January 30, 2004

The BBC is in trouble. They've been found lacking and blah blah blah. You can read all about it in numerous places around the net. You can even read about the aftermath at the BBC itself. But there's a broader issue many are not addressing.

Do we need publicly funded media?

The BBC, the ABC, the CBC and so on. Why should a Government fund these organisations? Do they really provide value to taxpayers that they do not get anywhere else? The short answer is no.

The main reasons public broadcasters exist can be summarised as:
1. They provide an independent source of news and programming, free from the interference of an owner with a political or commercial bias.
2. They give access to points of view that may not be captured by the general media.
3. They provide opportunities for sponsoring of local culture, talent and entertainment that may not otherwise have such an outlet. The diversity thing.
4. They cater to tastes that are not serviced by the general media.
5. They are not subject to conflicts-of-interest due to commercial pressures.
6. They are a platform for free expression of ideas and views.

None of these stand up to scrutiny. A public broadcaster is owned by the taxpayer via the Government. However in Australia the Government considers the ABC a den of ratbags conspiring against the Government. In the UK the Government considers the BBC a den of ratbags conspiring against the Government. Yet should these Governments act as a controlling shareholder there's an outcry about "independence" and "interference". The reality is no-one ever gets it right all of the time. Reporting on news is difficult because in this day and age speed matters more than accuracy. A quick analysis need not be correct, it just needs to be quick. That's what the internet and cable have done to the media cycle. That's not a quibble; if anything it's a good thing so long as it is reporting and only reporting. All humans have biases, especially reporters. It is natural they creep into their stories. The problems arise when these are hidden behind a veneer of "fair", "balanced", "factual" independence. A Government mandate makes it even worse. In the public mindset anything from the Government broadcaster is naturally independent because of the agency reporting it. Yet that is patently untrue in many cases. The recent Hutton inquiry is one example.

This is not to say the Government broadcaster should reflect the views of the Government of the day. The question is what does a Government broadcaster do better than anything the private sector already provides. Perhaps in the past there was an argument they pioneered in media, or they had the resources to provide better coverage. But these days there are literally hundreds of different outlets to get news from, to get entertainment from. Public broadcasters fill a niche that no longer needs filling. Is Fox News biased? Of course, they make no bones about it. Yet CNN's selling point is it's "balanced" nature of reporting the facts. These companies are responding to demand from consumers and providing what they want. Why? Because they can only sell advertising space if they get ratings. Ratings are people. No people equals no money equals no network. In Australia the ABC TV consistently rates last out of the major networks. Clearly the Australian public are happier watching whatever the commercial networks provide. Now the cultural elite may look down their noses at reality or lifestyle shows, but that's what the market wants. The public broadcaster simply represents a public subsidy of this minority taste. Again that may be justifiable if the benefits of such "culture" outweigh the costs. That's why making a public broadcaster reliant on the support of all taxpayers is a scam: it is a way for those minorities to get their preferences expressed at the cost to all. If there is insufficient demand for a product the Government has no business providing it. The advent of the internet, of blogs, of cable tv, of broadband, of satellites, all means that media is fragmenting and more tastes are being catered to in ever more specialised media fragments. Now more than ever Government broadcasters have little value to add in filling holes in coverage.

Let's look at it another way. In Western democracies the public broadcasters usually consist of television, radio and internet arms. What's missing? Newspapers. There are no "public" newspapers. Communist China and Russia both had plenty so that should tell you something. Yet people jump up and down if there's any threat to privatising or even reducing the funding of public broadcasters who compete against private companies in radio, the internet and TV. The real scandal is these public broadcasters are not held to any profit motive - the fact they are under no commercial imperative leads inevitably to inefficiently allocated resources. Trying to live up to a high minded mandate or charter within a Government determined budget or licence fee tax is not enough of a justification for competing against private enterprises. Don't believe me? A look at the BBC news website doesn't jump out as something different to anything else you can get on the net.

Like all scientists the best way to conduct an experiment is with a control. What about those places that do not have a public broadcaster? I don't recall seeing the collapse of any economies due to a lack of public broadcaster. Nor the end of all cultural life in such places. In fact I'd be hard pressed to find any difference between places with or without public broadcasters. Maybe one: places without public broadcasters seem to have less media time taken up by accusations of bias in public broadcasters.

All media companies of conflicts-of-interest. They are commercial enterprises, working to make a profit. Many of the conglomerates are based on the idea of media cross-selling and that dreaded word: synergies. One branch can provide publicity for others, or provide subscriptions, or advertisements. Again this is something public broadcasters engage in too. They also engage in a conflict - between the various stakeholders in the organisation. Yet it is an impossible job because they are trying to please the entire population by living up to their charter of balance. Nothing in the world is free of bias. Why pretend otherwise? You want a platform to express your views freely? Start a blog. Better yet, if your views make sence, run in politics. Or write for a paper. Don't rely on the Government to give you a free leg up.

Don't get me wrong. I like much of the product of the public broadcasters. I enjoy watching ABC TV, or reading BBC of the net. I wouldn't die if they had advertisements to pay their way. I don't think it would impact greatly on what they do - their advantage is the audience they bring and their brand value. Changing that to imitate what commercial networks already provide would be commercial suicide. Despite they often do try and imitate their "non"-rivals. They exist in half-way house of trying to please all and pleasing none.

Like all things in life and especially when it comes to spending my tax money, do the benefits outweigh the costs? No. These broadcasters do not provide enough value or product that cannot be found elsewhere. The private sector has more than covered the gaps that may once have existed. Does it mean we won't be getting broadcasts of the flippin' Poms night in some dim castle once a year? We won't get to watch re-runs of 40 year old comedies? We won't be able to subsidise keep some journos and self-important worthies employed for a few more years? Boo-hoo. When you set the extra hospitals, schools, roads, tax cuts, paper clips or whatever else that money could buy keeping public broadcasters doesn't make sense.

They are costly behemoths that no longer serve their purpose.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:54
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There are some times when it's best to think before speaking:

A US judge who made disparaging comments about a rape victim apologised and removed himself from the case, after court transcripts showed he said: "Why would he want to rape her? She doesn't look like a day at the beach."
The stupidity of it speaks for itself.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 15:58
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Chinese tennis

Mrs M and I watched last night's tennis semi final on Cable TV. Which was interesting, because the commentary was in Cantonese. And non-stop. And thus very annoying. Not because it was in Cantonese. But I want to watch the tennis. I don't want to hear two guys who from the sounds of things (using my extremely limited Cantonese) knew very little of what was going on while I'm trying to watch. If they feel they must speak, they could at least wait until the end of the point. Don't unwrap your lollies in the middle of point. Don't keep talking once a player serves.

A golden rule in sports coverage is not to miss anything. However last night the advertisements were constantly running long, so we'd come into the next game with a point or two already played. That's a crime. And the advertisements themselves were completely cr@p. It looked like someone with a bit of time on a computer knocked together a few graphics; alternatively they took a badly mad foreign ad and dubbed it badly into Cantonese.

Not happy.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:31
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Modern medicine

It's a miracle: a bowl of chicken soup has almost completely cured me of my ails. Is there nothing this soup can't do? As a public service I am going to bring you the recipie of this marvel of medical technology, brought to you by hundreds of years of Jewish motherhood.

Tradition Chicken Soup

Start with one sick patient. Put on pathetic sounding, quivering "sickness" voice. A few coughs in the middle don't hurt. Call wife. Explain how close to death you are. Beg for some chicken soup. Go home from work saying you've not eaten all day and aren't sure if you can stomach food. Eat soup. Proclaim miraculous cure. Tell wife that it is well known that sex also helps as a cure. Tell wife to stop laughing, it's true, you read it on the internet. Tell wife to stop laughing, it's not that funny. Get full night's sleep. Write about it on blog next day.

There you have it - the cure for just about any disease you care to name. Thousands of years of Jewish medicine can't be wrong.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:55
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WotD update

Turns out that invacuation actually has a meaning. In a business-speak mangled kind of way.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:30
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January 29, 2004

One of the greatest things Israel (the states) says to its citizens is should you find yourself imprisoned by the enemy, the country will not rest until it gets you back. Even if it is under a lobsided deal with terrorists.

in exchange for four Israelis or their bodies, Hezbollah gained more than 430 live prisoners, in addition to the 59 bodies.
Lest you think Hezbollah have reformed since Israel left South Lebanon, there's this little incident:
For several months Hezbollah has also been planting bombs near the border, one of which Israel reported to United Nations observers in Lebanon on Jan. 4. Last Tuesday, an Israeli bulldozer clearing the bomb entered Lebanese territory, by what Hezbollah said was more than 20 yards. Hezbollah guerrillas fired on it, killing one Israeli soldier.

Calling the attack a deliberate provocation, United States officials said the bulldozer had been forced by terrain to stray over the border to remove a bomb planted on the Israeli side of the so-called blue line that provisionally divides the two nations.

A United Nations report confirms that the bomb Israel reported on Jan. 4 was on Israeli territory. Hezbollah claims that the bomb was on Lebanese territory.

Delightful people, aren't they? Israel trades over 400 prisoners and 59 bodies for 3 of its own dead and 1 prisoner. I imagine very few countries would undergo such a trade, but that is the price Israel is prepared to pay, even if it means dealing with scum. A final quote for you on the aftermath of that incident:
Hezbollah did not step up the conflict in part, experts speculate, because it could not count on Syria's support, but partly too in its own interests. Many in Lebanon, even Hezbollah supporters, show little appetite for the group to operate beyond the country's borders. That would seem to include marching to free Jerusalem from the Jews, an often-stated goal of Hezbollah.
My apologies for insulting scum by comparing them to these people.


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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:41
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All types

Men's bathrooms tend to be disgusting places. How it can that after 30 years or more of practice some men still can't aim properly is beyond me.

So I hold my breath and approach cubicle number 3. Upon entering I notice an empty soft drink can on the ground. WtF? Does someone say "OK I'm going in and may be some time, so I'd better take some liquid refreshement with me." Why not bring a packed lunch along with the newspaper and a mobile phone. Which is another thing. Are people that important they need their mobiles in the friggin' bathroom? Can't they give themselves 4 seconds off to enjoy the quiet of the bathroom? Apparently not. If so though then please, please, please do not carry on a conversation on the phone. A quick "I'll call you right back" works wonders. Would you like to be talking someone while they're in the bathroom? The telltale echo-ing, the occasional background flush, the sort-of funny flatuence noises. You can't get away with telling someone it's a bad line. Just finish up and get out of there and leave the rest of in peace.

This rant proudly brought to you by my throbbing headache and general fever.

And on reading the entry over I can't wait to see what Google sends this way.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:20
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The shortest blog entry yet


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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:07
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Helping hand

Now that Tony Blair is out of the poo he's turned his attention to the Internet's biggest baby naming competition. Thanks for the tips, Tony.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:16
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Me no feel so good. I can't even blame alcohol. I put it down to one of two things:

1. I've caught Mrs M's morning sickness
2. I shouldn't have kissed that chicken last night.

Either way I'm going to sit and feel sorry for myself all day. But as is the way I've dragged myself into work because one has to "soldier on" blah blah blah. It just leaves me in even more awe of Mrs M and all pregnant women who put up with morning sickness plus doing the million and one other things they do.

I still feel like cr@p though.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:13
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Mrs M had dinner with some girlfriends a couple of nights ago. Last night she was telling me about it. They were discussing various things and the Nancy Kissel case came up. The conversation followed the usual swapping of stories and commenting on the lack of media coverage of what is quite close to the hearts of the expat community here. Especially as many knew the couple in question. One of the ladies then chimed in she had found some information on the Internet, at a website called Flying Chair.

Another small example how blogs are changing the information landscape.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:52
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What not to do

Note to self: around Chinese New Year, do NOT reach into jacket pocket for MP3 player in front of a guard expecting Lai See. Talk about awkward.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:33
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January 28, 2004
Good deed

It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. With that I bring you Sweet Chariots, a new Hong Kong blog. I make no further comment other than go have a look.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 17:00
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Word of the Day

Today's word of the day is "invacuation". So far I can see three meanings:
1. the opposite of evacuation - it's when you go into the building in an orderly fashion, using only the stairs.
2. where you evacuate within the building, to say a different floor.
3. a medical procedure I'd rather not go into here.

You know the drill - feel free to add your own definitions. One day I'll post a mixctionary for these words.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:48
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HK's latest gadget

From the SCMP:

Hutchison Telecom yesterday launched its third-generation (3G) mobile phone service, claiming a solid start after signing up more than 1,000 customers in the previous three days. The Li Ka-shing-controlled firm became the first operator in Hong Kong to offer the service - which allows users to download videos and make video phone calls - after a year of delays.
I've written before of the perils of 3G and in mobile mad Hong Kong, signing a thousand people for the start up is not much chop. Especially when it only really benefits people if others also have such phones so they can video call.

I'm sure one day it will be the next great toy, but this is one time where the technology seems to have been launched prematurely. The earlier post explains why.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:38
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Sneezing fowl

Bird flu: it's this year's Asia disease.
Last year it was SARS, before that dengue fever. There's always something. So let's look at the WHO and what they say about it.

Avian influenza is an infectious disease of birds caused by type A strains of the influenza virus. The disease, which was first identified in Italy more than 100 years ago, occurs worldwide. All birds are thought to be susceptible to infection with avian influenza, though some species are more resistant to infection than others.


Direct or indirect contact of domestic flocks with wild migratory waterfowl has been implicated as a frequent cause of epidemics. Live bird markets have also played an important role in the spread of epidemics.


In the absence of prompt control measures backed by good surveillance, epidemics can last for years. For example, an epidemic of H5N2 avian influenza, which began in Mexico in 1992, started with low pathogenicity, evolved to the highly fatal form, and was not controlled until 1995.

All type A influenza viruses, including those that regularly cause seasonal epidemics of influenza in humans, are genetically labile and well adapted to elude host defenses.

...influenza A viruses, including subtypes from different species, can swap or “reassort” genetic materials and merge. This reassortment process, known as antigenic “shift”, results in a novel subtype different from both parent viruses. As populations will have no immunity to the new subtype, and as no existing vaccines can confer protection, antigenic shift has historically resulted in highly lethal pandemics. For this to happen, the novel subtype needs to have genes from human influenza viruses that make it readily transmissible from person to person for a sustainable period.

Conditions favourable for the emergence of antigenic shift have long been thought to involve humans living in close proximity to domestic poultry and pigs. Because pigs are susceptible to infection with both avian and mammalian viruses, including human strains, they can serve as a “mixing vessel” for the scrambling of genetic material from human and avian viruses, resulting in the emergence of a novel subtype. Recent events, however, have identified a second possible mechanism. Evidence is mounting that, for at least some of the 15 avian influenza virus subtypes circulating in bird populations, humans themselves can serve as the “mixing vessel”.

There's plenty more. Hong Kong had a bird flu scare i 1997, where 18 people were infected and 6 died. They culled 1.5 million chickens in 3 days, probably averting a wider pandemic. The bad news is another pandemic is expected, following the big one in 1918-19 and others in 1957 and 1968. And there's this:
at least four months would be needed to produce a new vaccine, in significant quantities, capable of conferring protection against a new virus subtype.
End result: it's potentially scary but so long as the various countries infected slaughter their poultry populations quickly it can be contained. Of course it doesn't bode well that Asian nations have a bad track record when it comes to infectious diseases. In this case Thailand, where it seems to have started, deliberately kept quiet about it for a few weeks. Hopefully Governments are all aware of the need to deal with things quickly. But as I said, they don't have a good track record.

The lessons of SARS weren't so obvious, apparently. History repeating itself.

UPDATE: Adam has more.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:20
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Perceptions of reality

One big advantage of living in Hong Kong compared to Australia is The Economist magazine arrives on a Friday, rather than a Monday. Despite it's name it's actually a darn fine current-affairs magazine. So when Chinese New Year meant my delivery was delayed until Monday, I was not happy.

Nevertheless an interesting article about something close to my heart in this week's edition: fake watches. I'm not sure if the link works without subscription so I've reproduced the article in the extended entry.

The main gist is something interesting about China - despite the proliferation of fake everything there is huge demand for the "real" thing. Quality is an issue but is not as great as you imagine. Let's stick with the article's example of watches. At the end of the day a watch's main function is to tell the time. They are also fashion items, an indicator of wealth. The fakes manage to do their job well - they tell the time and look pretty close (sometimes scarily close) to the real thing.

I've had many compliments on my watch and jokes about how much I'm overpaid (hang on, maybe they weren't joking). But it seems the overwhelming desire of most people is to buy the real thing as soon as they can. Hong Kong is the home of conspicious consumption. Telling people what you paid and where you bought it is more important than the item itself. The more ostentatious the display of wealth the better. Cars, watches, clothes. Poeple spend a fortune on these, even though they are (sometimes) prepared to live in tiny flats.

But somewhere in the back of my mind is the moral dimension. Fakes are effectively a form of stealing. The original creator goes through the effort and expense of designing, manufacturing, marketing and selling the product only to have it ripped off in a matter of weeks and selling at a fraction of the price. There are rationalisations - just look at the fuss over "free" music over Napster, Kazaa and the like. These fakes may stimulate demand for the real thing. People who buy the fakes may never buy the real thing. But let's face it, just like taking songs for free of the net or fake DVDs, these fake watches are just wrong.

But gee it looks nice of my wrist.

SELLING genuine watches in China might sound like a tough challenge. The country is one of the biggest and best producers of fakes, including reproductions of expensive foreign watches that sell for a tiny fraction of the price of the real thing.

Given China's awful record on the protection of intellectual-property rights, you might expect foreign luxury brands to stay well away. Yet Swiss exports of watches to China are growing fast, to nearly $150m last year. Last week, Omega, part of Switzerland's Swatch Group, opened its first “flagship store” in downtown Beijing.

A few kilometres east of the luxury hotel in the city centre where the Omega shop is located, hawkers in Beijing's famous Silk Alley display trays crammed with fake watches. A man's Speedmaster Broad Arrow, a type that costs more than 100,000 yuan ($12,000) at the new Omega shop, goes for less than $80 in fake form. Yet Kevin Rollenhagen, the head of Omega's operations in mainland China and Hong Kong, says he does not believe Chinese are natural consumers of fake products “if they can afford the real thing.”

Statistics and anecdotal evidence suggest that he may be right, at least when it comes to expensive watches. While many Chinese do buy fakes, they are generally not among Omega's target customers—the very rich. One of the most telling signs of Chinese demand for the genuine article can be found in Hong Kong, where Omega officials say that some 50% of sales are to visitors from the Chinese mainland. As Omega watches cost more than $1,000, those buyers must be members of a wealthy elite who still think the watches display their owner's status, despite the prevalence of replicas.

Omega opened its first mainland store not in one of the booming coastal cities but in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning Province in the decaying industrial north-east. The region may be struggling, but there is still money around, much of it in the hands of officials. One of the region's biggest corruption cases involved Shenyang's then mayor, Mu Suixin, who was noticed by a Hong Kong reporter wearing an expensive imported watch that was far beyond what he should have been able to afford on a mayor's salary. Investigators reportedly found more than 150 genuine Rolexes stashed away at Mr Mu's home.

Mr Rollenhagen says that Omega's sales in China are growing by about 15% a year. The country is among the ten biggest markets for the brand. True, the rate of growth is “slowing down a bit” as China lowers import barriers (easing the entry of rival brands and other luxury goods) and urban Chinese spend more on formerly state-provided necessities such as healthcare and housing. National pride stopped Omega winning rights to be the official watch of China's first spaceman, who orbited the earth last year. That honour went to a Chinese brand, Fiyta. As for fakes, there is no sign yet that the pirates in Silk Alley are running out of time.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:45
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I've said previously that China and Hong Kong are in the middle of a mini stock market bubble. All things China are considered sure things. The story is so easy - big population, rapid economic growth, booming middle class. Of course, the facts don't chime with that. For example, China's "middle class" is a little less middle than you think. Plus the main Chinese banks have huge bad loans weighing them down, requiring bail-outs.

But the main sign of a bubble is when insiders start getting out. From the HK Standard:

Bank of New York has joined the latest wave of companies tapping Hong Kong's surging equity market by selling a 5 per cent stake in Wing Hang Bank for HK$731 million...The Hong Kong stock market, which has risen 36 per cent over the past six months, has tempted firms from banks to property developers to cash in their holdings, with three more developers - Sino Land, New World Development and Kerry Properties - tipped to join the trend soon.
It's not to say the market will not keep rising for some time; but the last people in are the retail (i.e. you and me) and they are usually the ones left carrying the can. When you see the insiders getting off the merry-go-round, get off with them.

While on things economic, Hong Kong has a problem. The Government is running a massive deficit, forecast at HK$54 billion (US$6.9bn), down from an original forecast HK$78bn. One of the biggest problems is the HK Government has a narrow tax base. Of a working population of 3.2 million people, only 1.24 million pay tax. That's right, almost 2 million working Hong Kongers pay no tax at all. The Government used to be able to finance this through it's rigged market for land. It would auction off leaseholds on land to developers for astronomical sums and everyone was happy. Until the bottom fell out of the property market. Prices are still about 1/3 of their peak before the Asia crisis of 1997. The solutions are easy: broaden the tax base either via expanding the remit of income tax or introducing a broadly based sales tax. Sales taxes tend to be regressive (i.e. they hit the poor the hardest), whereas an income tax scheme can be made progressive, albeit at some cost in complexity. But either way, Hong Kong is going to have to learn to get by without a rigged property market and the Government is going to eventually have to bite the bullet and do one of these two things. The very worst thing that could happen is the economy recovers enough to solve the deficit problem for them - it simply pushes the problems out to the future.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:39
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Forget about the problems of the world: bird flu sweeping Asia; the primaries in America; dastardly computer viruses.

But God damnit, if my email doesn't work I can't function. It could be worse - my internet connection could be down too. But I'm on the 4th circle of hell here at the moment and all the friendly I.T. people can tell us is they are "looking at the problem", which is I.T. speak for we're at lunch.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:28
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I've taken a chance today: I've only done a single knot on my shoes, rather than a double. If I stop blogging, it's because the laces have become undone and I've fallen.

Living dangerously since 1973.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:20
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January 27, 2004

Sometimes I wonder if I post too much to this blog (this is not open for comment). The reality is each post takes a few minutes to compose, although that may be after a prolonged bout of creative inspiration or much research. And then I look at the big daddy of all blogs, InstaPundit.

Let's take yesterday as a random example. He started posting at 7:45am. He finished at 10:01pm. He posted at 7:59am, 8:00am, 8:05am, 8:13am, 8:17am, 8:30am, 9:05am, 9:19am, 10:06am, 12:39pm, 12:44pm, 12:52pm, 2:04pm, 2:07pm, 2:16pm, 3:34pm, 4:27pm, a big gap to 8:24pm, 8:58pm and finally 10:01pm.

That's more than 20 posts in a day. That's more than most humans manage in a week or even month. Sure some are one-liners, but others are reasonably detailed postson various political and legal topics of the day. However just like in the advertisements, wait, there's more. Over at GlennReynolds.Com there's a post at 10:04am on the same day on blogs covering the US Primaries. Plus his regular Tech Central Station column, published weekly. In the meantime he's also writing scholarly review articles, taking classes, writing books, running a record company, producing, writing and performing music and reading numerous other blogs, newspapers, TV stations and the like to find material to blog on and remain mildly interesting. Oh, and has a family.

Either he has a studio a la the Old Masters, with minions doing work on his behalf, or he has mastered the art of being in three places at once. Does his boss know about his blogging and other extracirrcular activities? Do his students? His family? Probably, but you can't stop the juggernaut that is Instapundit, even if most of the articles are of interest only to those closely involved in US politics or law.

All I know is I'll never feel guilty about my volume of posts compared to that.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:37
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Prime property

From time to time this blog likes to cast it's gaze upon the Sydney real estate scene. Always important to keep up with the inflating bubble. And courtesy of Paul I've found the perfect place for JC.

Read the ad and see the picture in the extended entry.

From the ad:

Plastic Fantastic
$160 p.w.
Young, Outgoing, Plastic Doll looking to share with with an aspiring Ken or Barbie.

Perfect location for those looking to complete their transformation into a full Sydney 'Barbie' This newly renovated apartment is located in the heart of the bimbo district.

Close to all the major attractions (including yourself).

Comes fully furnished in plastic and includes off-street parking for you or your man doll's Ferrari.

All applicants will be required to send 8x10 airbrushed photo, with finalists going into the swimsuit contest where a winner will be chosen.


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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:17
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Another promise

Last week it was Iowa. This week it is New Hampshire. Population just over 1 million. Plus several thousand media for the week.

Yet again I make a promise. The only mention of New Hampshire on this blog will be in reference to a book and the movie of said book. No reader will be left behind under this sweeping promise.

American politics - keeping cable news networks busy when nothing else is going on.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:41
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This doubles as a Word of the Day entry. There is a new sickness that I am seeing growing and catching. It is impossible to cure. It can cause all sorts of changes. It can affect one for life.

Email rage.

Just like it's road-based cousin, email rage is growing. It stems from two main sources:
1. Spam
2. Stupid people
There is some overlap between these two areas. Spam is obvious in its increasing of frustrations, forcing people to hit their delete keys for an hour at the start of each day. However the second category is the main one I wish to deal with today.

Stupid people are everywhere. Road rage occurs because someone in a car is doing something stupid in their car/truck/bus/bicycle/scooter/golf buggy. It causes a rise in anger, unspeakable frustration, uncontrollable wrath. Yet it is usually fruitless, because the object of this rage is oblivious to the ill-feeling being directed their way. This creates a cycle of stupidity and rage that inevitably ends in violence or hair pulling.

Email rage is the same. It usually starts with a mis-understanding or error on the part of one person. It is always on an email that has 47 people copied on it, because law number 17 of email says to copy anyone remotely relevant to the topic, in order to "cover one's backside". Next there is the reply from someone pointing out the error or misunderstanding. This usually happens because people only skim read emails at best. Then the next reply is dashed off without proof-reading or thinking. Then the exclamtion marks start. A sure sign of rising email rage is the appearance of !!!! at the end of the sentence. Next it is ALL IN CAPITALS. The killer is the "combo", where it is ALL IN CAPITALS AND FOLLOWED BY !!!! It can go on like this indefinitely which serves to increase everyone's rage, even those only peripherally involved in the original discussion. Eventually the problem is solved and everyone goes back to deleting their Spam.

You've been warned.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:10
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January 26, 2004

Mrs M being pregnant means she can be indulged in her cravings. Even if they're at the extreme end of taste. Like right now, where she's watching reality TV's lowest moment, Fear Factor, and eating vanilla ice-cream, orange jelly and chocolate sauce all in the same bowl.

I make no comment on which is worse.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 20:38
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More cooking

My wildly successful winter recipie (1 trackback, thanks Rob, zero comments, thousands of happy customers) means I'm going to divulge my favourite meal when Mrs M is out and the kids are safely tucked in bed.


One video/DVD Mrs M isn't interested in
One telephone
One large plate
One wallet (containing money)
One knife, one fork (optional)

Insert video/DVD and get it to the start of the first scene. Pick up telephone and dial local pizza place. Order Mexican pizza (Cheese, tomato, pepperoni, capsicum, mushrooms, smattering of chilli). Refuse offers of garlic bread, dessert, drinks. Ask for cost and estimated delivery time. Prepare cash including tip money. Commence watching video/DVD. Pizza should arrive just as the exposition has finished. Pay delivery person, push dog away from pizza. Eat until bloated. Wash down with a 2004 Coke or late 2003 Heineken.

I am a knife and fork kind of guy with a pizza, much to Mrs M's disgust. Neverthless, I figure God didn't give us opposable digits just to eat pizza with our fingers. Ummm, no maybe it was God didn't give us knife and forks to eat pizza with our fingers. No, it's that cutlery is what seperates us from the animals. That's it.

Another recipie brought to you courtesy of my inability to cook.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:53
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Buy multi-national

From recent blogroll addition Asia Labour News comes an interesting article from Reason magazine. The introduction starts

"Want to improve the lives of poor workers in developing countries? Then rush out and buy a pair of Nikes or Levi Strauss jeans, says a new report by the National Bureau of Economic Research."
I mentioned a few weeks ago about the people at Blackspot sneakers and their attempt to create a marketing brand being "anti-Nike", in part due to their "sweatshops" in Asia. I wonder what they think of research like this? Never let the facts get in the way of a good cause, right?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:41
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Cease and desist

All blogging will stop for the duration of the afternoon. Or until I finish the manual.

My new toy awaits.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:12
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This is the 500th post on this blog. It co-incides nicely with the 6 month anniversary of the establishment of this blog. Well, close enough (it was actually August 28th, 2003) to make it all tie together.

This should be a time to look back and enjoy the fruits of my labour. How this blog has triumphed in good times and bad, through highs and lows, hot and cold, yin and yang, up and down. A story of contrasts and similiarities. Of cliches and platitudes. Of mis-spelling and bad grammar. Fragmented sentences. Indistinct syntax.

But no. I refuse to look at the past. The way of the future is fowards, onwards, upwards. Higher, stronger, faster. I'm going to stick to my knitting, concerntrate on my core competencies and refocus on our central values. The customer is the key...

Apologies but the cliche machine has been overloaded.

500 posts and 6 months. In so many ways that is so very sad. I hope you've enjoyed it so far. I can only promise that it will get better from here.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:09
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In an effort to economise, I'm incorporating 3 posts into one. It's part of the recent cut-backs here at Simon World in order to boost our profits for the coming quarter. Yes, there will be some downsizings, but it's part of the strategic review we're undergoing to better position this blog for the challenges ahead. [end corporate platitudes]

1. Last year it was SARS. This year's winner in the "Most exotic Asia disease to generate media frenzy" is bird flu. The usual collection of unhygienic farming methods, close contact between various species (including humans), Government cover-up and belated over-reaction seem to demonstrate that the disease name may change, but the pattern doesn't. Was Thailand sleeping last year when SARS hit China? Apparently so.

2. I've been told that China has no left-handers. I cannot verify if this is true (read a quick Google search was useless). However I was told the Chinese schooling system trains left-handers to use their right regardless. Left-handedness is frowned upon in China because it does not conform to the "norm". I do not know if people revert to their left once they finish school, or even if this is true. But I must admit I've yet to meet a left-handed native Chinese. I'm very open to someone enlighting me on this, or telling me it's a typical tale told to gweilos.

3. In our apartment block there are two sets of lifts. One is for use of residents. The other is a goods lift for the use of pets and maids. Another example of the sub-human treatment maids have to put up with here.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:57
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Starting over

The extra long weekend provided several snippets of Hong Kong life. Thursday, being the start of the New Year, saw the Disneyland complex where we live celebrate with a lion dance. This involved loud drumming, incredible acrobatics and scaring of monsters and evil spirits. It also scared the living daylights out of PB, who isn't one for loud drumming, incredible acrobatics and scaring of monsters.

I also had the pleasure of hitting the new "Calloway" golf clubs at the driving range. They managed to stay in one piece and even sound like real clubs. They have some problems though - they still slice the ball quite badly and I know that it's not my oh-so-perfect swing.

Finally the other night I was heading to my bus stop from work. I noticed a crowd of people gathered around some local celebrity, taking photos and calling out. I walked straight past without a second glance. Which just shows the nature of celebrity. These people are only famous because we make them so.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:37
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Today is Australia Day. A day to commerate the beginning of the modern era of Australian history. The start of a country that has no parallel. A country that has given the world many great things, two of which are pictured below. It is the lucky country, God's country.

In Australia today marks the unofficial end of summer. The cricket has turned from Tests to one-dayers; the weather has reached its hottest; the days are getting shorter; the trips to the beach fewer; the BBQs less frequent. It is the time to start thinking about the summer that was and the next summer that will be.

Unless you're in the middle of a freezing Hong Kong winter. In that case you just think about what a great summer you just missed.

Vegemite: Australia's national spread:


Steven Waugh: 2004 Australian of the Year


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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:07
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Hong Kong is enduring a cold snap. From the SCMP

This winter is proving to be one of Hong Kong's coldest, with the record for the longest cold weather warning toppling yesterday. The Observatory said the record was broken at 6pm. The previous mark of 163 hours was set in March 2000.
I can pinpoint the exact time where the bottom was reached. It was 11:17am on Saturday, 24th January. How can I be so sure?

That was the point where we bought our 3 new heaters.

Of course Fortress, the biggest and most expensive electronics chain in Hong Kong, had completely sold out of heaters on Saturday. And they had no intention of ordering more in. Despite the cold. There is a massive gap in the Hong Kong market for anyone who can setup stores that believe in customer service. In any industry.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:21
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January 23, 2004
Questions on blogging

Why are there so few blogs by taxi drivers? They seem to know so much when you're in their cab.

Why are there so few blogs by doctors? They'd have some damn good material to work with.

Why are there so many blogs by lawyers? Have they done enough damage already?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 21:56
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Winter recipie

I often get asked what kind of food do I like to make. Usually by Mrs M when she wants me to make dinner*. So here is my first recipie, a speciality for winter:

King's Winter Feast

1 Bagel
1 Piece of cheddar cheese
1 Knife
1 Jar of Vegemite
1 Grill

Slice the bagel open. Toast the top side under the grill for a few minutes, until it's toasty. Turn it over, spread the vegemite and put the cheese on top. Put it back under the grill. It's ready when the cheese lifts up like a balloon uniformly across the bagel. Remove from grill. Put on plate. Garnish to taste. Wash it down with a delightful 2004 Diet Coke.

There you have it. A meal fit for a king on a cold winter's day. One of those kings deposed and despised by their country, like the Bourbons. But a king nevertheless.

*Mrs M wants me to point out that this is actually not true, and is a fallacy in aid of a rather lame joke. I refused.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 18:28
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A man of my word, the prize for yesterday's homework was a tough choice. However there can only be one winner, and that was me. My egotistical plea for readers succeeded and I got some nice juicy comments to add to the sidebar.

OK, so I think Jim's effort is worthy of this:

Jim's new villa. (Keys not included)


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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 15:52
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I admit I am not a fan of Chinese music at the best of times. But when shopping at the only supermarket open in all of Hong Kong yesterday, having Chinese New Year music piped through at 106 decibels, interspersed with advertisements that are even louder (and we all know the ads are always louder than the show), really doesn't help me appreciate it any more.

I never thought I'd yearn for Western musak.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 15:45
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January 22, 2004

I have established there are four tasks that each reader of this blog needs to undertake in the next few days in order to improve the world:

1. The readership of this blog is stuck around the 150-175 people per day mark. That's not bad but it needs work. Especially given many of those hits are coming from my family. So let's all work together to improve the hits.

What can you do? If each reader simply introduces another new reader in the next week my mathematics tells me readership will double! For extra credit, bring in two new readers or more! Of course there's a prize* for the person responsible for the biggest lift in readership.

Some ways to tell people to read this blog:
* Literacy programs
* English as a Second Language classes
* Cultural Studies lectures
* Having 20 minutes to kill at lunchtime
* At your website

Some times not to mention this blog:
* Funerals
* Boarding airplanes to the USA
* Your annual job review

2. Keep the baby names coming in and join the Big Vote in the sidebar.

3. It's a little late in the piece, but sending a vote for me in the Best Overseas Blog in the Australian Blog Awards means I'll receive more than the vote I put in for myself. Voting ends 25th January (Sunday). This is one all my fellow Hong Kong bloggers can help me with - let's all work together to show Aussies how well China can subvert work together. You know, Communism in action. May as well get used to it now rather than wait for 2047.

4. Check out some of the favourite posts in the Favourite Post section of the sidebar (d'uh). There's some of my favourite posts in that section. Hence the Favourite Posts section title: "Favourite Posts".

UPDATE: Let this be your guide...one hand on the prize, Jim.

* prizes are determined solely by me, will have little if any monetary value and probably include a lame joke.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:06
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Yesterday's reflection on the meaning (or not) of banking in the world lead to an interesting email from a friend. I'm going to paraphrase a little.

My friend was at the doctor and mentioned the recent losses at National Australia Bank. From the email (the numbers are in Australian dollars)

...he said the money just lost could run 2 hospitals for a year.

He then mentioned he receives a research grant - to help research heart attacks for the young ..... apparently some device can cut the death
rate by 50% and he told me about a recent 36 year old individual who's life was saved by the device (costs $20K and he needs more funding to help others)

Anyway - he carried on about bringing out a cardiologist to Australia with 15 years knowledge blah blah Harvard blah blah to help patients and further research.

It would cost $120K per year - and he was knocked back by a hospital.

$120K to save lives v the big bucks in banking!!!

Your thoughts of the day were deja vu.

I know it's the way of the world and there's limits on what we can spend and the like. But it makes you think that somewhere along the way society might have got it's priorities a little mixed up.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:29
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As one of the 4 expats left in Hong Kong during the Chinese New Year long weekend I am left with little to do except this.

Chinese New Year: it's like Christmas and Easter and New Year all rolled into one. There is not a soul here at work. Out of a floor of 100 people, I am the only person here. Why? The nature of my job is such that unless the entire world is on holidays, someone needs to be here. My team covers all of Asia including India. Let me tell you now, there are not many holidays that all the different Asian nations (including Japan, China, Singapore etc.) all take off.

Not to worry though, I'm out of here in an hour or so. I need to get back home as there's a parade for the Lion Dance (to scare away the bad spirits). Followed by an afternoon of wishing we were in warmer climes. And basking in the warm glow of my family's love.

Yes, it's going to be a tough day.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:36
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I.T. time

It's amazing how much better the computer works if you reboot it more than once every two weeks.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:27
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I've found the coldest place in Hong Kong this winter: our bathroom.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:53
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January 21, 2004

X-ing (crossing) town is always a demonstration all that makes up HK. Passing the banks crammed with people getting fresh banknotes to give as lai see (lucky money); getting onto the crowded trains advertising milk ("Drunk by China's astronauts!"); pushing one's way through the hordes in the markets at Mongkok. Hong Kong is not a good place for agrophobes and claustraphobes. The concerntration of people is difficult to cope with even if you don't suffer from either of those conditions. It is the constant nudging, hassling, prodding, manhandling. I can't get used to it and I don't think I ever will.

That said, I got my watches back.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 15:14
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Chinese New Year wishes

This week is comparable to a Western Christmas/New Year season. Most people are planning holidays, work is slow and the emails with best wishes for the Spring Festival are flowing in. Here's the best so far:

The year of monkey is coming, he is energetic and lucky, may all the best to you, stay in health, deep pockets.

A company is a tree with lots and lots of monkeys climbing earnestly. See upward, all butts, look down, nothing but smiling faces. Hope you can climb higher and higher, see more smiling faces and less butts.

That sure beats "all the best for the year ahead". I'm still smiling over this one.

To get you through the slow times try this completely tasteless game.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:07
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New search engine

There is a new official search engine for this website. Ladies and gentlemen: Booble

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:57
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The Day

Today is the biggest day in the banking year. There is very little chance of more than the barest minimum of work being done today. There will be many hushed conversations, private telephone calls, discreet coffee breaks. Emotions are high and will swing several times. Yes, it is bonus day.

Despite what many think, in banking the salaries are only a small proportion of a person's earnings. Given those earnings can be large, we're still talking a decent wage, but the fixed component of a banker's compensation is a low proportion of the total amount. There are several reasons for this. The main one is salaries count as an expense, whereas bonuses can be taken out after profits are declared. It's a way to flatter the profit statement. Another reason is it gives the bank flexibility - in a bad year it is far easier to cut bonuses than to cut salaries. Bonuses are not based on any formula; they are completely discretionary. This results in months of a mixture of fear and hope, reminding the right people of your myriad achievements and how crucial a job you do. In the meantime the bosses need to sit down and basically work about the bare minimum they need to pay in order to prevent staff walking about for another bank.

So the day is a mixture of waiting for the phone call or meeting in a state of nervous anticipation, followed by discussion with co-workers on how disappointed you are with the result. No one is ever happy with the result. If you were happy, they would know your price. Once they know your price, you've put a cap on your upside. So the key is to always say "It's adequate" if you're happy, or "I'm disappointed" if you can live with it, and nothing if you are so pissed off that you plan to leave.

No one stops to comment on the absurd amounts bankers earn. We don't save lives. We don't teach children. We don't find minerals, grow food, make art, build houses, tend gardens, heal the sick. We simply shift large amount of money around, taking a very small cut each time. It can be interesting, challenging. It may even serve a purpose. My standard line of rationalisation is we serve to help efficiently allocate risks in the economy. Others use the justification that we help finance Governments and companies. Or whatever. The end result is the same: a small group of people get paid large amounts of money for doing a job that has a small or even non-existant impact on his fellow man. Or woman.

But if they want to pay me well to do it, I want to let them.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:49
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January 20, 2004
Service Hong Kong style

In May last year I celebrated a milestone birthday. I told Mrs M to celebrate I would like a good watch. This is not as easy as it sounds given the huge variety of watches that abounds. Nevertheless after months of pounding the sidewalks I have narrowed down the shortlist. So far so boring.

One particular watch is only stocked at a few places in Hong Kong. I found one of these places in central and entered. I asked to see the particular watch. They didn't have it in stock. At first they didn't even believe it existed. I had the model number direct from the company website, but was told point-blank that it wasn't in the catalogue so I made a mistake and perhaps I was thinking of a completely different model instead. Having encountered this before I did what any Hong Konger would - I reached over and took the catalogue and found it myself. Of course it was there. Another call to the agent and I was told by a now expectant salesman that ordering it in was not a problem.

Now I had a problem. As I pointed out to the man, I wasn't going to commit to an expensive watch without seeing it first. He pulled out a "similar" model to try. It looked OK but I told him again I would not commit to buying the watch without seeing it first. Thus we were in a classic Mexican stand-off. He would not order it in because if I didn't buy it he would have to keep in stock with the 2000 other watches he has. Naively I thought that's what watch shops did. But no. The man could see he was losing a sale. He had to come up with something fast. So he did.

He wrote down on a piece of paper the name and address of the agent of these watches. He told me to go there now and look, then come back and buy it from him. Despite the facts that (a) it was my rapidly diminishing lunch hour (b) the agent was a good 45 minutes travel time from where I was (c) I wasn't schlepping to an agent only to come back to buy it from him.

This is what passes for service in an "up-market" watch shop in Hong Kong. It is not an isolated incident. For some reason the idea that going the extra mile for a customer seems beyond the imagination of the shopkeepers, waitresses, salespeople, telephone operators or anyone else in such a position. Hong Kong follows the simple rule of follow the rules and nothing but the rules.

And I still don't have my watch.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:53
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If you're visiting a doctor, pay for the visit on credit card. That way they've got an incentive to keep you healthy for the next 55 days.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 15:41
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Emptying of cyberspace

What are the 63.09%* of blogs that get all worked up about Iraq going to do once they realise the war is over and the USA and allies are building a new country? Or is cyberspace going to be clogged with idiots so busy looking in the rear-view mirror they can't see (and argue about) the road ahead?

Probably. Shame though - they're taking up good space.

* All statistics in this blog are completely fabricated.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:45
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Once every 4 years a small American state becomes the focus of American politics. There will be billions of bits of bloggy bullcr@p on the significance of it all. How it changes the race for the Presidency. You can fill in whatever other cliches you can dredge up.

To the 5 billion people in the world who don't give a sh!t about this, I promise this blog will remain Iowa-free except to make silly jokes for the next 4 years.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:31
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The approach of Chinese New Year for many families in Hong Kong means one thing: helpers have 4 days off. Setting aside families that ignore the law, which is a disturbingly high percentage, helpers get public holidays and Sundays off. Many families view this as the closest as the end of the world can get. Survival mechanisms include going on holidays or paying extra for helpers to work some or all of the holiday period.

Personally I look forward to times like this. Our helper is a lovely woman and good with the kids, but she is not part of our family. It is going to be great just being us without someone else in the house for a few days. Sure it means doing the chores such as washing the dishes but it's a small price to pay.

One family man admitted the other day that he has no idea how they will cope without help for 4 days. The fact that most parents in the world manage without help all their lives seems besides the point to some. It is part of the life people live here. It is part of the culture of expectation that we constantly have to guard against. People grow to expect they have help. They grow to expect others to wait on them, to be subservient to them.

It is scary to watch.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:19
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How to spot a sect

From the SCMP:

Almost 40 mainstream Christian churches have urged followers of the controversial Church of Zion to stop drinking hydrogen peroxide, while urging the public to be aware of the differences between conventional religions and radical sects.
There's a handy guide for you. If your church requires you to drink peroxide, it's a cult.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:40
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I am not a lawyer. I am thankful for that. However living in Hong Kong inevitably exposes you to legal issues because what passes for political discourse in this city revolves around a seemingly simple piece of law. The Basic Law is, in theory, Hong Kong's constitution. It was negotiated between the British and Chinese prior to the handover in 1997 as a way of assuaging British guilt at not introducing democracy to the place in the couple of hundred years they ran it. Like most such documents there is a mix of the bland and ambigious, designed to make it an uninteresting as possible. However it has become an important document to base the aspirations of Hong Kong's democracy movement.

For example, Article 45 in full reads

The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People's Government.

The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.

The specific method for selecting the Chief Executive is prescribed in Annex I "Method for the Selection of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region". (my emphasis)

Annex I and II specifies the interim method of selecting the Chief Executive (only in Hong Kong is the head of Government called CEO) and the Legislative Council. Each Annex finishes with the same rules for changing them from the muddle they currently are:
If there is a need to amend the method for selecting the Chief Executives for the terms subsequent to the year 2007, such amendments must be made with the endorsement of a two-thirds majority of all the members of the Legislative Council and the consent of the Chief Executive, and they shall be reported to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for approval.


With regard to the method for forming the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and its procedures for voting on bills and motions after 2007, if there is a need to amend the provisions of this Annex, such amendments must be made with the endorsement of a two-thirds majority of all the members of the Council and the consent of the Chief Executive, and they shall be reported to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for the record.

Reading the English it seems simple: after 2007 both the LegCo and Chief Executive method of selection can be altered by a 2/3s majority in the (rigged) LegCo with approval from the Chief Executive. The NPC (China's Parliament), in theory, has the right to have the decision "reported...for approval" and "for the record."

Problem is China has realised they don't want Hong Kong to be too democratic. It would look like the Central Government is giving in to the voice of the people (500,000 marchers back in July and smaller protests since). It would give the people a voice. It would be the thin edge of the wedge. So the PRC does what anyone in their situation would: they slam the door. From the SCMP

After a week of dominating Hong Kong headlines, two leading mainland legal experts on the Basic Law return to Beijing today having delivered a clear message: go slow on constitutional change. They told the city in no uncertain terms it cannot elect the chief executive by universal suffrage by 2007. Think about 2030 or 2040 instead, they said.

While former Basic Law drafter Xiao Weiyun and jurist Xia Yong say they do not represent the central government, their view that Hong Kong can only contemplate introducing universal suffrage after 2030 is believed to reflect official thinking. Analysts say their visit has been arranged to informally articulate the central government's position ahead of a visit to Beijing by a Hong Kong government taskforce on political reform, and to dampen aspirations for more rapid democratisation.


The mainland experts reiterated Beijing had a decisive say in Hong Kong's political development. At a public forum yesterday, Professor Xiao said the Basic Law drafters never considered election of the chief executive by universal suffrage in 2007. Referring to Article 45 of the Basic Law, which says the chief executive will ultimately be elected by universal suffrage, Professor Xiao said it meant this would be achieved in the final stage of the 50-year lifespan of "one country, two systems". But, he said, "it did not necessarily mean that it would not be achieved until the 2030s or 2040s, or [that] it was not allowed in the 2020s".

The Basic Law says the methods for electing the chief executive and Legislative Council should evolve in light of the "actual situation" in Hong Kong, and in accordance with the principle of "gradual and orderly progress".

Democracy isn't Asia's forte. It appears the People's Republic isn't too happy about HK leading the way. No matter what it says in black and white.

The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage. Ultimate being within the next 4000 years or so.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:35
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January 19, 2004
Kids and lies

One of the best parts of being in an expat is the interesting people I meet. People that in any other situation I would never come across have become close friends. And that means I find out interesting things.

In the extended entry is a full copy of an article on the research by Professor Paul Harris of Havard Graduate School of Education on how children seperate truth from lies.

Monsters, tooth fairies, God, and germs!

GSE Professor Paul Harris probes how children make sense of what they're told
By Beth Potier
Harvard News Office

Young children receive an enormous volume of information - from the identity of their biological parents to names for animals to facts about the world around them - by testimony: Someone tells them that the family pooch is called a "dog" and that Mom and Dad are, indeed, Mom and Dad.

But since they have no other way of learning this information, what's to prevent us from telling them that Fido is Dad? Couldn't we take advantage of children's naïve young minds to perpetuate lies for fun and fancy?

Not likely, says Harvard Graduate School of Education (GSE) Professor Paul Harris. A developmental psychologist, Harris argues
that children as young as preschool age can discern whether or not they're hearing the truth, even in a domain for which they have no previous knowledge, by accurately judging the reliability of the person who's telling them.

"Particularly among 4-year-olds, but also among 3-year-olds, they're selective," he says. "They come to trust somebody who seems to tell the truth, and to mistrust somebody who's not."

In collaboration with two postdoctoral fellows, Melissa Koenig and Fabrice Clément, Harris created experiments in which a pair of speakers - people in one case, puppets in another - presented various claims to the 3- and 4-year-olds. First, the speakers showed the children familiar objects, such as a shoe, a cup, and a spoon. One speaker identified them accurately; the second speaker misidentified them.

The speakers then showed the children an familiar object - an obscure geegaw from a hardware store. The first speaker, who had correctly named the shoe, cup, and spoon, called it a "modi." The second speaker, who had wrongly identified these familiar items, called this new item a "toma."

The majority of the children accepted the name given to them by the speaker who they knew to tell the truth. "They'll choose to call it a 'modi,' if that's what the hitherto reliable speaker called
it," Harris says. Even though the item was completely novel to them, the children managed to judge, by assessing the veracity of the speaker, the truthfulness of the testimony they received.

Imagination and testimony

Harris' research on testimony draws upon his previous work on children's imagination, research that resulted in his book "The Work
of the Imagination."

In that book, he says, "I tried to show that in all sorts of relatively pedestrian ways, children use their imagination, just as we adults do. It's not something that's reserved for flashes of inspiration or daydreaming or creativity."

He learned, for instance, that by preschool age, children were able to hear a story and use their imaginations to compare the story as told with what might have been, or what could be in the future.

Harris claims that children also use their imagination to learn from testimony: They can make sense of something that they did not
encounter or experience directly. Children as young as 3 or 4, he discovered, possess this skill. "They can learn a great deal by virtue of just listening to their parents or their older siblings telling them about events that they didn't witness," he says.

Yet if children learn so much from testimony, "to what extent are they gullible or credulous as some people have suggested, or do they have some in-built filters to make sure that they do not accept claims that are just outlandish?" asks Harris, indicating the query that led him to this new line of research.

The relevance of this work is not lost on anyone who's studied history or the origin of species. Despite progressive educators' push toward experience-based learning, Harris estimates that 99 percent of what children learn in school they learn by testimony. "It's fairly important to try to make sense of the tools that children possess for winnowing this information, for scrutinizing it, for evaluating it," he says.

Germs: Definitely; God: Probably

Harris continues to probe how children make sense of what they're told. In one current study, he asks 4- through 8-year-olds about their notion of what really exists. "Even if you speak to a 4-year-old, they would make a pretty straightforward cut between ... cats and dogs and rocks and trees, which they know to exist, and flying pigs and red elephants, which they know to be impossible," says Harris.

But what about entities children can't observe themselves but must rely upon the testimony of others to verify? Harris explored children's ontological conceptions of scientific abstractions, like germs or oxygen, extraordinary entities like the Tooth Fairy or God, and magical creations like mermaids, monsters, or ghosts.

He found children's beliefs in these abstractions lines up with the testimony they received. "With respect to germs and oxygen, for example, 4- and 5-year-olds are perfectly happy to acknowledge that other people believe in their existence, and that they themselves believe in their existence," he says, although they'll
quickly admit they don't know what germs look like. "Our assumption is that children listen to adult testimony and simply assume,
along with their adult interlocutors, that these things exist."

Children were somewhat less certain of the existence of God or the Tooth Fairy. And they can pick out another class of extraordinary creatures that they know doesn't exist, making what Harris calls an "ontological cut" between God and mermaids or monsters.

Harris cautions that it's too early for a full interpretation of the findings, but the conclusions he's able to draw so far support his assumption that children learn from testimony.

"These children are learning a great deal about what exists in the world just by listening to what they're told," he says. "They also have quite good antennae for the degree of consensus that exists with respect to particular topics."

'Odd and exotic'

Harris, who joined the GSE faculty three years ago from a 20-year career at Oxford University, characterizes his work as "odd," although he can point to similar lines of inquiry in philosophy and the history of science. In developmental psychology, however, the dominant paradigm is that children learn by figuring things out for

"What's odd or exotic is my saying, 'Testimony is important, issues of trust are important, we don't know anything about it, we have to study this,'" he says. As children - and adults - face myriad
sources of testimony, from the Internet to news media to political stumping, these issues of trust are gaining in importance, he says.

In education, Harris is cautious about the enthusiastic embracing of experience-based learning, noting that it potentially limits
learning to what is at hand to experience. Here in Massachusetts, for instance, schoolchildren could gain a rich experiential understanding of the Pilgrims or the Revolutionary War, but how will
they learn about Egypt except through testimony?

"Children's imagination can take them an extraordinarily long way ... it can certainly take them to ancient Greece and Rome," he says. "I don't think you should underestimate the extent to which children can travel with you just by telling them things."

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 17:21
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A new year

This week is going to be a slow one at work. Simply because this week is Chinese New Year. Which means most of Asia takes the week off.

One of the more interesting traditions, along with fireworks, dragon-led parades and ubiquitous utterings of "Kung Hei Fat Choy", is the passing of Lai See (lucky money). This is our first Chinese New Year here in Hong Kong, so we're trying to get our heads around this tradition. School is off for the week after the inevitable Chinese New Year class party. If I had as many parties at school as JC is having, I would wonder how I manage to learn anything. It basically seems that anyone who acts in some kind of service capacity receives a little red envelope with some amount of money in it. As do single people. I think the bus driver gets some. The security people at our apartment. It seems like a good tradition - many employers pay their annual bonus (up to an extra month's salary) at this time of year and it is a time of much feasting and celebrating. There's a further discussion over at Chris's place.

So I open my morning paper and a letter falls out. Mrs M takes it and laughs before passing it to me, being the man of the house and all*. I am paraphrasing a little, but it goes something like this:

Thank you for being a customer of XYZ Newspaper Agency. We are the people who deliver your newspapers in the wee hours of the morning [this generally being 7am, or only 10 minutes before I need to leave for work - ed.]. With the approach of Chinese New Year we are writing with regard to the custom of Lai See.

If you see fit to offer some amount of Lai See to our hard working boys, please do so by sending a cheque directly to XYZ, rather than passing them a red envelope. We will make sure the person serving your paper will be passed the Lai See and told of your generosity.

Of course you do not have to send any Lai See. Should you do so we will let your delivery person know of your good wishes at this time of year.

Kung Hei Fat Choi.

XYZ Agency

Here I am thinking Jewish mothers had the monopoly on guilt-trips. I'm tempted to not send anything just to see the consequences. At the moment the paper is thrown, hard, against our front door at random times in the morning, strewing the sections everywhere and usually managing to wake JC if she isn't already awake. We would be leaving Lai See for the newspaper person regardless but I feel a little odd sending a cheque direct to the employer instead. I'd like to know the delivery person is getting the money.

Plus the chutzpah of that letter makes it feel more like an obligation than a gift.

* Truth is it was passed to me because it involves money, and we all know Mrs M is the real boss. But never let facts ruin a good blog entry.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:43
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The Weekend

Another weekend in wintery and wet Hong Kong. Friday night we had dinner with some fellow Disneyland inmates. Saturday afternoon saw a few co-workers and myself casting around the bowels of Kowloon looking for a soccer field. For some reason we had decided it would be a good idea to join the intra-company 7-a-side soccer competition. Always a good idea in theory, but never in practice. After finally finding the place and arriving 15 minutes late, we joined the rest of the team. Looking at them instantly gave away the problems we were facing: our complete lack of fitness, the concerte field, and a group of opponents who decided soccer was a full-contact sport. We managed to only lose 1-0 which was a reputable result given most of our minds were on our last wills and testaments. What was more interesting is just how much of this city remains unexplored by myself. It may not be pretty but it is interesting - especially as we were the only 3 or 4 gweilos within 5 kilometres of the place. It really emphasises how much someone can stick out just because of the colour of their skin. There was no racism though - the referee's decisions were equally bad for us and the locals.

Saturday night Mrs M and I partook of that rare event: dinner and a movie. The movie was Love Actually, another British romantic comedy from the same team that brought you all the others like Four Weddings and Notting Hill. The forumla is simple: Hugh Grant, an amusing plot with several sub-plots to distract you from the emotional manipulation, cameos by various stars including Rowan Atkinson, and an ultimately uplifting ending after a few tear-jerker moments. The cinema was comfortable but small, and even though we booked our tickets at 10am, we were the second row from the front. Thankfully it was an English movie so we didn't need to follow subtitles as well.

Sunday was quiet given it was so wet. We had some people over in the morning and set a new record: the perfectly clean house turned into a pre-school demolition zone in 14 seconds, including play-dough mushed into carpet, spilt croissant and the inevitable tears.

JC has the week off school due to the approach of Chinese New Year. This morning we took her with us on our visit to the OG doctor (obsterician). All is well - we saw little Ubul on the ultrasound and the little heart is pumping away merrily. Ubul's due date is around 15th-19th August, maintaining the tradition in our family to group birthdays together. My brother and I are seperated by one day; Mrs M and JC by two. Now PB and Ubul at best will have a week. Obviously we've got to get out more.

Mrs M is still suffering from acute morning sickness. If ever a condition has been misnamed it is this one. She feels on the verge of throwing up at all times of the day and night, yet she carries on with hardly a complaint. Her answer to my inane question of what does it feel like was simple: it feels like you are on the verge of throwing up after a big night out. And I know what that's like. Sure I got her into this mess - the good news is around 7 months it will all be over. Then the delicate balance that is forming between JC and PB as they play and interact more and more will be rocked by the arrival of Ubul.

Typical. We get things going the right direction and go and mess it all up.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 15:02
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This time of year sees the start of the Hong Kong fog. This tends to envelope the Disneyland complex where I live for several hours each morning and night, reducing visibility to a few metres at best. It means the windows steam up and our view disappears.

This morning as I opened the curtains, I noticed a pattern on the window formed by the condensation. It was a sign from God. It was the Playboy bunny.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:05
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January 16, 2004

Word of the Day today is "updation".

Definitions welcomed. Then I'll post an updation.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:11
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The problem with progress is it usually tramples all over things that were good in order to make them better. Like this:

Kodak, the American company that turned photography into a mass medium with the Brownie, is to halt production of traditional cameras in Europe and America.

Like typewriters, the gramophone and video recorders before it, photography is succumbing to the digital hegemony. Millions of consumers have turned their backs on fumbling with films in favour of the ease of use and instant results of digital cameras.

We have an assortment of cameras at home, partly because Mrs M and I share a love of photography. We bought our first digital camera a couple of years back because it is convenient to download them and send the pictures out. It became even more important with the move to HK last year. Just before Christmas Mrs M invested in an SLR style digital camera that looks and feels just like a traditional one.

