Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Eye | Land | View

The 10:15am slow ferry to town

Hong Kong: Legislative Council Questions

Some of the questions (and answers) from the LegCo meeting of Wednesday, 31 January 2007:

LCQ6: Disability Allowance
LCQ11: Importation of pachinko machines with toxic heavy metals
LCQ17: Marathon race

Re: Disability Allowance. As of 1 February 2007, Disability Allowance increases by 1.2% (from HK$1,125 to HK$1,140 per month). That's fifteen dollars more, per month.

Be grateful for small mercies: for a 30-day month that's an extra fifty cents per day spending money.

Reading matters

Listening, too. Toward Silence -- the intense repose of Toru Takemitsu. By Alex Ross: New Yorker

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Connexions? We have connections (yet another update)

Update. Partially restored optic fibre cables:
Flag North Asia Loop, owned by India's Reliance Communications Ltd.; Reach North Asian Loop, owned by Hong Kong's PCCW Ltd. and Australia's Telstra Corp.; Se-Me-We3, owned by a group including Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. and France Telecom SA; and APCN and APCN2, owned by operators including China Telecom Corp. and Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom Co. A segment of Asia Netcom Corp.'s EAC cable system will be repaired today . . . Ofta did not receive the repair status on the seventh cable, C2C, owned by C2C Group Ltd . . .
Source: Bloomberg

Connexions? Noun, chiefly British: dictionary

During the day it's not too bad, but of an evening . . . of an evening this Netvigator 3MB DSL customer experiences speeds you'd get with a 56k dial-up.

Of an evening, it's been like that since connections were patched in the wake of the earthquake south of Taiwan on 26 December 2006 which damaged and/or severed seven fibre-optic cables.

Today, Mister Bijou did some DSL speedtesting to see what's what -- in the knowledge that connection speeds are affected by time of day (here and there), level of traffic, the local node, computer hardware and software settings, and (probably) the waxing and the waning of the moon. To name but a few.

For those who may be interested, Mister Bijou's operating platform is Windows XP . . . with super-tweaked Internet connection settings.

The tweaking thanks to Speedguide TCP Optimizer. Recommended. But Mac users are out of luck. It's for Windows' users. It's free. More information: Speedguide

Now, speed. The first number is download speed, the second refers to upload speed. The first set of tests were done around 4.30pm (Hong Kong time):
London: 2396/205 kpbs
NYC: 2345/206 kbps
Los Angeles: 2356/208 kpbs
Hong Kong: 1435/531 kpbs
Yokohama: 3091/398 kpbs
Sydney: 774/197 kpbs
Singapore: 3198/518 kpbs
It's the download speeds we are really interested in. They are, all in all, fairly good speeds, excepting Sydney. However, Mister Bijou is puzzled as to why Hong Kong did not come out top.

Now, around 10pm:
London: 37/45 kpbs
NYC: 47/82 kbps
Los Angeles: 62/76 kpbs
Hong Kong: 3027/531 kpbs
Yokohama: 3093/120 kpbs
Sydney: 495/195 kpbs
Singapore: 3193/497 kpbs
Anyway, those are some numbers which show how slow. For London and New York City, a 56k connection and modem would have been sufficient.

Which is a real drag, literally. For the US hosts many of the websites Mister Bijou visits and access to many websites in the UK and continental Europe is routed via the US.

Mister Bijou tried out several speedtesters and got similar results. There are numerous sites for speed testing . . . google 'em. The speedtests above were via: speedtest

Is anyone else experiencing similar slowdowns?

Word is, it will be middle to end of February 2007 before PCCW's Netvigator isp gets back to the DSL high speeds which were previously customary. Further details: Hong Kong Standard.

Happy surfing!

Eye | Land | View

Personal life in a public place

It was 38 years ago today . . .

That Billy Preston (organ) and Sergeant Pepper's band did play. What was to be their last ever live performance together: The Rooftop Concert.

The neighbours complained, the police finally arrived, the band managed to finish Get Back, and last words were:
"I would like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we've passed the audition."

