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April 2006

Well, you would say that...

I see that our old friend Julian Harniess is in the news again.

The English Schools Foundation (ESF) held a Press Conference on Monday to announce the proposed new ordinance that will fundamentally change the way the organization is run.  From the SCMP, which mysteriously headlined its story Controversial ESF reforms on the table:

The proposals sweep away the existing foundation membership, which has been criticised by the Director of Audit, Legco's Public Accounts Committee and education minister Arthur Li Kwok-cheung for being unwieldy and ineffective. Instead, the ESF would be overseen by a 25-member board of governors with a majority of independent members.

"The main direction of this is to have greater accountability to the wider community," chairwoman Felice Lieh Mak said.

Currently teachers, excluding principals, account for 30 per cent of the foundation. Teachers, principals and support staff would have one member each on the board.

Actually, there's not much controversy here.  It has been obvious for some time that the ESF could not continue operating as it had done in the past, and the reforms have been under discussion for a year or so.  However...

Julian Harniess, chairman of the Association of Professional Teachers of ESF Schools, said the proposed bill disempowered teachers, who were likely to vote against it.  "The more they disempower teachers, the worse it will become for the ESF," he said.

Well, I'm not sure that I agree with you on that one, Julian.


No news, then

On Sky News tonight they seem to have replaced the news bulletins with wall-to-wall coverage of a rich old woman walking around Windsor and being given flowers.  Apparently she got 20,000 birthday cards and 17,000 emails (unfortunately 16,999 of them were actually offers of V/I/A/G/R/A from the likes of Osvaldo Blackmon and Mireria Goggin).  What I want to know is how the reporters can keep a straight face whilst talking so seriously about something that is so totally inconsequential.

I suppose Thursday's meeting at the White House was slightly more important, but not all that much so.  At least Hu Jintao managed to stand looking dignified whilst Bush gave his speech, but when it was turn to speak, Bush did his usual act of looking bored and/or smirking.  ATV News provided what I was told was a bumbling attempt at simultaneous translation into Cantonese, thus preventing the audience from hearing the official English and Putonghua versions - which surely would have been good enough for 95% of the population (though apparently the official Putonghua translation of whatever nonsense Bush was talking was not all that good).      


Pesticides'n'Stuff

So why do you buy your vegetables in Park'n'Shop or Wellcome rather than the local wet market?

Is it because:
(1) I figure that a reputable supermarket chain has good quality control
(2) "Everyday high prices"
(3) If I can just get five more stamps I can buy some high-quality cookware from Europe
(4) What harm can a little pesticide do to you?  Actually, maybe if it's good for plants it's also good for people.

If you answered 1, it may be time to think again.

Incidentally, the new(ish) wet market in Tai Po is quite impressive.   


Still in the holiday mood

In the UK, public holidays almost always fall on a Monday or are part of a longer holiday.

Not so in Hong Kong, where a public holiday can fall on any day of the week - yes, even Saturday (cue howls of protest from Gweilos working a five-day week who don't realize how lucky they are).

The weird ones for me are the holidays in the middle of the week - two weeks ago we had Wednesday off so that people could go and set fire to the hillsides, and then on Wednesday 31 May it's Tuen Ng (Dragon Boat festival).

There is a certain art in booking your annual leave to take advantage of the timing of these holidays, especially as most people in Hong Kong get far fewer days of annual leave than is common in the UK. The key here is finding public holidays close to each other.  Easter, Christmas and Chinese New Year are the obvious ones, but there are a few others.

In 2 weeks time we get Monday and Friday off in the same week (1st May is Labour Day, and 5th May is Buddha's birthday).  Not exactly a long weekend, but certainly a short week!

This commonly happens with Ching Ming, which frequently crops up in the same week as Easter but sometimes actually merges with the Easter holiday itself - in 1999 it fell on Easter Monday (so the Tuesday was a public holiday), and next year it is on Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday). 

The only problem is that travel agents know all about the public holidays and increase their prices to match.   


Idiots

The SCMP is such an easy target, so here we go again.

They currently have a letter column and also a section called 'Talkback' (for emails).  I cannot figure out what difference there is between them - presumably most of the letters they receive come via email, so it can't be that.  You might think that the best stuff goes in the letter column and the rest goes in Talkback, but both contain a mixture of interesting stuff and drivel.

Anyway, the latter is what I love, and two recent examples (both from Talkback) have caught my attention.

The first was hilariously mundane (and believe me, I know all about that): a reader wanted to complain that the Delifrance in Festival Walk had stopped doing set meals (this week's special: a sandwich, red soup with cabbage and a tiny cake) and that you now have to queue up for a table.  Er, that's it. 

Hello? If you don't like it, go somewhere else for your lunch.  Thanks. 

Today's drivel is definitely in Fumier territory.  A reader complains that he was driving along happily in the overtaking lane on one of Hong Kong's many fine highways, when he was stopped by the police.  Not for speeding, but rather for driving badly (staying in the overtaking lane whilst not overtaking).  He seems upset about this, claiming that he thought the road signs were just advising him to stay in the inside lane).  Idiot.   

Continue reading "Idiots" »


Fools

Last week I mentioned that Jake van der Kamp had been caught out by an April Fool .

He was big enough to apologize for this the next day, and not just as a footnote but in the headline and first few paragraphs of his column.

Yet if you go to the SCMP website you will find that the original column is still there with no mention that it is nonsense, and the following days' column with the apology is not there (because it was published on a public holiday).

Serious newspapers ensure that if they make an error they correct it, either by withdrawing the article or by adding a prominent note to explain the error.   


Why?

Apple have announced that it is now possible to run Windows XP on an Intel-based Mac.  The question is why anyone would want to do that...

Windows XP is the best operating system Microsoft have produced (so far), but when you can run it on any old PC you buy, why pay a premium for a Mac?  It would surely be cheaper and better to have both a PC and a Mac (sharing a monitor if space is a problem) rather than doing it all on one machine.  Or buy an XBox or Playstation (or whatever) to play games.  Or anything, really (unless you're a geek). 

The BBC quotes a comment from Slashdot which summarizes it quite well:

"You get the stability of Windows with the value-of-money of Apple hardware. Sign me up."

Hilariously, someone (thank you "Swindmill from Louisville") thought that this remark was meant seriously and criticized the BBC for repeating it:

Since when is Window stable? Someone at BBC should have done light research before printing that comment. It is well established that OS X is the far more stable operating system.

Er, yes.


April Fool

Poor old Jake van der Kamp was caught out rather badly by an April Fool played by the Lion Rock InstitutePhil spotted that the press release was a spoof, which is actually fairly obvious if you look at their list of anti-trust behaviour - there are some silly Hong Kong examples (McDonalds predatory pricing on ice cream, Ocean Park & Disneyland, Hospital Authority predatory pricing) and then some from overseas (iTunes and Boeing/Airbus) that are a bit more plausible, but the whole list looks like a joke. 

To be fair, the Lion Rock Institute had gone to a considerable amount of trouble in copying the real Civic Party website to make it look genuine if you followed the link on the press release, but they had also sprinkled the document with clues, which Jake managed to miss.  Perhaps he can persuade the SCMP to provide him with a researcher.

The Guardian always runs an April Fool story, but sometimes real stories seem so absurd that it can get confusing.  Saturday's paper had Alex Ferguson saying that the Premiership race was still open, but it turned out he really had said that; and a bizarre story about an artist (Gnarls Barkley) who doesn't exist but who would go to number one in the charts without selling a single CD.  That was also true.

The real April Fool was obvious when you read it, but it appears that the Labour Party may have been fooled, along with some bloggers. 

Continue reading "April Fool" »