When did websites start playing audio without asking first? I can’t be bothered to find what I have to do to stop the noise, so I just close the page. Is that what they want?
Google Play now offer e-books in Hong Kong (from Tech in Asia). That’s the good news.
The bad news is that I can’t find a way to get it to display books in English only, so it’s a frustrating experience. As ever, not all titles are available, and whereas Amazon has a reasonable idea what I might want to buy, Google doesn’t:
Meanwhile, Amazon is still charging their US$2 penalty for non-US customers. Rumour has it that they drop it when Apple is competing with them in a territory. But not Google, apparently.
So the English Premier League is back on Now TV. It seems to be the pattern now for it to alternate between PCCW’s Now TV and Wharf Group’s Cable TV every three years.
Of course they charge you extra for the EPL. You might think that a Now Sports Megapack would cover everything, but rather than using the old channel numbers they have created new numbers (from 621 upwards) that are only available in the Super Sports Pack. And, yes, you need to subscribe for two years.
They also charge extra for Premier League TV, which is a 24 hour channel in English that is originated from the UK and available worldwide to all broadcasters who have EPL rights. One of the presenters is John Dykes, once of ESPN Star Sports. I have so far refused to pay for this because I objected to them quoting me a price for EPL coverage and then calling me a few days to ask for more money for one of the channels.
Good thing about Now TV? The video on demand service (which cable TV don’t have). They also claim to have “Super HD” but it seems that my existing decoder doesn’t support it - so again I would have to pay extra for that.
In other Now TV news, Eurosport is now available in HD, and they showed the recent US Open tennis. They also have English rugby league and French rugby union, cycling, and some odd bits of football.
Meanwhile, Goal TV has closed down. They stopped providing coverage of the Championship last season, but still had programmes from several club TV channels (Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Barcelona).
There was a letter in the SCMP from someone complaining that ITV Choice is no longer on Now TV. The only time I ever watched it was once when I was surprised to discover that it was available in a hotel in Bangkok, but the programmes were old and very second-rate. So, no big surprise that PCCW chose not to continue offering the channel.
Buy an iPhone, iPad, or iPod in Hong Kong and you will pay no more than the US price - so they are cheaper here because Hong Kong has no sales tax. But try to buy a Nexus 7 and you will pay 20% more, because they are all “parallel imports”.
English books are usually around 25% more than the US price (they usually convert at HK$10 = U$1). Hence the popularity of sites such as Book Depository or Fishpond (though the latter is very confusing, as they have their own made up list prices). Or you can buy your books in Thailand (reasonable prices) or India (very reasonable prices).
There’s also the nonsense of Amazon charging an extra US$2.00 for sending (some) Kindle titles to customers in countries where they don’t operate. Yes, that’s a charge for sending files over the Internet.
Alternative medicines are typically 100% more in Hong Kong. For example, Blackmores Echinacea Forte is sold in Watsons in Hong Kong for around HK$150 whereas in Thailand it is around 600 baht. The catch is that in Hong Kong the pack only contains 30, whereas in Thailand you get 60. So the unit cost is double.
I found another product in Mannings, and went online to check the UK price. Again, it was almost exactly half the Hong Kong price. So I tried to order it online from the manufacturers. They don’t allow you to order from Hong Kong, but instead they direct you to the retailers here who stock their products.
Fortunately there are other companies (such as ChemistDirect) that will ship the same products to Hong Kong, and in many cases the discounts offset the delivery charge, so you are paying the UK retail price with “free” delivery.
Which is about half the price you would pay in Hong Kong.
Today’s SCMP on how the Hong Kong media reports suicides:
Experts from HKU centre say irresponsible reporting may trigger epidemic of people taking their lives and put pressure on families
Jennifer Ngo | South China Morning Post | Sunday, 08 September, 2013
Irresponsible media reporting of suicides encourages copycats and may even trigger an epidemic, warn experts from the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention. It also caused additional hurt and put pressure on victims' families, a seminar heard yesterday. [..]
The centre yesterday released a guideline for media, developed with the Hong Kong Press Council, on how to report suicide cases ethically and avoid becoming a catalyst for copycat suicides.
Apple Daily is probably the worst offender, but the South China Morning Post (which presumably likes to think of itself as a respectable newspaper) is also guilty of reporting suicides in an irresponsible way, with information that can only have come from the police and speculation about why the individual chose to take their own life.
Surprisingly, The Standard seems to be more responsible than the SCMP, managing at least to keep its reports more factual.