Yet we always keep our simple PHD* traditional camera handy too. Why? Because digital photos serve a purpose, and so do traditional film based photos. While the technology is getting better, this is case where reproduction of digital is inferior to analogue (film). The colours are clear, the pictures are crisper. I can put them up on my computer screen at work with a bit of sticky tape. I can pass them around. Digitals sit on a hard disk or in an email. I know you can get special digital photo printers but the photos are still better with film.

Most importantly is the fun that is to be had turning the pages of a photo album on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I want to hear JC saying "Look at Dad's daggy clothes" (shouldn't be hard to find those photos) or PB laughing at Mummy and Daddy's wedding album. Or pull out photos of a naked 2 year old JC to show to her boyfriend. Or compare how similar PB looks now to her Grandma at the same age.

You can't indulge nostalgia with digital photos.

* PHD = Press Here Dummy

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:51
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NASA is reaping a huge PR windfall from it's Mars mission. The disaster of the shuttle is being smoothed by the kudos and hype over this new mission. At the same time Bush is pushing for the moon and Mars. But isn't the current mission proof that sending a man to the moon or Mars is just silly? For a fraction of the cost, good scientific mission can be conducted and generate almost as much hoop-ala. As an added bonus, it's what NASA should be doing. Science.

That said it always seems like NASA has at least one eye on the media when it conducts missions. Press releases, snappy quotes, websites. It's all set up as a form of entertainment. Take this as an example:

The rover Spirit successfully rolled onto Mars yesterday, placing its six wheels on solid Martian ground for the first time since it bounced down on the Red Planet nearly two weeks ago.

Engineers and scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory cheered loudly after receiving confirmation at 9pm AEDT that the manoeuvre was a success.

"Mars now is our sandbox, and we are ready to play and learn," said JPL director Charles Elachi.

If NASA spent half as much on PR flaks to think up clever things to say and more on science, the PR would look after itself. It seems like every mission has to have a team to organise the mission and another to organise the PR. I understand that part of their job is to bring science to the public and make sure the taxpayer understands what value for money they are getting.

What they do is already awesome enough without the need for hyperbole.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:00
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Today's letter of the day is V. At least it was. That's what happens when you live in Asia and read something from Hawaii - you get to see it last. Damn time zones.

Being an expat means being away from family and friends. It also means visits from family and friends. We enjoy it when we have guests and it goes with the territory. There are several steps to the process:

1. Agree on when the visit will take place: this is not always so easy, given assorted factors such as public holidays, work and school commitments and other general life things.
2. Work out sleeping arrangements: this varies depending on who is coming. It involves some combination of the sofa, the spare room, the study, the storage closet and the basement.
3. Plan an itinerary: again this varies with the visitor. Often the family visit more to see JC and PB, in which case there's little need to show off the spots of HK. In other cases it may be to take people to the Peak, Mongkok, Nathan Rd, Shenzhen or whatever else. We try not to do too many of the same things each time, but some are obligatory. That's what being a tour guide is about.
4. Pick them up: we always tell people to take the train. First timers to HK (I imagine) are offended or bewildered. Until they catch the Airport Express. 22 minutes and they are in the heart of HK, much faster than any car or bus. We pick them up and bring them back to Disneyland. Unless it's too early or too late. Then's it's a taxi.
5. Go through itinerary and execute it: this usually means each day the plan changes, depending on things such as children's health, weather, prevailing winds and food. Mostly food. The welcome dinner. The "local" lunch. The farewell dinner. (Note the lack of early meals - that's because Hong Kong doesn't believe in eating out before 11am. No breakfasts, no brunches).
6. See visitors off: this usually brings a mix of emotions. It's always sad to see friends or family leave, but it also means a return to our everyday lives, back to being just us in HK. And that's part of what we like being here. It's just us in a big foreign city, making our way.

We are guaranteed each year at least 4 different visits of a week or so each: my folks, my in-laws, my brother (and his new wife) and my sister-in-law. We've already got one set of friends coming and no doubt there will be more. Then we've got the time we spend back in Sydney seeing everyone again. Add it all up and it comes to 2 or 3 months of the year where we have visitors. It's fun while they are here; it's nice when they go. And we only have a moderate load of visitors. I know one family who has only 2 weeks to themselves in the next 5 months. People plan their trips around visiting Hong Kong, because of us. It's flattering. It's good for the kids. It keeps us busy.

We're basically running a hotel.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:44
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Paradise Found

Heaven is coming home to JC and PB screaming "Daddy" in delight, smiling and looking up at me as if I am the smartest, fun-est, tallest, funniest, most handsome man in the world.

It won't last forever, but God damn I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:39
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It turns out you can't get away with not exercising to lose weight: The Consumer Council believes advertising claims made by some makers of electronic exercise belts are way off the mark...One product claimed a 30-minute workout would produce results similar to 240 sit-ups. Another said a 20-minute workout would produce results similar to 800 sit-ups. Yet again people fall victim to the something for nothing syndrome. But they may still have a purpose...

While on stupid things for stupid people, a Japanese company has come up with a dream machine:A Japanese toy company says it's developed a gadget that will enable people to control their dreams...To work the gadget, the owner has to stare at a photograph of what they would like to dream about and then record, in their own words, how the dream is supposed to pan out. Once users are sleeping, the gadget goes to work by combining the voice recording, lights, music and aromas to stimulate sleepers whenever it detects rapid eye movement - a sign that someone is dreaming. This ties in nicely with this from the SCMP: The government has decided to drop proposals for draconian measures to rein in pornographic publications, four years after the controversial plan was floated...The source said: "It's an election year. You can imagine the difficulty of pushing it through Legco. It's time to put an end to the proposal.

Dream machine; pornography; exercise belts. What a combination.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:05
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The United States Constitution is an often discussed subject and perhaps the most important document of the modern era. One of the key commentaries to the Constitution was The Federalist Papers, written by three of the drafters of the original Constitution to "sell" it to the people of the new United States in 1788. In the process they explained many of the provisions of the Constitution in detail and provided for future generations an invaluable reference.

Now it's HK's turn. From the SCMP:

Plans to seek guidance from past speeches of a Basic Law drafting chief could boost the pro-democracy camp's case for introduction of universal suffrage by 2007...the late Ji Pengfei's explanations about the principles of constitutional development should be taken into account in the debate. The government said on Wednesday that Ji's views "had a certain degree of authority and therefore should become a reference".
Problem is these views no longer gel with China's. So there are now four "gaurdians" of the Basic Law, who's job seems to be to knock on the head any ideas that what is written could be interpreted as leading to greater democracy.

Federalist Papers, Hong Kong style.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:38
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Wild times

Sometimes I put the left headphone of my MP3 player in my right ear, and the right headphone in my left ear. Crazy, isn't it?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:20
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January 15, 2004

A little story first: these words of the day are thoughtfully provided by various co-workers, some of whom do not count English as their first language. Some are the result of typos, some a mangling of English, some from us being bored and banging a few words together.

Today's effort: semi-annul. That's when you go half-way towards annulling something. Know what I mean?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 18:10
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Lost and Found

Anyone seen our favourite croc?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:32
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I am approaching a door. I see a woman approaching from the other side. We are going to get to the door at the same time. Which is correct:
(a) I go first and hold the door open for her?
(b) I wait for her to open the door and let her go first?
In case (a) I exert the effort but commit the faux pas of going first; in case (b) I force her to exert the effort but look gallant?

Another example how men can't win in this world.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:11
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What the hell is going on in the world? Today's SCMP provides a plethora of goodies to make you laugh and cry. And that's just the writing.

Firstly there's the disease of the week. SARS is so last year. Now it's bird flu, and the SCMP intones The spectre of a pandemic is as real as ever, experts said yesterday as Asia tried to put a stop to rapidly spreading bird flu that has led to chicken slaughters in three countries and is feared to have killed at least 12 people in Vietnam. After several "race against time" style cliches, we get to the real solution: City University microbiologist Desmond O'Toole said what was happening to bird flu was a result of farming practices in Asia in which ducks, chickens and pigs are raised together. "The sale of live birds must also be stopped," he added. Translation: hygiene helps prevent disease. Remarkable, isn't it?

There's a few articles on the inevitablility of nothing happening to advance democracy in HK until 2099. The Glorious Motherland is sending a couple of experts to quash once and for all any hopes: Two mainland experts on the Basic Law will arrive in Hong Kong today, a day before they are due to discuss constitutional reform at a forum that will be attended by hundreds of lawyers, academics and politicians.
It is understood that Xiao Weiyun and Xia Yong - who with Xu Chongde and Wu Jianfan are known as the "four guardians" of the Basic Law - will also meet other political figures to discuss the reforms, before leaving Hong Kong on Tuesday.
Sure that reads like a press release by the CCP, but I'll bet the "guardians" aren't here to tell us what a good idea democracy is.

Then the good stuff:

Female followers of the Green Dragon Temple cult, who were allegedly lured into prostitution, were promised they would earn a place in heaven if they could each raise $500,000, it emerged yesterday.
The women had to work 12 hours a day and provide sex for at least 10 men every day in rooms in Tsim Sha Tsui, Yau Ma Tei and Mongkok, according to police.

One investigator said the women, who were housed in a hostel, had to donate all their earnings to the cult for charity so they could go to heaven and become goddesses when the world ended.

That's one for the gullible. But here's another.
A student played detective to tail a "rather important" target in an alleged joint operation between Hong Kong and Macau police only to be snared in a gambling scam, a court heard yesterday. Tung Kin-yip, 21, said he "absolutely" believed that a man who called himself "Wong sir" was an intelligence officer with the Hong Kong police and had recruited him for a secret mission last April.
Tip to self: don't engage in secret undercover police missions.

But the most important news of all is left for the inner pages:

Plans for the redevelopment of Ocean Park have been slowed until after the incoming chief executive has settled in, chairman Allan Zeman said...The 26-year-old park will be redeveloped once Disneyland opens - expected to be late 2005 or early 2006 - but will not close once construction starts, Zeman said.
Good news at last. Only 2 more years and Ocean Park will join the modern era. I bet those men in the panda suits will be relieved.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:47
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Real estate

Before George W. Bush gets too carried away with his missions to the Moon and Mars, at potentially vast expense, he needs to do some checking.

He might find NASA landing in someone's backyard.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:47
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Hong Kong has a problem. It has one of the most beautiful and spectacular skylines; looking back at the Island from TST, with the Peak covering a plethora of high rises is one of the world's great sights. Accordingly numerous restaurants are perched in the upper floors of many of the buildings that line either side of what's left of the harbour. They are favourites for those with out-of-town visitors as well as the great and good of HK. They are places to see and be seen.

Last night we went to Aqua in TST, one such place. Our experience was the same as several other similar places. We entered the restaurant to be greeted by a front desk in opulent surrounds. I think. It was so dark it was hard to see the water lined perimeter. We confirmed our reservation and headed to the bar for a drink. A door slide open just like those in Star Trek. We ascended to the bar. I think. Again it was so dark it was hard to tell. Several minutes of appreciative view staring and checking out the fit-out of the place commenced. After downing a refreshing ale we moved to our table. Now we only got our booking very late in the piece. All the hot places in HK are hard to get into. Yet in typical HK fashion, someone knew someone, and they knew someone connected with the place. So our table turned out to be the private room in the corner, facing out over the entire harbour. After manipulating our bodies into the sunken floor several more minutes of appreciative cooing commenced. This was helped by a massive light show that seemed to occur on the hour, every hour for the rest of the light. Very thoughtful of HK to provide this for our entertainment. I can imagine it's drawing the tourists in (this is sarcasm, for those that can't sense it). Sure it's pretty to watch, so long as you aren't an epileptic. But it is completely pointless and even a little worrying at times. What if a pilot flying overhead is temporarily blinded by the laser pointed off IFC2?

Our waitress was adequate. Certainly the service met the basic standards of a good restaurant but it went no further. She was not overly friendly, which is not in itself a crime, but she made no effort to establish a rapport with us. I don't want to know a waiter's life story, but I do want to know what's good, what the restaurant history and background is, things that can enhance my experience. Any shmo can carry a few plates to and from a kitchen and write down an order. But HK lacks quality waiting staff in it's upper tier restaurants.

Even more perplexing are the menus. There is a need in most of these places to have eclectic menus with several different incompatible food types. Last night it was Italian and Japanese. I do not know why it is so hard for restaurants here to decide on one particular food style and concerntrate on that. However they could certainly benefit from it. Our waitress informed us if we, a table of 6, ordered a mix of Japanese and Italian the meals would arrive at seperate times as they come from seperate kitchens. I almost laughed out loud. How a top class place can get away with that astounds me. Yet they make no attempt to co-ordinate between kitchens, a crucial part of the service. This split focus also means the food can be hit and miss. We all ordered Japanese entrees and mine was a tasty set of Wagyu beef maki. However my main of prawns with risotto and spicy tomato sauce was disappointing. It wasn't spicy; the risotto was slightly overdone; and four smallish prawns hardly makes a full main course. Sharing a tiramisu for desert with Mrs M was again disappointing. Too sweet, little coffee and no alcohol to speak of. Basically missing anything worthwhile in a tiramisu.

To the final score. The food was average. The service was average. When I say average I am using a different benchmark to what I would use at a small local place. These places sell themselves as top class, so that is their yardstick. The location was superb. The key question is would I go back? Perhaps with visitors from out of town - they get the Star Ferry ride, the view, the funky HK restaurant experience. But for a celebratory meal with Mrs M? Not this place. The search for a good top class place continues. So far VaBene in LKF is the only place the goes close to having the right mix of atmosphere, presence, food and service.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:29
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I.T. man: "The system does not cater for February 29."
Worker: "But this year is a leap year. There's a February 29 this year."
I.T. man: "It's not in the specs. It's not programmed."
Worker: "..." (flabbergasted look)
I.T. man: "No one told us it is a leap year."
Worker: "Perhaps a calendar would help next time."
I.T. man: "That's a good idea. That way we would know when the leap years happen."

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:21
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January 14, 2004
This is wrong

Doing this to a child is wrong:

The 87-year-old father of crooner Julio Iglesias and granddad of his singer son Enrique is to provide one with a new brother and the other with an uncle after revealing his 40-year-old wife is pregnant.
Effectively this child will grow up without a father. Not because he's run away, or divorce or any one of a hundred factors. Only because he's 87 and is unlikely to live much longer. It is a selfish and a desperate last gasp at longevity.

Having a kid is not the way to enjoy your twilight years. The poor wife/mother will end up changing two sets of nappies each night.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 19:22
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Sweeping generalisations

Most aeroplane pilots seem to end up retiring early as wealthy men. Yes, men. I've not yet heard a female pilot or co-pilot in my travels at all. Now I'm sure they're all well paid, even though they only work about 3 days a month (I don't count having a 5 day "lay over" in some exotic foreign city, with hotel and daily allowance, "work"). I want pilots to be well paid. I don't want him sitting at the controls thinking why he deserves a pay rise instead of keeping a heavy piece of tin flying at several hundred kilometres per hour to defy the laws of gravity. However I know how they make themselves even more comfortable.

