Previous month:
April 2006
Next month:
June 2006


The SCMP had a story (War on piracy recruits 200,000 youthful spies - registration required) on Tuesday about children being encouraged to report illegal download sites.  Which is all very well, but where are the legal alternatives? 

If you have a phone or PDA with a built-in MP3 player is there any legal way to acquire music?  Even copying music from a CD you have purchased is not legal, so what are you supposed to do? 

Yes, there is EOLAsia, but they only offer music in WMA format - and with Digital Right Management to make it even less useful. 

I do have an MP3 player that does have all the DRM nonsense, and the only thing I've tried to download was the Ricky Gervais podcast.  I had numerous problems with the Audible software that is supposed to download the podcasts and transfer them to the MP3 player, and eventually it told me that I had to contact Audible because I had "exceeded the allowed number of devices" (whatever that means).  Needless to say, I only have one device, and as Audible don't answer their emails I don't have a solution.

Well, I do - I can download it to iTunes, burn a CD and then convert that to MP3, and copy it to the MP3 player.  Which means I have wasted my time and defeated their attempt to protect the content.  Ridiculous...


Watched the TVBN (news) channel on Now Broadband TV on Saturday - they were showing scenes from the earthquake in Indonesia whilst at the bottom of the screen they had the Mark Six (lottery) numbers scrolling past.  Nothing incongruous there, then.

And to think that it seemed like fairly outrageous satire when Whoops Apocalypse came up with a spoof news bulletin showing topless news readers announcing newspaper bingo numbers... 

Spring Rolls

I suppose Spring Rolls (春卷) would be the only dim sum that I recognized from my consumption of "Chinese food" in the UK.  Of course, they weren't quite the same thing, but then what is? 

In fact, there are versions of Spring Roll in various countries around the world, notably Vietnam and Thailand, but I think it's generally agreed that the dim sum one is the original. 

CheungyunThe outer skin is a thin pastry, but I fear that my ignorance of culinary matters is going to become obvious here, because I'm not totally sure what is inside spring rolls.  Actually, I think you can bung almost anything inside - any old combination of meat, shrimps and vegetables that takes your fancy.  Then just stick it in the deep fat frier and off you go (no, this isn't one of the healthier dim sum).

As a result, I regard the humble Spring Roll as something of a bellweather dish - good restaurants have good Spring Roll, poor ones have - well, poor ones.  The outer part should be puffed up but not too greasy, the inside should be tasty.  Sadly, too many of them give the appearance of having been mass-produced, frozen, and defrosted.

As for the Pinyin Yale Romanization, it's something like Cheūn gyún if that's any help to you.

Good intentions

Via DGNYHK, an interesting site for learning Chinese characters.  You can download a small application that displays Chinese characters - just set it to display a new character every few seconds and be amazed at how many you (kinda, almost) recognize.

Two more free sites:

Cantonese lessons


Or for a laugh, paste Chinese text into the Babel Fish translator and marvel at the Pidgin English that comes out the other end.

No thanks

Just had someone from my existing mobile phone company trying to get me to sign a new contract. 

Would I like 1900 minutes per month and a HK$200 supermarket voucher?  No thanks (what would I do with 1900 minutes a month?).

So - would I like to pay the same as I am today but sign a 12 month contract and get a HK$200 supermarket voucher?  No thanks.

So - how about paying less for more minutes on a 24 month contract and get a free phone?  Not really.

Then I asked him if he could offer me a package with GPRS usage included.  No, he didn't think he could, but I could always call their "hotline" to find out.  Some salesman...

Pretty hopeless.    

Which reminds me that Spike was complaining that HK mobile phone companies don't offer big discounts on top of the range phones (he wants the new Treo).  Yes, you can get some good offers in the UK and the States on phones if you sign a contract, but the flip side is that they come with much higher monthly phone bills. 

On the whole I think I'd rather buy the phone I want but pay about US$10 a month for a deal that includes more minutes than I ever use (and remember that in the UK it costs a small fortune to call a mobile phone, whereas here it costs nothing).

The wrong guy

How can it be that newspapers so often get the basic facts of a story wrong? 