Monday, January 29, 2007

SCMP: more departures

Editor of the South China Morning Post, Fanny Fung has resigned. Number Two in the pecking order, she will be replaced effective 1 February 2007 by someone who was in the fifth editorial layer, C K Lau. Lau was Executive Editor, Policy.

Fung's departure is the fourth high-power resignation (or departure) in the last several months.

In October, a staff photographer took photos of the wrong person in a high-profile criminal court. After publication of one of the photos in the SCMP's Business Post, the SCMP was obliged to publish a large apology on the front page of the newspaper. The photographer was sacked, and staff were not happy about the sacking.

In November, two senior editors were sacked over a leaving page for sacked Sunday Post editor Niall Fraser. In the furore which followed, a third of the staff demanded the sackings be re-considered. To no avail.

In December,
business editor Stuart Jackson resigned in the wake of the photo debacle.

Now, Fung. Well, she has recently started to feature as one of the talking heads the BBC Worldservice phone when they need a local slant on current affairs hereabouts . . .

Mark Clifford continues as Editor-in-Chief.

For newer/previous posts about SCMP staff stuff, please click on scmp in Labels (below). Thank you.

Eye| Land | View

Another day, another sunset.

In anticipation of this year's Chinese New Year celebrations (18 February 2007), the harbour is beginning to fill up as locally-based trawlers return from fishing grounds near and far.

The island in the background is Sek Kwu Chau, which is given over to a voluntary residential heroin rehab centre. People who live there have developed a habit or are professionals in detox, drug dependency, rehab, life and work skills. Casual visitors are not encouraged. So it goes.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food, by Michael Pollan. NYT

Eye | Land | View

Late Sunday afternoon, harbour view

Reading matters

Ahmet Ertegun: Eclectic, Reminiscent, Amused, Fickle, Perverse, by George W. S. Trow.

Trow's masterful literary prose profile of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun was first published in May 1978. Trow died late November 2006. Several weeks earlier, Ertegun, by now age 83, fell backstage at the Beacon Theatre, New York City, at a performance of The Rolling Stones for the 60th birthday of Bill Clinton. Ertegun later lapsed into a coma and died mid-December 2006.

Ertegun probably wouldn't have wanted to go any other way.

As well as Ertegun, Trow's cast of characters include Mick Jagger, David Geffen, Prince Rupert Lowenstein, The Rolling Stones, Stephen Stills, Duke Ellington, Pelé, Jerry Wexler, Ray Charles, Waxie Maxie, Ruth Brown, Professor Longhair, Joe Turner, Tom Dowd, Ivory Joe Hunter, Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, Led Zeppelin, Andy Warhol, Bette Midler, Bianca Jagger . . .

It's fine writing, George Trow is a joy to read. But beware, this is a long article. So make yrself a cup of tea, then read on: New Yorker (part 1) and New Yorker (part 2).

More Trow. The New Yorker magazine has turned the entirety of its magazine over to a single work four times: John Hersey's Hiroshima, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, and Jonathan Schell's The Fate of the Earth. The fourth is Trow's Within the Context of No Context. To read the opening section of that essay, click on any of the labels below.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Eye | Land | View

(click on image to enlarge)
Saturday late afternoon, Tin Hau temple and the beautiful game

Joni Mitchell: Big Yellow Taxi

For the weekend, a guilty pleasure.

They paved paradise, put up a parking lot:

Have a great weekend!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Hong Kong: The ParknShop Oilfish Incident

(click on photo to enlarge)
At the beginning of the week it was a food scare about mainland China strawberries full of pesticides on sale hereabouts. Mid week? ParknShop, one of the two major supermarket chains in Hong Kong, hurried to take off its shelves frozen oilfish that had been labeled as "codfish".

That's codfish (one word) as opposed to cod (fish).

Are those two the same or different? Who knows? Outside the academic and professional worlds of ichthyology (study of fish), fish nomenclature is often vexatious and confusing.