I have been told that the reporting of suicides has improved compared to a few years ago, but it still falls a long way short of the guidelines that have been adopted by most British newspapers. The story does not state whether any newspaper has committed to follow these new guidelines.
- A suicide incident should not be placed on the front page of a newspaper or a media website unless it is in the public interest or is of grave public concern.
- Avoid using a large headline when reporting a suicide incident.
- Media websites should avoid cross-references with other suicide incidents reported on the website. Cross-references should instead be made to websites providing mental health services.
- Avoid reporting past suicide incidents repeatedly.
- Extra care should be taken when handling suicide incidents that involve notable persons, as their behavior is likely to be replicated because many view them as heroes or role models.
2. News Content
- Avoid a detailed description of the suicide method or process.
- Avoid using an emotional or glorifying tone to describe the suicidal behavior.
- Avoid describing suicide as a solution.
- Avoid presuming the reason for the suicidal behavior or simplifying the reason behind the suicide.
3. Use of Photographs
- Avoid printing sanguinary, violent, revolting and/or pornographic photos.
- Handle photos of the suicide victim or the suicide scene with care, and pixelate or blur the picture when appropriate.
- Do not use made-up conversation or plots to describe the suicide process, consequences of or reason for the suicide.
- Avoid using computer graphics or animation to describe the process, consequences of or reason for the suicide.
- Avoid enlarging photos of suicides or suicide attempts, such as photos depicting a person jumping off a building.
Appreciation of Privacy
- Respect the victim’s family privacy to avoid adding to their pain and sorrow.
- Consideration should be given to the victim’s friends and family. Avoid the over reporting of a suicide incident, as it might affect their emotional recovery.
Education and Prevention
- Consider including the signs of suicidal behavior in news reports to alertpeople who could offer help to people at risk of suicide.
- Provide solutions and ways to seek help whenever possible in news reports,such as through comments and opinions from psychologists, social workers and teachers.
- Provide information on and contact details for mental health and counseling services in news report to assist and support at risk people and their families.
It’s hard to believe that Apple Daily would sign up for this, but surely the South China Morning Post could do so.
It’s very kind of them to make Spotify available in Hong Kong, but their stupid software doesn’t work. I am running Windows 7 (64 bit) and the Spotify application works for anything from 30 seconds to a few minutes before crashing – and it’s impossible to close it and restart it.
The Android app works, but is hardly usable because it drains the battery within a few hours.
Which just leaves the web version, but that only seems to work in Chrome – and requires Flash Player, which I had disabled.
It has been apparent for at least 10 years that the government had no wish to continue subsidizing the ESF. The real surprise is that it has taken so long to make this decision - and it will only start to take effect three years from now, with some subsidy remaining in place for another 13 years (until the last pupils admitted to ESF primary schools in August 2015 complete their studies).
The SCMP has two news stories and one opinion piece:
South China Morning Post | Saturday, 08 June, 2013 | Alex Lo
Shock and horror! Fees for schools under the English Schools Foundation from 2016 will be at least 23 per cent higher as the government phases out the public subsidy.
But you would expect that. The die was cast once the Education Bureau announced it would phase out the current subsidy. You want to know how much ESF parents will eventually have to pay? Just check out the fees of other international schools.
The decision to end the subsidy after freezing payment for a decade may go down in history as one of the most ruthless made by this administration. But before you pick up your pitchfork and bay for blood, it's not entirely the fault of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his education secretary, Eddie Ng Hak-kim. Of course it is their fault for allowing it to happen. But I am actually not sure they know what they are doing with the ESF in the sense they almost certainly did not come up with the policy decision - those immediately below Ng within the bureau did.
There is an almost Machiavellian elegance to the decision - if you discount its irresponsibility, unfairness and immorality. You can be sure our clueless Mr Ng would never come up with something so clever; this is reserved for the senior administrative officials within the bureau, not a few of whom - I bet - are, or were, ESF parents.
Let's see what this decision really means. Taxpayers' money will be saved. The ESF is certain to prosper, as it will be able to charge high fees and million-dollar debentures on a par with other international schools. The government can claim it is helping to boost international school places without lifting a finger. It is also a populist decision as many local families resent the real or perceived special treatment given to the ESF as an old colonial institution.
But it is never explained why it is no longer the government's responsibility to support affordable education for non-Chinese-speaking children of residents or permanent residents. Nor is it clear why local families should be left to their own devices once they leave the local system and join the international school sector.
But the reality is that these families are on their own unless they can pay the high school fees.
