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September 2009
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November 2009

Spectactorly bad

It seems as if iPhone applications are the latest bright idea that newspapers and magazines have for generating revenue.  It's an odd fact that people do seem willing to pay for stuff on mobile phones (and particularly on the iPhone), but not for a subscription to a website.

So I was interested to see that The Spectator has an iPhone app.  They charge just 99 cents for the application, including a 7 day subscription, and you can extend the subscription for an extra 99 cents per week.  Sounds like a good ide - or it would be if it wasn't such a hopelessly bad application. 

Incredibly, all you get are screen images of each page, and of course they are unreadable if you display a full page.  Yes, you can zoom in but then you can only see part of the page and it's incredibly awkward to read an article like that (scrolling down the first column, then down the second column).

Aha, you think, I'll turn my iPhone on its side.  Well, yes you can, but now you get a "cover flow" type thing showing all the pages.  Gee, thanks.

It's as if the person who designed this had never used an iPhone.  At this point I gave up and decided I had wasted my money.

The Guardian is planning to release an iPhone app, and one has to assume that they'll do a better job than The Spectator.

Smelly and deadly

This may have been reported elsewhere, but I haven't seen it.

New Scientist magazine reports that Durian and booze is worse than a stinking hangover:

ACCORDING to Asian folklore, eating the famously pungent durian - known as the "king of fruits" - along with alcohol can kill you. Now intrepid researchers have confirmed there may be some truth in this supposition. It is the first time combining a fruit with booze has been scientifically linked to an adverse reaction.

One of the strangest signs I've ever seen in a hotel was in Penang, Malaysia.  They kindly requested guests not to bring durian into the hotel.  Why?  Because durian is stinkier than stinky tofu (well, maybe not quite that bad), and certainly less delicious. 

I never knew that one wasn't supposed to drink and durian, but I'll certainly bear it in mind. 

Ah, the irony

I had nothing better to do today than read this leader in the Sunday Morning Post.  One has to have tremendous admiration for anyone who can summon up such horrible prose when writing about language, of all things:

Beijing should make sure nation retains its voice

Oct 11, 2009

A national language is necessary to ensure that a country's people can communicate effectively with one another. In China's case, politics is added to the reasoning: the central government sees speaking Putonghua as essential for a "unified country and harmonious society". Official edicts and massive internal migration have diluted the prominence of dialects like Cantonese. Authorities would do well to remember, though, that the nation's linguistic heritage is one of its priceless assets.

The 1982 constitution enshrined Putonghua as the official language. Beijing's resolve to ensure all Chinese speak it has extended to bans on dialects being broadcast on many radio and television stations. China's rising global power has meant a rush outside the mainland to learn it. A growing number of people believe that Putonghua may one day rival the global dominance of English.

Beijing's policy has been successful; the only mainland Chinese who cannot speak Putonghua fluently are generally members of remote ethnic groups. But the practice of banning the broadcasting of dialects has been gradually drifting, particularly in Guangdong province. Culture, through the mediums of television, radio and music from Hong Kong, means that second-generation immigrants are even taking up the language. The central government should encourage, not scorn, the trend, as fears about the future of Cantonese remain, as we report on page 12 today.

Cantonese is rich with history. It is older than Putonghua and has its roots in ancient Chinese. As with Shanghainese, Fukienese and the thousands of other dialects across the nation, it also represents culture. Within its words, idioms and phrases are a deep understanding of heritage and background as well as a sense of identity and values.

A common language helps China's people better understand one another. But being able to communicate does not mean the official language should negate the need for dialects. The government should do its utmost to preserve and promote regional variations. If it does otherwise, the nation will lose its voice.

Spanish football is too expensive

Yesterday's SCMP had an explanation for the absence of Spanish football from Hong Kong TV screens.  The reason, apparently, is that La Liga want more money for the rights than either PCCW (Now TV) or Cable TV are willing to pay. 

The reality is that subscribers wouldn't pay much to watch the Spanish or Italian or German leagues.  It's the English Premier League and the Champions League that are the big draws, and the pay tv companies are willing to pay for those rights.  Now TV has done well from the EPL, and the Champions League coverage finally gives Cable TV some credibility after they lost the EPL rights, but the other leagues don't really matter.

They also report that Now TV are finally going to offer an HD version of HBO, and (hurrah) they aren't going to charge any extra for it.  This follows their decision to stop charging a premium for Now Sports HD, but (as far as I know) they they are still charging extra for National Geographic HD and Discovery HD - and for the HD version of the History Channel, I suppose, if anyone pays for that oddity.  I don't understand why they don't simply make a one-off charge for HD to include all the channels.  Too simple, I suppose.