Pilots are smugglers. "Calloway" golf clubs from Shanghai for example. The shop's biggest customers are pilots who buy 10 bags full of clubs at a time, carry them back to the USA, or Australia, or wherever and sell them close to full price. I'm sure the same happens with all sorts of goods. International arbitrage in action.

The moral: never buy golf clubs from a pilot.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 17:55
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Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble:

Shares of vegetable and fruit grower China Green (Holdings) shot up 58.2 per cent in their debut yesterday, as investors continued their frenzied pursuit towards new listings...The company, which was offering a total of 150 million new shares in its IPO, posted a 1,604 times oversubscription from retail investors - breaking the previous record of 1,276 times held by red chip Beijing Enterprises Holdings in 1997.
Cast your mind all the way back to 1999 and 2000. Replace China with Internet in the above. Starting to see a pattern yet?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 17:09
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Voting again

Bit busy today so not much blogging. We now all know I only came second in the Asia Blog Awards Newcomer category. Yes I was crushed. BUt I've found a way to get over it.

I am fortunate that someone nominated me in the2004 Australian Blog Awards as best overseas Aussie blog. In the absence of anything else to do I ask you get a ballot by email, and send it back. It would help if you voted for me.

Then get on with your life.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 15:35
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"That's how I came to be talking about hookers in Macau with a Canadian." With a post that ends with that sentence, you've just gotta read the whole thing.

The first thing that struck about Shanghai is far away the bloody airport is from the city itself. What is it these days with cities putting airports 3 districts away from the city they serve? Sure no one likes have aeroplanes flying overhead while they're having their dinner, but putting the airport in the middle of rice paddies 60 km from the city isn't the answer. Sure cities grow quickly, but at this rate it will be 2453 before Shanghai gets close to the airport.

Also it was cold. As an Aussie lad my idea of cold is anything below about 10 degrees Celcius. So when you're in a place where the maximum is +3 and the morning temp was -1, it's a rude shock.

But back to the beginning. My first trip into the mainland started with a car ride to Shenzhen. Passing through the border checkpoint the same thought went through my head as I'm sure it does everyone else - if this is one country, why the hell is there a border checkpoint? I know the answer is to prevent millions of Mainlanders flooding into Hong Kong, but it really seems to defeat the purpose of HK being part of the motherland. It was a question that was to crop up again.

Shenzhen itself is an accidental city. Set free 20 years ago by Deng Xiapong it has grown in a sporadic fashion with seemingly little in the way of town planning. After one meeting we headed to a restaurant for lunch. On entering the place there were photos lining the walls of various famous people connected with the place. Except like much of China, many of them were fake. One of my co-workers pointed out one of the larger ones and told me the man was a friend of his with several restaurants in HK. He had no connection with the palce at all. Yet his photo appears not just in that one, but in many all over Shenzhen. Not that anyone seemed to care.

After that we headed to the airport via several toll roads. Because much of Shenzhen is made up of toll roads and the airport is miles from the city. One extremely thorough security check later and we were on our way to Shanghai. Getting into the city was a struggle, because Shanghai is growing too quickly. The traffic is massive and there are not enough roads. It did give me a chance to see the fascinating interactions of cars, buses, pedestrians, bicycles and policemen. Despite witnessing several hundred near misses it seems that miraculously the system works as I didn't see any accidents at all. It seems like traffic lights are mere suggestions and the rules for crossing roads seem to be go whenever you like. And I don't know what the rules are for bikes. But it works.

Shanghai is a beautiful city. I was taken to a few of the more "tourist-y" areas, such as the Bund and the New World area. It was impressive to say the least. A combination of colonial and new, skyscrapers and shacks. One customer we visited has an office on the Bund; an old style banking chamber with a mosaic entrance, marble everywhere and Roman columns. Beats an office block anytime.

The business meetings were interesting. I was the only Westerner in each meeting. This meant each one progressed mostly in Cantonese (in Shenzhen) or Mandarin. My 6 lessons of Cantonese meant I picked up the occasional bit but the reality is someone droning on about economics is the same in any language. Then it would be my turn and the meeting switched to English. Usually there would be a couple of questions, before the meeting reverted to Mandarin. I would get infrequent translations from the people I was with but to be honest much of the time it wasn't necessary. Like economics, chit-chat sounds the same in any language. It was interesting they were usually talking in a mixture of Chinese and English: "Blah blah blah oil production blah blah blah blah inflation blah blah US dollar." Filling in the gaps wasn't hard. Towards the end of the day I even jumped in at one point with a "As Andy was saying earlier..." even though the whole meeting had been in Mandarin. Sometimes I left my mind interpret what they were saying. Something like "Don't all laugh, but this white guy here has no idea what we're saying, so let's all lay into him for a while." Lunch in Shanghai proved a contrast with Shenzhen. Opulent surrounds, gilt edged plates, two waitresses for the private room, ornate ceilings and art works galore.

After our final meeting we had a little time for Hong Kongers' favourite pasttime - shopping. We stopped in at a carpet shop as one of my co-workers was interested in picking one up. Hand woven silk carpets were impressive to look at and with price tags to match. Nothing took his fancy so it was my turn. We headed to a factory block; up 5 floors; around the hallways and into a golf shop. For the princely sum of HK$1900 (=$US 240) I purchased a complete set of Calloway clubs (3 woods, all irons and wedges, putteR), bag, travel bag and some other bag to hold shoes, a pack of balls and a glove. The bag alone is worth that much. Still, never looking a gift horse in the mouth means taking what's on offer. And again demonstrating everything that is good and bad about China in one annecdote.

I've already mentioned the mad dash to the airport. Once the guy ran the third red light I strongly recommended everyone strap on seatbelts and the next words spoken, 30 minutes later, was a comment that we were at the airport.

At the airport I discovered yet again that Hong Kong is not part of China. To travel to HK we had to go through the international airport, not domestic. One country, but two countries. Boarding the plane I found myself next to an interesting businessman who had just come from Nanjing, on his way to a trade fair in Hong Kong. We got chatting about his plans for the week he was in Hong Kong.

That's how I came to be talking about hookers in Macau with a Canadian.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:46
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Political Systems

Communism is just capitalism with worse drivers.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:18
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January 13, 2004

5 minutes to boarding means 5 minutes of pure blog time. Shanghai is a great city and after 24 hours I've already got some great impressions and stories.

One of the main things to remember is even though Hong Kong is part of the People's Republic, it still counts as an international flight. As such that means leaving the heart of Shanghai only an hour and a half before your flight leaves little room for error. Unless your driver is good at driving at 150 km/hour. While dodging trucks, busses, bikes, people and other lunatic drivers.

All I'm saying is instead of worrying about the planes, I should have been worrying about the driving.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 19:39
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January 12, 2004
You can't make this up

Just a quick one before I leave. There's a fashioin chain in Hong Kong called "Wanko". I kid you not. "I bought it at Wanko!"

[end of purile schoolboy humour]

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:12
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January 11, 2004
On the road again

I'm off with a shiny new China visa in my passport to brave the wilds of Shenzhen and Shanghai until Tuesday night. There's plenty to keep you going until then. Try the contest and vote; the two posts I just spent my Sunday night writing (below); or jump into the favourites to see the giddy heights this blog has managed to miss. Then work your way through the blogroll and report back what you find.

Otherwise posting will be light to non-existant until Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. But what great posts you'll be getting after that! In fact I will start my first post with whatever is the best starting line left in the comments. I'm going to put one up just so I've got a back-up. But I'm sure you'll come up with something.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 22:02
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Quiet weekend for us. Mrs M is suffering morning sickness, however for her it's more an all-day kind of thing. The good news is that means Ubul is cooking nicely.

Friday night had a few drinks and dinner in Lan Kwai Fong. It had the usual mix of gweilo drinkers and Mainland tourists, each staring at each other in a mix of amusement and wonder. We had some dinner in what is affectionately known as "Rat Alley". If HK is one of the most densely populated places on Earth, this alley is one of the most densely populated places in HK. Five of us rocked up and were squeezed into a space for two. There are hawkers who shoves menus in your face, because it is well known in marketing that's the best way to get you to eat somewhere. The king of these is "Elvis", who has the sideburns to prove the King didn't die, he just became Indian and good at shoving people into spaces.

Saturday we had coffee with world-famous jazz musician Sean Wayland. He's actually an old school friend of Mrs M who's had one hell of an interesting career to date. I'm something of a jazz fan, although I've lost touch since the kids came along. But Sean is darn good. He does the whole enigmatic jazz muso thing well. He had a couple of gigs in HK before moving on to China. JC came along with Mrs M and myself as we sat in a coffee shop in Lan Kwai Fong watching the human carnival pass. Most entertaining was one of the waitresses, who in the hour we sat in the place managed to spill two bottles of water, one coffee cup and break a plate.

Sunday was quiet in the morning as JC decided she wanted to re-create our 9 hour flight from Australia to HK. She flew "the plane" (her bed), while Mrs M, PB and myself were the passengers. I'm pleased to say we arrived safely, and managed to watch Lady and the Tramp on the way.

In the afternoon we used our new status as Life Members of Ocean Park to kill some time. This is always a great stand-by as it's close to where we live. We set a record. We managed to get 127 metres past the entrance before we were stopped for a photo of JC and PB. After watching a surprisingly good seal show, which in fact traumatised poor PB no end, we headed over to the Pandas. One of them was good enough to be munching through his body weight in bamboo and JC and PB enjoyed watching him. Almost as much as the 50 Mainland tourists who were busy watching JC and PB. As we left the Panda exhibit I got the fright of my life when two young women jumped up and started patting and screaming "Hello baby" at both JC and PB. Like the pros they are, the girls ignored them, but Mrs M and I were taken aback. Even after one of them pointed and said "pretty" in JC's direction my only thoughts were (a) why aren't we charging $10 a photo and (b) let's get out of here.

As I pointed out to Mrs M, could you imagine walking the streets of Sydney, or London, or New York, or anywhere, and stopping a Chinese family and taking photos of their kids? You'd be arrested.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 21:44
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In a spare 2 minutes today I glanced through the SCMP magazine and there was an article on The BlackSpot Sneaker. What is it, I hear you ask. Put simply it's a sneaker made by a bunch of anti-globalisation trade activists as a means to dent Nike. Nike bought Converse last year, so these guys thought the best thing they could do was rip-off Converse's copyright and create a brand in the process. No doubt it's made in environmentally friendly, worker friendly somewhere-ville, USA. It's got a logo and ad campaign. It is essentially a competitor to Nike.

Let's take a second here. I'm not a big Nike fan but anyone that can convince people that sandshoes are worth forking out several hundred dollars a time deserves their money's worth. They copped a whole lot of pressure, some perhaps even deserved, for the factories that were making the shoes in Asia. It was fashionable to boycott Nike for using sweatshops. So Nike responded. They dedicate whole chunks of their website to "Responsibility" and there's a whole section on "Workers & Factories." Regardless that Nike helps provide (relative) good paying jobs to people who would other really be working in sweatshops for local businessmen. And that Nike, just like any large company, has to put up with constant sniping simply because it is successful. The best these anti-Nike groups can do is try and take Nike on at their own game.

I'm no expert on copyright law but if someone started selling Converse rip-offs, I'd be suing their backsides to kingdom come. I didn't pay a fortune just to see a bunch of hippies and anarchists try and make a buck of my hard work. Here's an excerpt from Blackspot's blurb:

For years, Nike was the undisputed champion of logo culture, its swoosh an instant symbol of global cool. Today, Phil Knight's Nike is a fading empire, badly hurt by years of "brand damage" as activists and culture jammers fought back against mindfuck marketing and dirty sweatshop labor.

Now a final challenge. We take on Phil at his own game - and win. We turn the shoes we wear into a counterbranding game. The swoosh versus the anti-swoosh. Which side are you on?

Adbusters has been doing R&D for more than a year, and guess what? Making a shoe - a good shoe - isn't exactly rocket science. With a network of supporters, we're getting ready to launch the blackSpot sneaker, the world's first grassroots anti-brand, with a ground-breaking marketing scheme to uncool Nike. If it succeeds, it will set a precedent that will revolutionize capitalism.

Try reading that and not laughing. What's an "anti-brand"? They "spent a year" ripping off Converse sneakers? They're going to "uncool Nike" with a canvas rip-off? "Revolutionize (sic) capitalism"? What, by exploiting and piggy-backing off Nike? And making money too?

I've never been a fan of anti-globalising, anti-trade, anti-capitalist idiots. These guys take the cake for hypocricy.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 21:25
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January 09, 2004

I've made a small change to this site. As part of my completely cack-handed learning of html process, and with a little help I've split this page into two columns. This is because some people have been having problems reading the site on different systems and browsers.

Only problem now is the table is split right down the middle. Anyone know how I can move the split so the second column (sidebar) is say only 30% of the width???

That'll teach me to tinker late on a Friday.

By the way, Susie, here's a fellow Asian blog (he's already on my roll) and his post for the New Blog Showcase.

UPDATE: Problem solved. An Englishman helping out an Aussie, who would have thought?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 20:00
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"...and it turns out she was sleeping with him!" I picked my jaw off the ground. "This isn't the kind of thing we should talk about at work. If someone wants to have an affair with their boss's secretary because the boss was going to make them redundant and the boss was also having an affair with that secretary, then I'm not going to broadcast that to the world," I said.

"Au contraire, Simon" said my malicious co-worker. "This is good for us." To which I responded, "Que? Do you always talk in underline?"

Gossiping at work is an ideal way to let off steam and can help staff relax or even discuss ideas, according to new research published yesterday. Employers were urged to encourage people to gossip as it could help them to become more creative.
"So you see," my talkative team mate continued, "we're actually required to gossip." "Da, da," I replied in my best Russian, "in that case I should tell you about that guy in Accounts..."

"Let me stop you right there, buddy," she said.

Women were more honest about their gossiping, while men often described it as de-briefing or networking.
"How do you keep talking in a blockquote format?" I asked. "That's besides the point," she said. "I want to know what kind of gossip we're engaging in." My blank look said it all. So she continued
So-called negative gossiping could be bad for morale if it involved spreading malicious or false rumours...[the researcher] also discovered "sad gossipers" who tried to become the centre of attention. There were also "vindictive gossipers" who spread nasty rumours.
"OK, I admit I've completely lost the thread of what we're talking about here," I sputtered. "All these blockquotes are difficult to read. Are you actually saying those things or quoting from the article?"

"That's OK," she said,

"Gossiping can be seen as trivial but it is very therapeutic and makes people feel better."

"STOP TALKING LIKE THAT!" I yelled. "What does a different font colour and background mean? Are you speaking in a funny accent? Quietly? Loudly? Just stop it."

"OK," she said soothingly. "Feel better now?"

"Sure" I said. "Now what about that guy at the Christmas party?"

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:11
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It's tough being good looking, as most of you would know.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:51
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Does anyone else find it strange that China, with a billion plus people and thousands of years of advanced civilisation, is only now becoming a world economic power; whereas the USA, a few hundred years old and with less than a quarter of China's population, is the world's dominant economy and political power.

