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July 2010

No daleks

imageJust watching The Hotel Inspector on BBC Lifestyle, and I was puzzling over what had been blurred out.   BBC Lifestyle has been known to blur out all manner of fairly innocuous things lest they offend sensitive viewers.

Turns out that it was a dalek (unblurred image shown right)…

It did seem odd that there were numerous references in the programme to the dalek in the entrance hall, that somehow we never saw it, and apparently it was for copyright reasons rather than for reasons of decency.

Thanks, by the way, to the person at Now TV who finally figured out that it is now being broadcast in widescreen and made the necessary changes so that we didn’t have wide bands at the top and bottom and a squashed picture.  You might want to do the same thing on BBC Knowledge.


Storm warning

imageAm I the only person in Hong Kong who is happy that Tropical Storm Chathu is apparently heading away from here?

Earlier today everyone else seemed to be eagerly anticipating a day off on Thursday on the assumption that the Observatory would raise the #8 signal.  Except that it now seems rather unlikely to happen, and all we will get is some rain and a bit of wind as the storm heads past, and maybe the rather unsatisfactory #3 signal. 

Anyway, my experience is that they usually raise or lower the #8 signal at inconvenient times, so everyone rushes home at the same time and all public transport is horribly overcrowded.  I can’t quite see the benefit of being sent home an hour early and then spending twice as long as normal to actually get home. 

On the other hand, if you can ignore the hysterical behaviour of your colleagues and stay in the office until most people have fled back home (to stick tape on their windows and rush to the supermarket to stock up on emergency rations) you might actually have a more pleasant journey home.  And busy places such as Causeway Bay take on an almost surreal quality when most people have gone home but buses and other public transport are still operating.


Prudential boss takes over at AIA

The Prudential/AIA saga continues - last week the chairman of AIG quit, and now AIA has replaced its CEO. 

Mark Wilson was quoted by the FT as saying that he would quit if Prudential acquired AIA, though he probably knew he would have the decision made for him if the deal had gone through.   But instead of being asked to leave by Prudential he has met the same fate at the hands of AIG, who were not best pleased by his candour.

And the amusing twist is that he is being replaced by someone from Prudential - Mark Tucker, who was very successful in building Prudential's Asian business (based in Hong Kong) before being promoted to become CEO of the parent company in 2005 (a job he left last year).


Air rage

So there I was in the usual throng of people waiting to get on the plane.  A middle-aged man was trying to get past me, and became upset when I didn’t immediately get out of his way.

He spoke.  “Typically, I like to be with my children”.  I looked around for a distraught seven year-old, but all I could see were two teenage girls who seemed fairly unperturbed to be momentarily separated from their father.

But of course I let him through.


Invaluable advice

I was recently asked what “invaluable” means.  Simple enough, but also rather puzzling when you consider that in+valuable should mean not valuable, as in words such as inconsistent and inexact.

The explanation is that valuable used to mean something that you could value (in contrast to something that is impossible to value, or priceless).  So you might have said that a pound of potatoes was valuable (because we can calculate its value), whereas good advice was invaluable.

Of course, valuable has now come to mean something with a high value - though it is often used almost interchangeably with invaluable, thus causing great confusion to anyone trying to learn English.   See also: flammable and inflammable.


Ovi not so suite

What is it with people who design upgrades to software?

I was prompted to ”upgrade” my Nokia PC Suite to Ovi.  This brilliantly designed piece of software thinks that I want to copy all the music and podcasts from my PC to my mobile phone.  I don’t.  And there isn’t space.

Never mind, it just goes ahead and tries to use up all the space that is available.  Then the phone displays dozens of messages telling me that there is no space.  Well, thanks for that.

The only solution I could find was to delete most of the podcasts off the phone (to create some space) and then manually remove a lot of the music from the Ovi desktop software.  Eventually it was able to synchronize.  What a mess.

What were they thinking?


Stupid letters

Why does the SCMP publish a letter from someone living in South Africa about US domestic politics?

Reject Kagan

US Solicitor General Elena Kagan's ascendancy to the Supreme Court should be emphatically rejected.

Kagan has not yet had time to develop a mature philosophy of judging.

People need to know of Kagan's agenda-driven approach to legal interpretation, which in terms of the life issues is out of step with the mainstream of the American public.

John Smith, Sandton, South Africa

A quick Google search reveals that a longer version of the same letter has been published in the Barbados Advocate (a publication of which I had not previously been aware), but that “John Smith” claims to live in Brooklyn.  Curious.