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May 2005

Cold as Ice

Rather to my surprise I found several interesting stories in today's SCMP.  If this keeps happening I may have to start buying it again.

The first one, already been noted by Simon, is that Hong Kong has the coldest offices in the world:

A study by Polytechnic University showed that although 25 degrees was a "sensible temperature" from a comfort point of view, the temperature of 90 per cent of Hong Kong's offices averaged between 21 and 23 degrees Celsius. The average setting is lower than that in Australia, the US and developing countries, the researchers claimed.  The study showed that Hong Kong's offices could be as cool as 17 degrees Celsius.

Describing Hong Kong's "bizarre culture" of low air-con settings, Ms Ng criticised the common practice among offices in Hong Kong to "turn the air conditioning to a freezing temperature [so that workers must] dress in heavy clothes for the artificial cold weather 

Indeed, indeed. 

Then (as a follow-up to the story about the doctor who gave the wrong drugs to several - 150 to be exact - of his patients) we are told that there are "an insufficient number of pharmacies to cope with the added workload in the event doctors were forced to stop dispensing drugs".  Well, of course there are.  The health director seems to specialise in stating the totally obvious, because he went on to reassure us that doctors don't deliberately try to kill their patients:

"This is just a single incident that rarely happens ... It's very likely a human mistake," Mr Lam said.

Right.

The third story that caught my attention because of the opening paragraph:

A bar in Kowloon may face a fine of tens of thousand of dollars under an aggressive new crackdown on pubs and clubs screening soccer matches using an illegal satellite feed.

I'm not sure where the word "fine" comes from, but it fooled me into thinking that the police were involved.  Instead, quite correctly, this is a civil matter and nobody is going to get fined - but if the bar loses the case then they could have to pay damages.

[Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia] chief executive Simon Twiston Davies said: "Bars are continuing to do it because they want the screen sports on the cheap, and this is not acceptable.   "If I went into a bar in Hong Kong, ordered a beer and then gave them $5 for it, I'd be had up (arrested). That's the same thing as trying to get pay-TV on the cheap."

Mr Twiston Davies said although many bars had responded positively to warning letters, many others were flagrantly ignoring the warning. "I think there is a certain complacency out there," he said.

He said the association wanted to see Hong Kong retain its position as a broadcasting hub where intellectual property rights were respected, but that its status was compromised by widespread satellite signal piracy.

Blah, blah, blah.  A free subscription to ESPN for anyone who can explain how this 'piracy' could possibly have any impact on Hong Kong's status as a broadcasting hub (whatever one of those might be).  As for the "bottle of beer for $5" argument, I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.  Unless I have missed something, no-one is paying Cable TV less than they asked.

Well, having said that these stories caught my attention, I sadly have to conclude that the way that the SCMP reported them has probably convinced me that I shouldn't spend $7 every day buying their stupid newspaper.

Sorry, by the way - I'm still very busy. 


An expensive day trip

Spike over at Hongkie Town is complaining that he can no longer get a multiple-entry visa to go to China, and instead has to make do with a six-month dual-entry visa (costing near HK$1,000).  That's not very good!

Six months ago when I last renewed my visa I complained about the cost, but now I am wondering whether I'll have the same problem as Spike next time.  Or perhaps this is just aimed at Americans.

I won't repeat what I wrote last time, but you have to wonder whether it's really in China's best interests to stop people coming to spend money.  Politics again, I suppose. 


14 toilets and a plastic viking hat

[I was quite sure I posted this on Monday, but it disappeared for some reason]

The first series of the UK version of The Apprentice appears to have been highly successful, and here in Hong Kong we are already on to the third series of the Donald Trump original.

In the first three weeks the losing project manager has been fired each time, and it's really hard to fault the logic behind this. So far we have seen three textbook examples of weak management, all from people who must have watched the first two series and yet failed to learn a single thing. I can only assume that they have been picked because they will make the show more interesting rather than for their ability.