It's just strange, you know.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:20
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There is nothing worse than knowing something bad is going to happen and being powerless to stop it.

Currently our office is situated in some el-premo real estate, right in the heart of Central. From the window 2 metres to my right I look across Victoria Harbour to Kowloon. I can see a working port in action, the helicopters ferrying their rich cargo back and forth, the mountains of the New Territories. It is a 2 minute walk to the delights of the IFC shopping mall or one of a hundred good eating places, shops, dodgy alley markets and the like. It is an easy 5 minute walk to the Star Ferry terminal, where my bus picks me up and drops me off. It is great. There's a strange fascination though with people switching seats; in the year I've been here I've seen some people change seats 4 times. It's part of HK's desire for constant change.

Yet disaster looms. As part of a consolidation in office space we are going to be moved. Not just to anywhere. To a building right on the edge of Central, part way up the hill. Effectively it is Siberia. There is little in the way of life outside of the office block that is there. No views. A hell of a schlep from my bus stop. It's a disaster - I'm being dragged into this need for people to change all the time.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:13
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I'm off to Shenzhen and Shanghai for a couple of days early next week. Unfortunately I don't think I'll be visiting Shenzhen's shopping meccas. This means my New Year's Resolution of joining a gym has been put off by another week (mark that as excuse number 6 so far). It'll be my first trip to Mainland China, so I'm looking forward to coming back with many observations to share. Things like "went from airport to hotel to office to dinner to airport." Yes, you'd better clear your calendar to read that entry.

If anyone wants me to get stuff for them while in either Shenzhen of Shanghai, you can tell someone who cares.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:51
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January 08, 2004
Word of the Day II

The outstanding success of yesterday's Word of the Day has lead to today's: "decrete", (1) the opposite of accrete; (2) the removal of Cretians from Crete; (3) synonym of excrete (e.g. this entry is decrete); (4) the basis of a bad pun, viz "Up decrete without a paddle."

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 17:52
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New World

It is trendy these days, particularly in the USA, to argue whether China or India will be the ones that usurp America's place in the world. Economically, if not politically. It is usually looked at in a win-lose way; America's losing jobs because of hordes of cheap Chinese/Indian workers. In a way they are right. India and China probably are taking jobs away from America. That's a good thing. Let me explain why.

Imagine you had a job in a one person company that had two parts to it. One part was highly profitable, let's say making sales calls. You make $100 a day doing this. But the other part, let's say making coffee, is obviously boring and not-profitable at all. It takes up 1 hour of your 10 hour day. So in effect it's costing you $10 a day making coffee. Nevertheless that's your job. Then someone comes along and says to you they will make your coffee daily at a cheap rate, say $3 a day. Not only do you save the time, you can actually then become more productive and make $110 now instead. So in fact you are now net making $107 (=$100+$10 from the extra hour work - $3 from the coffee cost) and are $7 better off. Not to mention you no longer have to worry about buying the coffee, milk, sugar, cups, getting the right formula, keeping up with things etc.

This is what is meant by the term comparative advantage in economics. It means that everybody wins, because the guy doing the coffee making is doing it at a price they can make money and you are better off by $7 too. It raises general welfare and is why I'm a firm believer in free trade.

The analogy points to the problem too. Instead of a single person, imagine it was departments in a company. The coffee department get told they're being replaced by a group from Asia that can do the job cheaper. That means the coffee department is out of work. Eventually they will find other jobs, either by lowering their prices in the same job or by better education and training for a new (and better paid) job. Low cost labour replacing more expensive labour. It frees these people (resources in economic terms, but that's so impersonal) to make more money by taking better jobs. But the squeaky wheel gets the grease; those jobs that are threatened in this replacement process make a lot of noise, whereas society as a whole only experiences a moderate increase in welfare. The noisy minority drown out the benefits to the vast majority. This is a common problem.

Lest you think all this arguing about this process is new, think again. To use but the most recent example, most Western economies in the last twenty years have seen a massive shift from primary (rural/mining) and secondary (manufacturing) industries into tertiary (services) industries. The pattern over the last 300 years has been simple: from farms to factories, and now from factories to offices. There are still Western farmers (albeit many of them heavily subsided), and there are still plenty of Western factories. Westerners have never been as prosperous while all this has taken place. The job of growing the world's food has slowly but surely shifted to cheaper places, as is manufacturing (e.g. Chinese TVs). It is now starting to happen in services (e.g. Indian computer programmers).

The end result: it is good for us. It is good for China/India. People working in these industries in those countries earn higher than average wages; they are raising the welfare of their economy too. They are bringing expertise and knowledge to develop their own economies. Everyone wins. The adjustment process can be difficult and this is where Governments can add some value, by helping those in affected industries with training programs and the like.

But free trade works, damn it. Next time you see an anti-globalisation speaker, check out their Reeboks, their Levis, their Ray-Bans, their appearance on BBC. They are hypocrites who enjoy the benefits of trade without appreciating them. If they don't like free trade, go to North Korea.

Stories of India and China mean we're all going to be better off. Enjoy it.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:26
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The Big Contest

Mrs M and I get along extremely well. But one thing we've found is we disagree strongly with each other when it comes to names. With JC I at first didn't like the name at all, but after a while I put my foot down because it was the best damn name I'd ever heard. Mrs M put her foot down on PB, and in hindsight she was right, it's a great name too. However there were many late night discussions both times on names. Once we even sat down and wrote down the 5 names we had on a shortlist in order of preference and they were diametrically opposed.

So it's time to turn to you for help. In the comments please leave any and all suggestions you have for names, either male or female. Nothing is too weird or wonderful.

Of course like any contests I, as sole judge, reserve the right to change the rules as I go along. But otherwise through in any names you like. Mrs M and I may or may not use any of the suggestions, but it should at least help more than "40,001 Baby Names."

As an incentive there's a prize. A big one. Not only do you get a chance at naming my third born child, but the winner will receive a special photographic package of "their" baby. It will be just like one of those child sponsorship things, but you don't need to send any money. Of course you could send money if you like; I'm not going to stop you.

Spread the word; name our third child.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:16
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The problem with blogs is they scroll chronologically. So if you're confused because you're reading this post and have no idea what's been going on today, I suggest you start here and work your way up.

To celebrate the new addition to the family, I'm going to do two things. Firstly I've set up a new poll on the sidebar, where you can say whether Ubul will be a boy or girl and early or late. Don't ask the due date as I've no idea yet and that shouldn't stop your speculations anyway. You can vote once a day, every day. It's over there under "The Big Vote".

The second thing is even bigger...

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:02
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Who is Ubul?

Many readers have asked me who is Ubul? Actually that's a complete lie, as firstly most people don't comment here, and secondly I only posted the name about 5 minutes ago, and I don't get that many hits in 5 minutes. So let's think of it as me anticipating lots of questions from people along these lines.

Ubul is the name we've given to each impending baby in Mrs M's tummy. Mrs M's folks are Hungarian. When we were casting about for names for the baby that became JC, my father-in-law proved very helpful. He listed all the famous Hungarian knights of folklore and suggested we use some of them. Now the only one I could even pronounce was Ubul. So when we went for an ultrasound I cleverly got a copy of it on videotape. I even more cleverly labelled the said videotape "Ubul's first video". Thenceforth both JC and PB were known as Ubul until they arrived in the world.

Of course once they arrived in the world they got their new names. Which leads me to the next thing...

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:51
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Ubul Bio

It's nice and warm in here. A little dark and wet too, but nice and warm.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:40
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The Big News

The overwhelming patience you've all shown has paid off. I am proud to announce that Mrs M is prgenant, yet again. It is still early days and she's suffering terrible morning sickness but so far our attempt to over-populate the world has moved into its 3rd stage. Yes, we've decided we really don't like having money, sleep or privacy.

But wait, there's more...

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:10
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Believe it or not

My family goes through two litres (yes, litres, not liters, you silly Americans) of milk a day. That's 14 litres a week. We go through more milk than water. But it's not that simple. Because we have three different kinds of milk too. There's the full cream kind for JC and PB, there's the skim kind for Mrs M and my cereal, and there's the half way in between kind for Mrs M's coffee. Why? Because the skim doesn't froth enough, and Mrs M doesn't like full cream milk.

While on useless facts about my life, Misti the wonder dog ain't such a wonder at the moment. Living in an apartment many floors from the ground means from time to time she has accidents. However it's getting colder and she's not one for the cold. So each morning, noon and night there are more and more accidents. We've got proficient at the clean-up process. But how do you teach an old dog new tricks?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:34
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January 07, 2004

This awards thing is catching. Now it's the Australian Blog Awards. Nominations close Friday; voting until Australia Day (January 26th). I see there's a Best Overseas Australian Blog section, but somehow this blog has yet to be nominated. An oversight that will no doubt be corrected son. (There's a hint there foy y'all).

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:52
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Not content with Iraq, the USA has taken upon itself to invade Mars for being red. Even though communism is essentially a dead philosophy the mere mention of the colour managed to set the invasion plans in motion. Without UN backing the American imperialists have taken over the formerly peace loving planet, turning it into a playground for its technology and entertainment for its population back home. The hunt is now on for Mars's erstwhile leader.

[take tounge out of cheek]

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:52
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Upside down

Why do fax machines require documents be fed in face down? It means everyone spends their lives writing the fax number on the back of whatever they're sending. We can send probes to Mars but everyone has to scramble for pens at fax machines so they know what number to use.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:22
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There is one thing in the world I desire more than anything else. Silence. Think about the last time you experienced a waking moment of silence. Not when you were quiet but there was a tapping of keyboards and ringing of phones. Not when you were fighting the peak hour crowds, the traffic, the smells. Not when you got home, flopped in front of the TV or computer. I mean a time where there was no stimulus except your own thoughts. No sights, no sounds, no smells. Just you and your brain.

It doesn't happen often, does it? It is far too easy to get distracted; there's the net, there's computers, there's TV, there's gossip, there's calling friends. Every new piece of consumer electronics is designed to distract. That's what entertainment is about - distraction. Because more and more society is about not thinking for yourself. Your thinking is done for you, on cable TV or in newspapers. If you so choose you can simply opt out completely and not have an opinion about anything. Someone else can fight the good fights. It happens more and more. It is why politics is so far removed from much of the population. A large part of the adult population couldn't give a stuff as long as there's food on the table, a steady job and something funny on the tube.

Society is driving everyone to distraction. There's too much information. There's too much noise. There's just too darn much of everything. We're all busy coping with abundance. In the meantime we never get any time. For anything. We're all too busy. We're all too distracted.

Some people are happy with this state of affairs. It's all too hard to think for yourself. It means finding facts, weighing up pros and cons and deciding where you stand. It might mean questioning beliefs, morals, dogma. It might mean admitting you were wrong, or that you don't know. It might mean change.

Silence and time. The two enemies of modern society.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:14
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Word of the Day

Today's word of the day is "requestion" - it's a request that's also a question.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:06
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I like to think I'm a reasonably intelligent person (no, that's not an invitation to comment from the peanut gallery). So why is it that more and more advertisements make little sense to me? Much of the time I cannot work out what product or service they are advertising. I used to have a rule of thumb that said if I couldn't work it out it would be for perfume, but even that doesn't hold water these days. JK Galbraith talked about advertisings inevitable race to the bottom, because consumers become inured to advertising as they are constantly exposed to it. So to remain effective advertising had to continually change. And now we are at the point that the advertisements have little to do with the product. Instead they are full of quick edits or meangingless copy.

Except movie ads - they tell you too much.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:24
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As in all wars, generals tend to fight each battle as if it was the previous one. So it is in the current war on terror. The US is imposing all sorts of regulations and planes and passengers entering the country, including fingerprinting and photographing. Of course the fact that all of the Sept 11 murderers were legally in the USA under normal visas is besides the point. It looks like the Government is "doing something" and that's the main thing.

But sometimes it goes too far. Like this latest gem:

Qantas passengers have been ordered not to queue outside toilets while making the 14-hour flight to and from the US. The directive was issued late yesterday by the US Transport and Security Administration, which is demanding pilots make a pre-flight announcement banning passengers from "congregating in groups around toilets or anywhere else in the aircraft". Flight attendants will be expected to police the toilets, including checking every two hours for "suspicious packages".
This is another triumph of beaurocracy over common sense. Can anyone explain how stopping queues for toilets on planes will prevent hijackings? Can you imagine a member of the flight crew arresting someone for queuing for the toilet? Especially if they're arrested before they've had a chance to go?

Very messy.

"Passengers are caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, they are advised to move around an aircraft during flights for health reasons; but now they are being told not to congregate. It doesn't make sense."

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:58
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January 06, 2004

Mrs M absolutely hates it when I tease her with the line "I've got big news but I'll tell you later." Personally I am just as liable to forget there's big news in the offing if someone says that to me. But such a sentence will tend to send her into a bout of profound and constant questioning until I crack and tell her. I'm going to see how many of you are the same.

I've got big news but I'll tell you later.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:35
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Does anyone know how to make this stop? Please?


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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:08
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Out with the old

Lunch companion and all round good guy Pixy has helped put the final nail in the coffin that was the old blog. It is gone. It is deceased. It is no more. It's not sleeping. It's not pining for fjords. As far as parrots go, the old blog is dead. Dead, dead, dead. Gone. {end of Monty Python rip-off}

I've deleted references to it in the sidebar and the links on the favourite posts have been updated. As far as I am concerned the old blog no longer exists. It is a bit of junk clogging up the internet. Everything I've ever blogged is now on this site and this site alone.

Bye bye old friend. It did its job and now it has to go to that great blog heaven in the sky.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:10
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What is it with exfoliating? It's considered a beauty treatment; it sounds like something that happened to trees during the Vietnam War using Napalm.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:52
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The real news

As expected SARS is back. The HK Government's fiscal position isn't so good. There was an arson attack on the trains yesterday. But people are missing the big stories still.

From the unlinkable SCMP:

Frustrated hunter John Lever yesterday congratulated the Yuen Long crocodile after it was named Hong Kong's Personality of the Year - and he offered to fly back to try to hang a winner's garland around its neck.

When the poll closed, the crocodile had 36 per cent of the votes, 11 per cent more than Hong Kong's hospital workers, who won second place with 25 per cent of the votes for their heroics during the Sars outbreak.

The highest placed individual human was harbour campaigner Winston Chu Ka-sun, who came third with 13 per cent, followed by former secretary for security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee with 9 per cent.

Any poll that places Regina Ip at 9% in the popularity stakes automatically risks its credibility, but regardless, that darn croc is the best thing to happen to HK in a long time. Now the Christmas tree is coming down from Statue Square it's time to place a statue of that croc for all to see and admire. At least John Lever would have a chance of catching it.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:07
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January 05, 2004
Questions on flight

Do the people who run airlines actually have kids?

Flying back from Sydney to Hong Kong yesterday was an overall bearable experience. The flight staff (or whatever you call air hosts/hostesses these days) were great; very understanding in answering the call button for the twentieth time, a favourite game of JC's. Or putting up with PB running through the galley as they prepared lunch. They even came and chatted with the kids at different stages. So on the service score they cannot be faulted.