The government’s official reason for ending the subvention is that it "flies in the face of the government's policy of not providing recurrent subsidy to schools mainly running non-local curriculum."
It’s the word “mainly” that appears to be the crucial one. Schools operating under the Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) are allowed to have 49% of their students in an “international” stream that leads to qualifications such as IGCSE and IB Diploma, but must have 51% studying for local exams.
It would be a huge change to the ESF to be able to satisfy the DSS rules, and so the ESF Board has accepted the government decision but they have arranged meetings with parents to get their views. Expect these meetings to be lively, and ESF management will be heavily criticized, but current parents are not the ones who will lose the most from this decision, and it’s not possible to consult with parents of future ESF students.
On Friday, the HK Standard quoted Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim on the lack of international school places, saying that “international schools [should] consider devising an allocation mechanism such as a certain proportion of places being earmarked for children whose parents are recruited or relocated from outside Hong Kong." So it seems clear the government wants the ESF to operate as an international school, offering priority to expats - and there is no doubt that the ESF can be successful operating in that way.
The losers here are local parents who can’t afford higher school fees, but the government doesn’t care about them.
Interesting piece from Gweipo about newspapers:
I've been subjected to a barrage of emails of late by the IHT. And the Wall street journal. And the NYT. [..] Why did I resist? A few main reasons. I just hate all that paper coming into the house - even if I'm now living in an area that professes to recycle and even will reward me for doing so through their "Grin" Scheme. (Honest, they don't have to, my guilt to the environment is enough to keep me recycling forever and forever amen). Then there is that thing of other waste - as in, I subscribe, but some weeks I'll read the paper every day, and sometimes weeks on end go by with the paper piling up, in it's little plastic bag against the rain (double guilt, double waste) unopened until I separate the paper and the plastic and throw them all out. And finally the fact that it's available online and on air. Oh, and they don't have suduko (the saving grace of the SCMP - honest, ask any expat wife, they all start with that section). And their comics are pathetic - old fashioned, boring and irrelevant to an international audience.
You see, the best thing about my IHT subscription to be honest, was unlimited access to the NYT. And, in the days that I didn't get to read the newspaper, I could skim through my daily email from the NYT and click on the articles that were interesting. Now, I can still do that. I'm limited to 10 articles a month - but, often that's enough. And it's a kind of rationing - do I really like that journalist enough to click through or is it going to be a same old same old?
The article generated a response from Joyce Hor-Chung Lau, an editor at the International Herald Tribune (writing in a personal capacity):
I do pay for online content -- I feel responsible to do so. One pet peeve are people (not you) who say, "I love your paper, but I get annoyed when I get blocked after 10 articles." I want to shake them and ask why they expect content to come for free? And these are not poor people -- mostly HK professionals. One was my dentist. It was hard for me to retort, w/ the metal instruments in my mouth. But I wanted to ask him if he had qualms about asking me to pay for my dental care!
It would be nice if the media industry made it easier to buy a la carte articles. Often, I see one article I'd like to read -- and would be happy to pay a few bucks if I could click one PayPal button. But then I'm asked to buy a whole year's subscription or have to fill in some form, and I give up.
Yes, the ‘micro payments’ model ought to work, but how much would people pay per article? Would it be worth collecting the money?
It’s interesting that the SCMP has stuck with charging for its website for so many years, whilst other papers have either stayed free or have tried different approaches to charging, usually without much success. SCMP.com now allows access to a certain number of articles free of charge (the same as the New York Times and the Financial Times, but unlike The Times) and the website is much better than before. Unfortunately the content (of the newspaper and website) is getting worse - and reduced revenue must be one reason.
People may be reluctant to pay for web access, but apparently they will pay for content on iPad and Kindle. I do. I happily pay about US$0.60 per day for The Guardian on the Kindle, but I hated their iPad app. The Kindle experience is less than ideal for magazines, but at little more than US$1 per week (each) for The Spectator and the New Statesman I’m not complaining. The question is whether this will be enough to save newspapers and magazines.
They had another one of those International Cheese Festivals at Hullett House in TST.
The problem is that the cheese market is in a tiny room. I had to wait in a queue before I was allowed in, but there were still too many people inside. I did manage to try the only Scottish cheese they had (from Barwheys Dairy), and so I bought some of that, and a couple of French cheeses before I gave up. Not cheap at HK$55 per 100g, but I’d have bought more if it had been better organized.
From there I went to the Shangri-La, which had this rather puzzling dish in its buffet: