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January 2007
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March 2007

In a clear plastic bag

Last summer, the UK government introduced very stringent rules about carry-on luggage, and although most of these have been relaxed, liquids are still restricted.  Basically you can only take 100ml, and it has to be in a 100ml (or smaller) container inside a clear, sealable, plastic blag.

Rather to my surprise, I see that Hong Kong is following suit, as reported in today's Standard:

All departing and transit passengers at Hong Kong International Airport will have to place drinks and liquids in transparent plastic bags for screening under tough new security measures to be implemented next month. The measures, recommended by the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization, are in response to what are perceived to be increased threats from terrorists using liquid explosives to attack aircraft.

"As Hong Kong is an aviation hub, we're obliged to follow their [ICAO] recommendations," Simon Li Tin- chui, chief operations officer of security at the Civil Aviation Department, said Tuesday. "Additional security measures will impact on passengers, but we're liaising with parties to make sure sufficient resources [are in place] and preparatory work is done to ensure smooth operations." 

The extra precautions will come into force March 21 and continue until further notice.

You will be allowed to buy liquids in the shops after you pass through the security inspection, which is very kind of them - have you seen how much a bottle of water costs in the airport shops?  [Update: Details here]

Inevitably, most people will be unaware of these changes and will turn up with all manner of forbidden items, and then argue with the security staff when they are told that they can't take them on board.  You will probably want to turn up early if you are flying out of Hong Kong in the Easter period.


Scary stuff

I came across this strange story today via the Windows Secrets newsletter (WSN):

There's a good chance that you've already heard something about Julie [Amero]. She's perhaps better known as the Connecticut substitute schoolteacher who's been convicted of "child endangerment." She now faces a sentence of up to 40 years in prison because porn pop-ups appeared on a school computer.

For background on the case, you can read articles from the New York Times, MSNBC, or SecurityFocus. (Full disclosure: WSN editorial director Brian Livingston is quoted in the New York Times piece supporting Julie. The article at the MSNBC site is also a good read, but I don't recommend the accompanying video, which starts out with a falsehood and goes downhill from there.)

From what I can understand, it seems that the teacher knew nothing about computers, even to the extent of not switching off the PC when all the pop-ups starting appearing (because she had been told not to do so).  However, the jury seems to have believed the prosecution's "expert" witness - who was such an "expert" that he didn't even check for spyware and adware that might have caused this to happen - and decided that the teacher had done this deliberately. 

Obviously a felony conviction is very serious, but I very much doubt that she will get a 40 year sentence, and she will inevitably appeal and surely be successful, but it's a bit scary that the case was even brought, let alone that a jury convicted her.

Also, it seems clear that the school's IT department had failed to install or update the appropriate software that would have blocked these pop-ups.  Frankly, even if the teacher had wanted to access these sites (which seems rather improbable), it shouldn't have been possible, and it shouldn't be hard to set that up.  It's crazy to blame the teacher when the school was at fault, and the worrying thing is that there are probably many other cases where people have lost their jobs because something like this has happened.

Red packets

Yes, it's that time of year again. 

Unlike my curmudgeonly friend Mr Fumier, I do like Chinese New Year.  One of the best things about it is that instead of wasting time buying presents that the recipients probably don't want, you simply stick banknotes into red envelopes.  The only remotely complex part is remembering to hand over the right envelopes to the right people.

However, there is one thing that puzzles me.

I totally understand the tradition of giving lucky money to children, and I suppose it's reasonable to extend that to all unmarried relatives.  I also think it's just fine to give "lucky money" to security guards and waiters who have helped you in the past (and in anticipation of good service in the future), even though this is surely not traditional.

I also have no problem with bosses giving "lucky money" to their staff.

What I really don't get is why you are expected to give "lucky money" to colleagues who happen to be unmarried.  What's that all about, then?

Yellow Saab? Must be a gweilo...

Sun Gai Gweilo on Gweilos' choice of cars:

You seldom see "old bangers" on the roads in Hong Kong. Even the delivery vans are in good nick. But have a walk around the car park at a mini rugby event and you'll find Saabs, Volkswagons, Audis, Rovers, old BMWs and other Eurotrash. Then take a walk through a public housing estate car park and you'll see loads of newer and fancier Japanese cars and late model Euro cars.

Maybe some of the new arrivals or those who compare cars with what they can get back home see a canary yellow covertible Saab as a fancy car.

Oh and unless you live in Sai Kung and work at the airport, it's cheaper to take a taxi everywhere.

Have to agree with the last point.  Owning a car in Hong Kong is an expensive luxury - and unless your company pays for it, or you somehow have free parking, then it really is cheaper to use taxis and public transport, and often just as convenient. 

It seems that many foreigners coming to Hong Kong can't adjust their way of thinking to the way things are here, and feel that they must have their yellow Saab (or whatever), and expect to be able to pick their children up from school and park near the supermarket and all manner of other things that simply aren't realistic. 

The only way is up

A few months ago, Now TV were offering subscriptions to ESPN & Star Sports at $78 per month.  Now it has become a Mega Sports Pack at HK$178 per month.  The "mega" seems to mean that as well as ESPN & Star Sport, you get Eurosport News (already available on Cable TV), Eurosport and an EPL channel.  They are offering 5 months free on an 18 month contract, which averages out at HK$128/month, and claim that this offer will end on 28 February.  You also need to subscribe to other channels to the value of at least HK$60. 

I suppose they will keep increasing prices until the start of the new season in August - if they can get away with it.

Continue reading "The only way is up" »

Out of touch?

From today's Talkback section of the SCMP:

Have I missed something? I scoured the paper on Friday and Saturday and found nothing on Roger Waters' Dark Side concert. Did the South China Morning Post have its eyes closed to this sell-out event at the Convention and Exhibition Centre? So many came away saying it was one of the most extraordinary musical and visual events, with hard-hitting political messages, to have hit Hong Kong in recent years. Is it that the Post has become so parochial that those running the paper haven't heard of the global musical phenomenon of Pink Floyd?

On the eve of the Year of the Pig, Waters' giant pig flying over our heads would have been your perfect front-page picture. Or was the anti-Bush message on its backside too much for the conservative establishment you reflect?  Waters and his band must feel insulted that the power and professionalism of their show couldn't stir Hong Kong's so-called leading English-language newspaper.

I'm sure other readers will feel the same  - that this demonstrates how seriously out of touch the Post is with the passions and interests of many of its readers. It is wrong if it believes we're only interested in how stocks and property prices are faring, parochial small-circle politics, and spending our money on useless luxuries.

Many of us grew up under the influence of Floyd lyrics: "Money, it's a crime". "We don't need no thought control." Thursday's concert was nothing less than a spiritual homecoming for those of us deeply concerned about the political and religious powers that dominate this world.

Kate Cheung, Lamma Island

Well, yes.  I'm sure I've said this before, but the basic problem with the SCMP is that thinks it's an important international newspaper.  Maybe it makes financial sense to keep up this pretence and thereby sell subscriptions to many large companies, but in terms of producing a newspaper that is relevant to potential readers in Hong Kong it makes no sense at all.

Interesting that they chose to print this letter...

Kung Hei Fat Choi

On the vexed question of whether this might be a "Golden Pig" year, there's more nonsense from the SCMP: 

Doomsayers warn that rush to have 'piglets' will backfire


Mainland couples have gone hog wild about having children in what is considered a lucky lunar year according to traditional Chinese beliefs.

But the baby boom is having unexpected consequences, packing maternity wards and driving up prices of related goods and services. Doomsayers warn it will eventually put a strain on the education system and job prospects.

"Hospitals are full. You need to wait for hours for a simple ultrasound. I'm worried about how tough it will be for delivery," said Shanghai property consultant Wang Nan , who is seven months' pregnant.

The rush for "piglets" has been caused by unusual circumstances. For many this year is widely believed to be the year of gold according to the "five elements" theory, so it is a Year of the Golden Pig, which means babies born this year might have good fortune.

More women having babies creates extra demand for hospital services.  How much more unexpected can you get?      


Sunday's SCMP:

Golden-pig hype goes up in flames


If you think the next lunar year is going to be an incredibly lucky one, think again; you may have fallen victim to commercial hype.

It will not be the year of the golden pig, fortune tellers say. Rather, it is the fire pig which will rule our destinies in the coming 12 months

Here comes the "commercial hype" in, er,  today's SCMP:

A golden beginning


Golden, glistening floats will light up the Lunar New Year parade, a portent to good fortune in the widely hyped year of the "golden pig".

So is it golden or not?  Do we believe Fox Yiu Hu or Norma Connolly?  Do they talk to each other over at the SCMP?

It's surprising that you print this rubbish

His blog hasn't been updated for months, but Simon Patkin has found time to write to the SCMP (subscription required):

Greenie gibberish

Richard Fielding's letters-page diatribe in favour of environmentalism and against free enterprise can only be described as gibberish ("Profiteering from the end of the world as we know it", February 3). For example, he writes: "Industry think-tanks still preach that crazy environmentalist conspirators want hair shirts for all ..." It's surprising that you print this rubbish. What is not surprising is that his letter is typical of the way environmentalists present their views, and their anti-development mentality in general. Al Gore is already calling anyone who disagrees with him a denier, while others want to penalise TV weathermen who disagree with the environmentalist viewpoint.

Those scientists who do speak out against environmentalism are subject to a barrage of spiteful accusations, and a few militants now want Nuremburg-style trials to charge critics of environmentalism with crimes against humanity - a chilling threat to free speech and individual rights.

Despite the millions they receive in government and corporate funding, it's obvious that environmentalists are not quite as certain of their global warming nonsense as they pretend to be. The environmental lobby group is now a global industry, but its ideas can only lead to disaster.

SIMON PATKIN, Causeway Bay

Gibberish?  Pots and kettles, Simon, pots and kettles.  And where does this stuff about "Nuremberg-style trials" come from?

How can anyone describe global warming as 'nonsense'?  You can argue about exactly what is happening, and what we should do about it, but surely everyone now accepts that it really is happening and that man has caused it. 

The SCMP published an article (taken from Men's Journal) in their Sunday magazine about how Exxon Mobile say that they are very concerned about environmental issues, whilst simultaneously funding groups who put forward the same type of arguments that we hear from Simon Patkin. Today there's another letter, asking where Simon's so-called "think tank" gets its money.  Sadly for Simon, I fear that if Exxon Mobile wanted to mobilise public opinion in Hong Kong then he would not be very high on their list of people to call.   

Continue reading "It's surprising that you print this rubbish" »