Hong Kong not so good- HKIA North Satellite Concourse

There’s not too much wrong with Hong Kong International Airport.  Apart from the North Satellite Concourse, that is.

It was opened more than 5 years ago (for smaller planes such as the Airbus A320 / A321), and yet the only way to get there (or back) is by taking a shuttle bus across the apron….

…which is also used by large planes.

As the planes take priority, the buses often get delayed on the tarmac.  And it doesn’t take much for the whole system to grind to a halt.  Recently I had a lengthy wait for a bus to arrive, and then, once it departed, it moved just a few hundred metres - and we had to wait for another 7-8 minutes before it could continue the short journey to the North Satellite Concourse.  Total delay – around 20 minutes, and too much time spent standing on a crowded bus.  

The best solution from the smart people at HKIA is advice to passengers to allow extra time to get there.  Thanks a lot. 

Needless to say, it doesn’t have a lounge (there is a Starbucks if you want to pay for food and drink, which I don’t - thanks all the same).

Is this really an improvement on buses that go directly to planes parked a little further away (which they also still do)?


This is your bank calling

It’s bad enough receiving unsolicited sales calls on my mobile (though I find that either ignoring them until they hang up, or saying “Hello, who’s calling?” usually work quite well), but I get seriously annoyed when my bank keeps calling to sell me stuff.

Yes, “my bank”. I have had an account (and a credit card) with them for quite a few years, and, after all that time, one might think that they know something about me.

But no - as well as trying to sell me services that they ought to know that I don’t need, they can’t even address me correctly.  OK, yes, it is one of my names, but it’s not the correct one.

I told them to stop calling me, and they warned me that I might miss out on a new product or service.  Well, yes, that’s the idea.  If I need something, I believe I am probably capable of asking them for assistance.


It’s a phone, stupid

Most annoying mobile phone feature?  Some clever person at Blackberry decided that the best way to handle a low battery would be….to terminate your phone call without any prior warning.  Not even a minute or two to scramble for a charger, oh no.  We have to preserve the battery so you can, er, read your emails?

Amazingly, there appear to be people who thing this is a good piece of design, and will tell you that you should check your battery before making a call.  Thanks for the advice.

Fortunately I don’t totally rely on my Blackberry, and I have another phone that doesn’t think it knows what’s best for me,   

In other news, Spotify still doesn’t work on my Windows 7 PC. 


Despicable foreigners (again)

Is the SCMP really so short of letters to publish that it can always find room for the incoherent ranting of Pierce Lam?

This time he seems determined to make a more general point about a single incident in an under 12 football match.  You won’t be surprised to hear that the player who committed the foul was Caucasian and playing for an ESF team. 

Probe kick incident thoroughly

South China Morning Post - Mar 31, 2012

Your editorial ("Adults must set sporting example", March 21) prevaricates and is clearly partial.

To provide a context for the attack [at a schoolboy soccer game], it referred to circumstances not captured in the video, by referring to emotions that swelled on the losing side - the players, their parents and the coach who were losing hope over the game.

Overenthusiastic parents and coaches are not uncommon in all kinds of junior competitions that take place all over the world every day.

The main issue that your editorial sidestepped is why such a common experience of immense pressure to win resulted in such unusual violence in Hong Kong.  The comment about "parents rushing onto the pitch and getting into a shoving match with the coach" after the assault is misleading and irrelevant.

Why is it misleading and irrelevant?

It was imperative, and not just sensible, that concerned parents intervene in an unfair game that had turned violent, especially as neither the referees nor the losing team's coach commanded confidence. All along, Kitchee Escola played a graceful and very respectable game.

Was Pierce Lam there at the game?  Or has he just watched a video on You Tube that has been edited to highlight the fouls committed by the ESF team?

The culpable English Schools Foundation Lions boy was a scapegoat if, as your editorial alleged, he "paid the penalty", although he "would not have harmed a fellow player and gained notoriety had those around him set the right example". Who are these real but unpunished hidden culprits?

Surely the SCMP meant the parents at the game.