What can be faulted are two things. Children under 2 years old do not get their own seat. Fair enough, although anyone having a 16 month old on their laps for the 30 minutes of landing or takeoff can attest that it's a questionable decision. What is provided instead is a bassinet. That's good for a baby of 6 months old. It is not good for an infant of 16 months. We made a makeshift bed on the ground in front of our seats, cushioning it with blankets, and proceeded to pray we didn't hit turbulence. Because as soon as those seat belt signs go on they want you to wake your sleeping child and strap them into the seat belt. Again fair enough from a safety point of view but really it leaves much to be desired from a parent point of view. The "infant" meal was a couple of bottles of baby food. The "child" meal was also pretty poor. It consisted of a few pieces of smoked chicken with diced potato and vegies. Thankfully JC and PB are good eaters and not too fussy. But why an "infant" meal (remember, that's any kid under 2) consists of a bottle of Heinz baby food and mushed up jelly is beyond me. Likewise why the "children" meal (kids below 12) is effectively cold chicken salad also makes me wonder.

Does these people have kids? Or do they bring their own food with them? Have they ever tried stuffing a 16 month old into a bassinet made for a 6 month old? Have they ever tried feeding these meals to their kids? Have their kids ever eaten these meals?

Do these people ever fly with their kids?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:07
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Flying tales

In case you ever find yourself tempted to take a flight on Emirates Air, go read this story at Silent Running. I cannot summarise it other than to say sometimes an "international" airline may not be so "international" after all.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:58
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Good company

Churchill once said: "...we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

Stirring stuff. Especially as it turns out he was talking about the taxman.

Winston Churchill waged a lifelong battle with the taxman that continued even at the height of World War II, government documents published for the first time last week reveal.

Inland Revenue files reveal that Britain's wartime prime minister and his financial advisers went to extraordinary lengths to minimise the liabilities on his earnings from his work as an author and journalist.

The papers, which cover a 20-year period, refer to Churchill's "latest attempt to minimise liability" and indicate that he used every lawful opportunity to avoid tax. At one stage he considered setting up an overseas company.

So if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for the rest of us. My respect for Churchill just went up a notch.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:48
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In the extended entry is the complete speech I amde at my borther's wedding last week. It's printed here with his full permission. That permission came in the middle of the dancefloor near the end of the night, but it's all about choosing your moment.

Very open to comments on the speech. It seemed to go well (read I heard someone laugh once). Feel free to take bits if you need for yourself, so long as you acknowledge it in your speech. Something like this: "I was reading at Simon World the best 'best man' speech I've ever read and decided to use some bits myself." Then follow with the web address. Alternatively use a slide with the words "Parts of this speech have been taken from Simon World, http://simonworld.mu.nu, a creative and dymanic factory of wedding speeches since 2003."

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I was at the dentist on Tuesday and he asked if I had started on my best man speech. I told him what I’ll tell you now: “Gaggglaggguglll”. So there I was, staring at a blank computer screen, wondering what can I say on such an important day in my brother and new sister-in-law’s life? Naturally, I turned to the Internet for help. I typed “Instant wedding speeches” into Google. After the Russian mail order brides and the sites I cannot mention at a family gathering I found what I needed. Here it goes:
Congratulations Peter and Joan on your fine {insert occasion here}.
OK so I might not have got my money’s worth there. Who would have thought the internet could let me down?

They say that it takes 2 people to make a marriage work. I think today is proof it actually takes 160. Everyone will agree that Michelle was a beautiful bride today and Paul was…on time. We feel like we’re gaining a new sister and losing a brother. It is such a mix of emotions: happiness, joy…relief. It’s not every day that my best friend, arch nemesis, sporting rival, confidant, email buddy and favourite uncle to my daughters gets married. Who would have thought that little boy who used to take the blame for everything I did wrong would end up marrying so well? And Michelle being a school teacher means Paul has no chance of getting away with anything again! It’s all too perfect. Of course Michelle isn’t perfect herself - she has a strange fascination with socks, especially wearing them to bed. How someone’s feet are cold when it’s 30 degrees is a scientific mystery waiting to be solved. But let’s not dwell on the negatives.

There is an old wedding day saying that the bride must wear something new, something old, something borrowed and something blue. To ensure that tradition is followed I would like to make a special presentation to Michelle. It’s old, borrowed and blue and I figure Paul is new enough as her husband to cover the new. These should come especially handy tonight when the newlyweds retire to their hotel room. Michelle - here are some slightly used blue socks for you.

Michelle by now knows Paul quite well. I use “quite” advisedly because if she knew him “well” we may not be here today. Having lived with the guy for a number of years I feel there are a few things to Michelle needs to be aware of. Firstly, Michelle, never beat him in any sport. Not unless you want a tennis racquet, cricket stump, ball, pool toy or garbage bin thrown at you. I’m not saying he’s a sore loser. No, you’ll be the one that’s sore if he loses. Paul’s always been an explorer. There is not a place in the world where Paul hasn’t also explored the bathrooms. He is also very aware of his heritage. From an early age he has maintained he is actually descended from the Rothschilds and Mum & Dad are still waiting for them to pick him up, as they have a hefty bill waiting. Paul has one of the best memories I have ever known. He can recite any line from any Simpsons episode you care to mention. He is also very sincere. Especially when he’s lying. In our younger days he competed vigorously in the nightly ritual of taking advantage of Mum‘s gullibility. That’s why when he first introduced Michelle we weren’t sure if it was another one of his tricks. Turns out it wasn’t at all. The trick was getting her in and out of the house at 3am each night. But most of all Paul’s superior ability in dealing with taxation laws has seen him in the perfect career - keeping Michelle happy.

Today Paul and Michelle will be given much advice about the secrets to a good marriage. There are many such secrets. Of course, men being men, we tend to forget what they are. But there are a few key truths to help you both find your way. We always thought that Paul would be a good lawyer, and just like when a lawyer cross-examines a witness, women only ask questions they already know the answer to. Paul, the main thing to remember is there is no right answer except “You’re right, dear.” Questions are just a woman’s way of checking if you are listening. Which you’re not; you‘re busy thinking about the cricket, or that great TV you just walked past. But be careful because sometimes you get tested to see if you‘re just agreeing all the time for the sake of it. In this case there is no correct answer at all. Instead use distraction as a technique. For example, a good tester question is “Does this look good on me?” All men have the same thought process here. One - clothes tend to look better off a woman than on. Two - wife-y expects an answer, now; the longer this takes the more it looks like I‘m thinking. And if anything makes a wife suspicious it’s her husband thinking. Three - the wrong answer will result in an afternoon of barely repressed rage and disgust and certainly no chance of sex. And after all is said and done that’s what matters most. So the correct answer is “Look, isn’t that Nicole Kidman?”

There are other tricks to the trade. Commands tend to come as questions. For example “Shouldn’t we close the door?” is not an invitation to discuss the merits of door closing and opening. Forget about pronouns. “He” and “she” now become “boobie” and “schmooky poo”. For example: “ ‘Boobie’ , does this look good on me?”; “Look, schmooky poo, there’s Nicole Kidman.”

The main thing to remember, Paul, is you are never right, even when you are. You are only agreeing with the right answer that your wife already knew. The very worst thing you can do is point out that one time in a hundred when you managed to defy the laws of nature and you got it right and your wife wrong. Celebratory dancing cannot hide the fact that your success rate is only 1%. And the time to worry the most is when you think you’re doing everything right, because inevitably you’re doing something wrong. The rules change and you’re not privy to the changes until after you break them. The problem now is Michelle knows you know what I know about marriage which is that I know very little.

Paul and Michelle could do well to emulate one of the world‘s most famous married couples. They cope with fame, money problems, life’s ups and downs with a certain aplomb and always a strong bond of love. Homer and Marge Simpson. Paul’s balding head and Michelle’s height and flowing hair are dead ringers for the cartoon couple. Of course Michelle’s hair isn’t blue, and Paul doesn’t work in a nuclear power plant, and neither are yellow, but the resemblances are clear. So I predict Paul and Michelle will have three children: a troubled boy of 8 called Bart, a smart sassy 6 year called Lisa and a little baby Maggie. With the way reality television is heading this could all be on Channel Nine next year.

Everyone will agree that it has been a magnificent afternoon and night. It is the reward for many years hard labour from both families, bringing up such fine human beings. But this isn’t about Daryl, Mark and me. While it took a while for the relationship to blossom and we no longer have to meet Michelle sneaking out the house at 3am, it is clear to all that here are two people who are very much in love. Right Boobie and Shmooky Poo? We all wish you both every success that you both so richly deserve in the future. This especially includes making me Uncle Simon soon. May your future together be bright and your generosity to all your brothers be great and never-ending.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:42
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Public transport

Anyone who's caught a train or bus in peak hour in HK will not be surprised by this from the unlinkable SCMP:

Two out of three women say they have been indecently assaulted on public transport, with most of the incidents occurring on the MTR and buses, according to a survey by a women's group. Lam Ying-hing, organiser of Gutsy Women, which interviewed 406 women in September, said 271 respondents (66 per cent) revealed they had been subject to unwelcome advances from male passengers such as groping and rubbing up against their bodies.

Ms Lam said fellow passengers seemed nonchalant about the assaults. Fewer than 10 of the victims had been assisted by passengers after being assaulted. "About 28 per cent of victims said passengers pretended nothing had happened. Another 34 per cent of victims said witnesses would only stare at them," she said.

The survey also found that only 194 of the victims had expressed their disapproval to the assaulters. "Nearly half of them would only stare at the assaulters with hostility. Another 30 per cent would walk away or leave the vehicle," she said.

What was previously thought to be a purely Japanese phenomenon turns out to be happening here in HK too.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:26
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January 04, 2004
H.G. Wells

I've discovered the secret of time travel. Flying for 9 hours with a 3 year old and a 16 month old. 8 hours went by quickly. 1 hour didn't and lasted as long as the other 8 put together. Still we made it in one piece and as one family. And the flight went a lot better than I expected. There's always one disapproving stare and the stupid b!tch who gave us the evil eye the whole flight has never had human kids to deal with. PB and JC both were mostly great and they crashed only a little earlier than normal. JC went without a nap too, making a total of 16 hours from waking to sleeping, and she only really lost it right at the end. Not bad for a trip from Sydney to Hong Kong.

Regular transmission soon to resume - just gotta get through the overstuffed inbox awaiting at work.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 19:50
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January 03, 2004

Why does sun-block need to be stored at less than 30 degrees Centigrade? If it's not going to work above 30 then it's not much use. Doesn't it at least protect itself from the sun, let alone my skin?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:14
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January 02, 2004

One thing I've noticed being back in Australia for two weeks is how pervasive reality TV has become. There has hardly been a conversation with friends that has not mentioned one reality TV program or another. People plan their social lives around TV schedules. A good conversation starter is always the latest controversy or happenings in whatever is the latest hot show. It becomes part of news stories on TV and in papers. It really takes over people's lives, speculating and conjecturing. I am sure it all comes down to some deep pscychological urge to watch others enduring/suffering/competing as some kind of vicarious pleasure for those at home on their sofas. Luckily TV in HK is usually so bad and so far behind the rest of the world I don't suffer the same reality TV bug any more.

Damn I miss it though.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 15:33
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Degrees of difficulty

Another glorious Sydney Summer day is drawing to a close, as is the holiday. Tomorrow marks the final full day in Oz, a day full of packing, goodbyes and telling JC she'll be getting on an aeroplane on Sunday. It's been a great trip.

One thing that contstantly amazes me is compliments I get. Now I'm a modest kind of guy, as this sentence attests. But several times over the past two weeks I've taken PB and JC out to give Mrs M some personal/quiet time. Trips to the park, or for swims at friends' places, or some such activity. Yet almost every single time someone will make a comment on how "good" I'm doing taking the girls out on my own. Now I've checked with Mrs M and she rarely if ever gets comments along these lines. At best it might be a "Gee your kids are well behaved" style, but enver a comment about how she's doing with the kids. But as soon as I, a man, do it, I receive compliments left, right and centre. Really I don't do anything special, and it's taken a couple of years of watching and learning from Mrs M before I've even approached a reasonable level of competency. A little planning, a little anticipation and a little fortitude and it's not hard at all. I don't need a medal for doing what Mrs M does all day, every day.

The point is I find it staggering that it is still considered "good" when a Dad is the one taking the kids out on his own, when a Mum doing the same is just doing her job. I must admit I love whenever I get a chance to take the girls out on my own because I know Mrs M rarely gets kid-free time. And I'm not going to say no to the compliments.

It would just be nice if people said the same things to Mums every now and again.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 15:28
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January 01, 2004

Happy New Year.

To all who read this let me wish you a very happy and prosperous 2004. May the extra day this year be used to your advantage; may the Athens Olympics avoid complete chaos; may it not go as fast as 2003; and may it be the best 2004 you've ever had.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:14
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The last few days have been busy, busy, busy. We had given the kids over to my folks on Tuesday morning and had fully 24 hours to be a young couple in love again. On Tuesday night I went with Mrs M and sister-in-law for a massive piece of schnitzel in King's Cross. King's Cross is Sydney's red light district, but it also contains some of its most expensive property and trendiest restuarants. Such are the contradictions of Sydney. We were served by a flamboyantly gay waiter wearing leiderhossen, not that there's anything wrong with that. Then we headed into the city to see Disney's The Lion King Stage Spectacular. It was great, except the singing, which was varied, and the acting, which was patchy. But the staging was so phenomenal that it more than made up for any deficiencies in other areas. The music was good and mostly the same as the movie. Most importantly the merchandising opportunities were huge and fully exploited by Disney. There was not a full wallet left in the house.

To celebrate the impending New Year's Eve celebrations I played golf Wednesday morning with father-in-law. They usually play with Bob Hawke, a former Prime Minister. I had a lot to live up to. So I made up a few stories about my days rigging elections in the Labor Party and all was OK. As is usual in golf, by the 12th hole I had decided it was a stupid game and I was giving it up for good. By the 15th I was planning my assualt on the US PGA and contemplating my interview on the Golf Channel: "Well, John, it all started with my par at the 14th at Bonnie Doon. It was a hot and windy day, that day. I realised that while 30 is old to start as a pro, it would be cruel to deny the world my talent." Of course by the 18th it was back to good riddance to the stupid game.

We celebrated New Year's Eve in style. We headed around to friends for a family festival. There were 10 adults and 11 kids, the eldest of whom is not yet 5 (the kids that is). The usual chaotic running, dinner, tears, laughters, dress-ups and bike riding resulted. We adults managed a reasonably civilised dinner before we slowly but surely started putting various kids to bed. By 9pm it was fireworks time. PB was already in bed but JC stayed up for them. They were appropriately dazzling and JC even let a couple of "wows" slip out. Since then she's been asking for more fireworks so they must of been OK. Then we put JC to bed, had a bite of ice cream and by 10:30pm were in bed ourselves. What a great way to celebrate - an early night.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:08
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