tiananmen Square in June 1989 will be remembered as the Hong Kong equivalent of those dubious claims, overshadowing a balanced assessment of his public career.

Part of Chief Executive Donald Tsang's tribute to Ma said that under Ma's leadership the DAB had become "a close partner of the government". Given the government's many failures - on the environment, on heritage protection, on the slow road to full democracy - this reminds me why I never vote for the DAB.

And Another Thing...

Another Alternative continued:

...AND I would make sure the cans get recycled afterwards.

A word of praise here for the bottlers of Lucozade, who have recently switched from glass bottles, which cannot be recycled in Hong Kong, to plastic ones, which can. But why doesn't Hong Kong have any glass recycling facilities? Huh?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Another Alternative

Another story from The Sun: Malaysian customs officials are planning to pour 200,000 cans of seized smuggled beer down the drain. They claim to have no alternative because to sell it would disrupt the domestic market.

Well, they could try shipping it to me instead. I promise not to resell it, but I might throw one hell of a party.

A Painful Story

Britain's Sun newspaper reports that police in Ontario, Canada, are seeking a man who has asked three women in the street to kick him in the groin. The paper reports Sgt Cate Welsh as saying, "That kind of behaviour tends to be a precursor to sexual assault".

I'm assuming that Sgt Welsh is female. Any man will tell you that if you've just received a forceful boot in the groin, the last thing on your mind is sexual activity, consensual or otherwise. You're more likely to be writhing in agony on the ground clutching your injured privates.