Ben Lam Chan-bun, a spokesman for the league to which the two teams belonged, tried to wrap up the horrific incident, saying that Kitchee "only wanted an apology" and that "we don't want to cause any trouble with the ESF; we know they are good schools" ("Shock at head-kicking in boys' soccer match", March 13). This is a grossly myopic and irresponsible attitude.

The parents and members of the winning team demonstrated remarkable self-restraint, and we must ensure that we will see justice fairly administered in the head-kicking case.

The kicking incident was not a private issue between two boys or two teams.

Really? Oh yes, because Pierce Lam hates the English Schools Foundation (ESF) and wants it closed down.

Both Hong Kong and the world at large are concerned about the question posted in the headline of Jamie Spence's letter ("What is root of violence in junior sport?" March 16).

I don't think a similar kicking incident would happen in Singapore, Tokyo or Shanghai, so why Hong Kong? To prevent a similar incident from happening here in the future, the concerned parties must investigate the case thoroughly and report their findings to the public.

Pierce Lam, Central

Does Mr Lam have any evidence to support his assertion that this would not happen in Singapore, Tokyo or Shanghai?  I don’t think so.   


Braun battery-operated toothbrushes are rubbish

imageSurely Braun are having a laugh when they claim to offer a 2 year guarantee on their Oral B battery-operated toothbrushes .  In my experience they become hopelessly unreliable after only a few months of usage.  Yes, you can fiddle around with them and prolong their life for a few more weeks, but after that you might as well throw them away.

I console myself with the fact that if you subtract the cost of the brushhead and the two batteries, the tube of plastic and the motor don't really cost that much.

One day I'll keep the receipt and try to return one of them when it stops working after 8 months.  No, I won't, will I?  I'd probably have to return it to a Service Centre in Mong Kok or Kowloon Bay and queue up to take it back, and then go back and queue up again to collect it again when they've repaired it.  Too much trouble, lah.


The best stuff on Earth? Really?

Snapple ingredientsRecently I bought a bottle of Snapple Iced Lemon Tea, thinking that it really was natural (as stated on the label). 

Then I read the ingredients.  The second item (after water) is High Fructose Corn Syrup, the ingredient which is widely blamed for making the population of the United States so obese. 

From Wikipedia:

The process by which HFCS is produced was first developed by Richard O. Marshall and Earl R. Kooi in 1957. The industrial production process was refined by Dr. Y. Takasaki at Agency of Industrial Science and Technology of Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Japan in 1965-1970. HFCS was rapidly introduced in many processed foods and soft drinks in the US over the period of about 1975–1985.

So not really very natural at all, then. 

I found this rather amusing chart at GraphJam (see right).


Saving the environment, driving you crazy

HSBC are now promoting their electronic statement service to replace the paper version sent through the mail.  Good idea, poor execution.

Why does it have to be so difficult?  They send you an email, with a link to a webpage.  You then have to sign in using a different password to the one you have for Internet banking, and it opens a pop-up window to display a link to the statement (if your browser will let it - and in Firefox it appears as gibberish).  Only then you can download a pdf file to your computer.

This is all very puzzling.  Why can't I simply have my statement(s) available for download when I sign on to Internet banking? 

American Express have a similar service, and it is only slightly less frustrating.  They send you an email, but if you click on the link it doesn't work because you aren't signed on.  Then you sign on with your password, but there is no option to download the statement!  You have to select the option to display the statement and then click on the Acrobat logo, and then select the latest statement from the list.  Frustrating, but at least there's only one website and one userid and password.

Here's the thing I don't get.  Why not have all your transactions for a year available on Internet Banking?  Why do they delete old transactions from this service?  Why don't they provide a method to download this information to Excel or MS Money or Quicken (or anything similar).  Wouldn't that be the simplest solution?  Sending an email to get a link to a pdf file that is no more than an electronic copy of a paper statement seems a very complicated way of doing it.


Shoppes

image When I was at school, I remember a classmate getting told off by the teacher for his picture of life a few hundred years ago because it included captions saying "Ye Olde Shoppes' or some similar bit of Middle English whimsy.