A couple of weeks ago, computer journalist Guy Kewney was asked to appear on BBC News 24 (er, it's a 24 hour news channel from the BBC).  Unfortunately someone else appeared on screen instead, and newspapers reported that the other guy was a cabbie (taxi driver) waiting in reception with a sign saying "Guy Kewney". 

Sounds plausible?  Well, no, not really.  First of all, the only people who carry signs saying "White City Cabs - Guy Kewney" are obviously taxi drivers, and not IT experts.  Secondly, the only place taxi drivers need to carry a sign is when picking people up at an airport - in an office they just have tell the receptionist who they are waiting for. So all this is what we are left with is the assumption that a black guy who spoke like that was a taxi driver, and some nonsense that was manufactured to make it sound as if it was true.   

In fact, the other guy was actually Guy Goma, and contrary to the journalist's assumptions he was actually at the BBC for an interview for a job in IT.  It turned out to be a different sort of interview...

In the circumstances, he performed admirably, recovering well after the obvious shock of being introduced as "Guy Kewney", and waffled away like a pro when asked about the judgement in Apple vs. Apple.  Phil has a link to the video here.

The other amusing part of this was Guy Kewney's rather sniffy account of the episode on his blog.   

Time and money

Grrr...I thought I could pop into my local Wellcome supermarket at lunchtime to pick up a few things.

Bad idea.

When I went to the checkout I noticed there was a queue.  When I looked closer I saw that it was a long, slow-moving queue. 

The explanation is that they are offering 10% off everything.  Cue arrival of people who have all the time in the world if they can save a few dollars.  Exit exasperated Gweilo.

The Southern China

I try to avoid making fun of the mangled English that is common in Hong Kong (glass houses and all that).

However, when large companies choose to place advertisements in Tai Po's leading English language newspaper, surely they could spend a little time or a few dollars on getting it right.  The sub-heading to the so-called "Sponsored Feature" describes Mangrove West Coast in Shenzen as

"The most prestigious community in the Southern China". 

Obviously you don't need the second "the" in that sentence.  Plus, I am intrigued to know how a developer can create a "community", but that's marketing people for you.  Later on we learn (deep breath) that they

"have teamed up professionals from all the world to collaborate on this most prestigious community in the Southern China characterized by central location and an irrrestible charm of a seaside township".

It's a pity they didn't manage to team up with someone who can write good English.

One rule for them...

More on the stupid business with the so-called "anti-racist" legislation that is supposed to outlaw generous expat packages for permanent residents.  I've covered this a few times.

Yesterday the SCMP reported that the bill has been delayed and that there were still concerns from foreign businesses about the implications of this proposed legislation.  Well, yes, because it is a crazy idea.

The anti-racism bill faces further delays, with Home Affairs Department officials meeting the international business community today to discuss proposed tough curbs on expatriate packages.  Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Stephen Fisher told the Committee on the Promotion of Racial Harmony yesterday that drafting of the bill was nearing completion.

The bill was previously expected to be presented for lawmakers' consideration in March.

Mr Fisher said some chambers of commerce, those from Europe and North America in particular, had recently voiced concerns about provisions in the draft bill on overseas terms of employment. They fear these could hinder their member companies' ability to bring the best available talent to Hong Kong to run their operations.

Today the SCMP publishes a rather pointed letter on the subject (echoing David Webb's earlier letter when this was first mooted):

In "More delays looming on expat package bill" (May 11), Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Stephen Fisher is quoted as saying permanent residents' "children should go to local schools and you don't need to go back to your home every year or every six months - Hong Kong is your home".

Could he please confirm that his own children go, went or will go to public schools in Hong Kong and that he does not travel overseas to visit relatives?

Could he also please explain, in the light of his statement, whether allowances for the above in his employment package and in those of other civil servants are still necessary? Finally, could he clarify whether, on the basis of all this, he intends Hong Kong's status as Asia's world city to be downgraded to simply "city in Asia"?

As I recall, Mr Fisher didn't reply to David Webb's letter, so I don't suppose he'll be responding this time either.


XiaoxindihuaWe are all used to seeing signs in China with weird English translations from Chinese, but this one is a bit different.

For this one (in a railway station) rather than attempting to translate into English, they have provided the Pinyin.  Very helpful if you are trying to learn Chinese, I guess.. 

(Sorry about the poor quality of the picture - the text says "Xiao Xin Di Hua")