Continue reading "14 toilets and a plastic viking hat" »


More useful advice

Simon got there first with some useful advice from today's SCMP:

Couples have been warned not to rush into sex because the hormones released during orgasm can blind people to the true value of their relationship. Patricia Love, a counsellor on love and marriage, said the effects of the hormones could make an "alcoholic with seven kids seem like a good catch".

I sometimes wonder if these people just think up daft things to say so that they can get their names in the newspaper.

Meanwhile, on a similar theme, yesterday's Guardian mentions another interesting theory:

Alan Riley, professor of sexual medicine at the University of Central Lancashire has discovered that, while men appear to be on a five-day cycle when it comes to wanting sex, women are on a 10-day cycle. In other words, for a bloke the alarm goes off five days after they last had sex, and they want it again, whereas for women the clock is still ticking away and would do so happily for another five days.

Oh, sorry, it's a discovery not a theory.


Why

Spam is annoying enough, but why is so much of it in German recently?

By the way, sorry for the lack of posting over the last week or so.  Very busy.


Don't believe the hype

Phil was on TV again yesterday night - this time it was Channel News Asia (from Singapore) and I suppose it was late enough not to scare too many children.

Personally, I'm getting rather bored with all the hype about blogging.  When magazines like Business Week start telling us that Blogs will change your business, something has gone wrong.  Yes, I know that some large companies are employing Chief Blogging Officers, and others are allowing employees to blog about their work.  I also know there are sites that pay people to blog.  And yet, what does it all mean?  Five years or so ago (or whenever it was) we heard similar stories about the Internet in general, and 99% of it was hype.  Likewise, blogging is just a hobby that amuses a few people, and it isn't going to change their lives or make them seriously rich (there's a good New York Times article on the subject if you're fast enough).

Phil's final comment on the TV programme was that viral marketing is the future for blogs.  Well, if you say so...  Viral marketing is probably something we will see more of, but how many blogs have enough readers for it to be worthwhile?

Meanwhile, some of the more high-minded bloggers in Hong Kong got upset when a TV show and newspaper report characterised blogging as little more than young people publishing their online diaries.  Of course that's wrong - it's old people as well. 

OK, so a small minority of blogs have intelligent commentary and serious political content, and a few of them are widely-read (and, of course, American bloggers are hugely influential, as Dan Rather will tell you) but the vast majority are shallow and trivial.  So it's not unreasonable for blogging to be portrayed in that way, and no amount of pompous letters from bloggers "to media/organizations/scholars" are going to change that. 

Blogging tools are useful, and some people with something to say have been able to get online more easily (and cheaply) than would otherwise have been the case, but as with every other piece of technology from video cameras to digital cameras to mobile phones to the Internet itself, the trivial always greatly outweighs the worthy. 

Luckily, people who are looking for interesting and worthwhile blogs are probably capable of finding them, whatever Cable TV or Sing Pao Daily or anyone else says about the subject.  Not here, though.   


It's not just me, then...

I have been having strange problems when viewing web pages recently, and it seems that the culprit is Mia's site.  Confirmation comes from Madame Chiang, who seems to be having it worse than me - she gets "hellfire and havoc" (in IE and Firefox), my browser just behaves very sluggishly [I use SlimBrowser, which is based on IE, mainly because it has tabbed browsing and groups].

I've no idea why this might happen.  Anyone else got any clues?

UPDATE: Mia has moved


Still in the dark

The tunnel story refuses to go away.  Today's SCMP reports that activists have a plan - to sue the government so that the private company that operates the Eastern Harbour Tunnel has to reduce the toll.

Announcing their application for a judicial review yesterday, Wong Tai Sin District Councillor Andrew To Kwan-hang and taxi driver Chan Yu-nam said they would apply for an order "to compel the government to take reasonable steps to vary the toll".

Mr Chan hoped the application would help ease taxi drivers' immediate financial burden and has applied for legal aid to fund his case.

"The economy is not really doing well. I'm trying to use a legal means to reduce the toll, in a hope that business will be better for taxi drivers," Mr Chan said.