So I was amused to see that there is a new shopping arcade in Macau called "The Shoppes at Four Seasons" - as advertised in today's SCMP.

What really struck me was that their advertising makes great play of the fact that the White Tiger and Java Rhinoceros are endangered species.  Quite what this has to do with a new shopping arcade or a "limited edition Versace Couture snap bag" is hard to fathom.

Unless it's something to do with one of the reasons why tigers and Java Rhinos are endangered species, perhaps? 

Both rhino horns and tiger bits are much prized ingredients in Chinese Medicine, so people will pay a lot for the horn of an endangered species and also for a Versace bag.  Is that it?

They also seem to have got their facts wrong - according to my research there are actually estimated to be only 50-60 Javan Rhinos alive today.  None of whom are to be found in Macau, as far as I know.


Don't leave home without it

I've had a credit card with them for years.  I still have the Samsonite luggage they gave me as an introductory gift.  But I am getting seriously annoyed with them.

A while back they persuaded me to upgrade to a Platinum card.  I only had to pay half of the normal fee for the first year, and they offered me some ridiculously large number of points if I spent a fairly modest amount on the card in the first 6 months.  Here's a strange thing, though - they forgot to credit me with the free points!  Easy mistake to make, but it was sorted out in one phone call.

At the end of the first year I cancelled the Platinum card and went back to my old account.  Two (or is it three?) years later, I am still getting a statement each month informing me that I have a few cents credit and suggesting I call them to get a refund.  I call them every few months and they promise to sort it out, but the statements keep arriving.


All made up

About a week ago, I came across a strange story about a pair of twins getting married.  I think it first surfaced on the BBC website (Parted-at-birth twins 'married') - where the use of inverted commas around the last word indicated that it was not a verified fact. 

This all seemed a bit too much like an urban myth, so I was rather surprised when it was then picked up by most British newspapers, who were only too happy to add some extra detail to help things along. 

When I say "add", of course I mean "make up".  Because it's all based upon nothing more than a rather vague statement made by a politician, who admitted that he had no first-hand knowledge of the case.  So no-one could verify exactly whether it was true or not - though a few simple enquiries might have helped to establish that it probably wasn't.

In spite of this, the story was spreading all round the world, even making it on to Reuter's "Oddly Enough" where at least it was reported without any embellishments, and with a worthwhile caveat:

Alton could not immediately be reached for comment and no further information was available about the twins or where they were from.

So hats off to Heresy Corner, a blog that wondered what exactly was going on here (Lord Alton's Tall Story): 

The story of the twins who allegedly got married, only to discover their relationship and seek a High Court annulment, continues to be reported uncritically by news organisations around the world. BBC News gave it prominent coverage on all its major bulletins last night, and the sensational tale has been reported as far afield as India and New Zealand.

So far, however, there remains only a single source for it: a speech by Lord Alton in the House of Lords. Since this story made international headlines yesterday, it's a little surprising to discover that he made the speech, in a debate on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, a whole month ago, on December 10th 2007. Anyway, this is what Lord Alton, a former Lib Dem MP who is now a cross-bencher, told the House:

I was recently in conversation with a High Court judge who was telling me of a case he had dealt with. This did not involve in vitro fertilisation; it involved the normal birth of twins who were separated at birth and adopted by separate parents. They were never told that they were twins. They met later in life and felt an inevitable attraction, and the judge had to deal with the consequences of the marriage that they entered into and all the issues of their separation. I suspect that it will be a matter of litigation in the future if we do not make information of this kind available to children who have been donor conceived.

That's it. No names, no dates, no context, no evidence. And that is where it might have remained, buried away in the pages of Hansard.

Except that some eagle-eyed journalist (come forward and take your bow) happened upon it. As it sped around the world, it became, as such stories tend to, steadily more specific in its details, until the News of the World, in its appeal for information, is able to claim,

Their marriage was annulled at the High Court at a special hearing held within the last 12 months.

What's their source for this assertion, I wonder?

A vivid imagination, I fear.

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