The economy is not doing well.  Really?  Everywhere I go I see evidence that owners of commercial and retail property are upgrading, renovating and increasing rents (and we've recently had stories about M&S, HMV, and now Chris Patten's favourite egg tart shop being forced out).  Property prices are also on the up, and we know how that drives the Hong Kong economy. 

In support of the pair, two finance experts - Francis Lui Ting-ming of the University of Science and Technology and Lam Pun-lee of Polytechnic University - have agreed to serve as witnesses if the High Court accepts the case.

This is the same "finance expert" who seems to have no idea how much it costs to run a car.

Independent legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip, who is assisting the pair, admitted a judicial review over the toll would be complicated.

"It would be extremely difficult because there is no precedent that we can find in Hong Kong - a judicial review on arbitration is very rare.

"Most people think the toll increase and the profits the tunnel operator generated are unreasonable. If there is paramount public interest at stake, I hope the court will take that into consideration and accept the application.

Well, I'm not a lawyer, but courts are not really about "public interest", they are about upholding the law, and in this case it seems clear that the tunnel company are entitled to increase the tolls.

Politicians and lawyers - that's just what we need to solve the problem.


Swings and roundabouts

Well, I'm still not quite sure whether the British General Election was as dull as it seemed - a national swing from Labour to Conservative of 3% was obviously not enough to change the government, but underneath that there were more interesting things going on.

Mainly, as far as I could see, the unwinding of the unspoken deal whereby Labour and Liberal Democrat voters tried to keep out the Tories.  More than anything else, this was what gave the Labour Party such a landslide in 1997 and 2001, but the electoral system still seems to working in their favour (only 36% of the votes, but 55% of the seats).  The Conservatives still have a mountain to climb - if they gained three times as many seats next time even that wouldn't give them an overall majority.  And, if you assume that Iraq will be forgotten in 4-5 years and Gordon Brown might be more acceptable to many who voted Lib Dem yesterday, the Conservatives could be in for a long wait.

I watched some of BBC World's coverage this morning.  Rather than simply giving us the same coverage as you would get in the UK, they stick a few people in a small studio and do their best, with odd snippets from the main BBC coverage (mainly the excitable Peter Snow).  The logic seems to be that we need someone to tell us that Manchester in a large city up north and to explain terminology such as "hung parliament". 

Yes, a hung parliament.  Although the BBC/ITV Exit Poll was actually very accurate, Ivor Crewe kept insisting that the early results indicated that Labour would lose its overall majority.  This sounded mad at the time, and now I think we can put it up there with that marvellous Zogby prediction of the Presidential Election, filed under "delusional".
   
As now seems to be traditional, the Conservative leader announced his resignation the day after the election.  Their problem, however, is that the membership of the party will elect someone else who is far too right-wing in his place.  I can't help feeling that they'd have been better served by an even heavier defeat to bring them to their senses.  Bring back William Hague, that's what I say.

Only joking.


Election News

This is from The Times e-paper, and it's been there for at least four hours.  If this is really an exact copy of what's in the printed newspaper (which is what it's claimed to be) then they've got big problems:

BLAIR will return to Street for a record Labour term today, but sharply reduced majority, as low as 66, according an exit poll last night. cent the the the its

Iraq war effect appeared taken its toll as the ITV poll suggested that previous majority of been slashed — its accuracy was in Exit polls have been in the past and this one take account of millions votes. so, the projection took political parties by surprise. translated into votes, it give Labour 356 seats, from 409 in the last Parliament, and the Conservatives gain of 45. Such a result take the immediate pressure Michael Howard but it only the level of seats by Michael Foot’s Opposition in 1983. biggest surprise from the involving 16,000 voters at polling stations, was its that the Liberal would win only 53 For that reason, it was being treated with caution. seemed little doubt Labour had won. Mr Blair out a Cabinet reshuffle He is expected to his three chief ministers — Gordon Brown as Charles Clarke as Secretary and Jack as Foreign Secretary. his majority has been dented, he faces the prospect a tough Parliament with substantial number of “awkward squad” Labour MPs who rarely be relied upon to the Government. Blair’s hopes of pushing a radical third-term would be undermined