In this instance, it was (marine) mutton dressed as lamb: oilfish (possibly) masquerading as codfish. ParknShop says it was labeled as oilfish, but it was also labeled as codfish. Confused?

Not that Mister Bijou had ever heard of oilfish, before. Moreover, this oilfish was taken, as we all now know, from Indonesian waters and the "flesh is very oily, with purgative properties, if eaten much." (Fishbase)

Some people ate much, and purged more.

ParknShop is in crisis-management mode as "fury rises over fish label row": Hong Kong Standard

For overview of Hong Kong's Chinese-language newspapers, Roland Soong offers his perspective (in English): ESWN

Fishy names?

Mister Bijou recalls once standing mystified in front of a fishmongers in Leeds market puzzling over Scarborough Woof. It was, it turned out, catfish.

Later, in Paris, one of Mister Bijou's friends, who had a friend who worked at the wholesale market at Rungis, would come home on a Saturday evening with a langouste. It looked like a lobster (homard). But it wasn't a lobster. Because it was a langouste.

What was it? We weren't sure. But it always tasted most excellent. Which is why in those pre-internet days, we ate well but in ignorance. Today? Zip, zip! Langouste = crayfish, rock lobster, spiny lobster (although it is not a member of the lobster family).

Nomenclature can be mighty vexatious.

Actually, there is something to be said for eating in ignorance. Eating is so culturally bound (Marmite, anyone?).

As it is, hereabouts, there have been times when if Mister Bijou had known exactly what he was eating when he was eating, he would not have eaten it. But local friends were eating it with gusto . . . So he took the plunge, which is how he has eaten some really tasty things he wouldn't otherwise have eaten. Granted he has eaten other things he wouldn't eat again. So what?

What is it? It's something from inside the pig!

In short, trust yr dining companions, but read the label.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Eye | Land | View

(click on image to enlarge)
Building site, worker health, safety, and wage mediation

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Eye | Land | View

(click on image to enlarge)
Late evening, public pier

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hong Kong: Long Hair teams up with plastic surgery clinics?

One of the most famous faces in Hong Kong, Che Guevara toting T-shirt activist, self-described Trotskyist, member of April Fifth Action Group, and popularly-elected member for LegCo representing New Territories East, Leung Kwok-hung (梁國雄), aka Long Hair (長毛), is considering a cosmetic makeover.

Yes, it's true.

For a sympathetic and knowledgeable follow-up to that Apple Daily story of last Saturday, try the most excellent Daisann McLane on the life and looks of Long Hair: Learning Cantonese

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Greenhouse on a little island in the South China Sea

Update. Whoopsy-daisy! Sincerest apologies all round, the website address is:

(click photo to enlarge)
Today, midday, friend Jude opened her shop The Greenhouse in the first back street of a little island in the South China Sea.

What's in store?

Health foods.

That's to say, goodies including freshly-baked wholegrain and wholewheat baps, rolls and loaves as well as assorted vegetarian and meat pies, pasties and pastries.

And quiche lorraines (hooray!).

Plus, organic and pesticide-free white and brown rice, mushrooms, and eye-wateringly expensive organic, pesticide-free vegetables sourced from one of the handful of organic farms now operating in Hong Kong's New Territories.

There is a website, but it is very much Under Construction:

Alors, qu'est-ce qu'on mange ce soir, cherie?

Quiche lorraine (accompanied by non-Greenhouse, soak in water for an hour before cooking, semi-pesticide-free green beans and mushrooms).

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Jean-Luc Godard: Alphaville

Pour le weekend, un délice illicite.

L'amour, c'est quoi?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Mass Incident in Dazhu County, Sichuan

This mass incident in China is not the latest in a long series of the Chinese masses finally rising and striking back against the injustice of corrupt and greedy officials who think nothing of seizing land and evicting people.

Instead, this mass incident is about the injustice of arrogant, corrupt and greedy officials, dereliction of duty, abuse of power, a 16-year-old female hotel worker, and allegations of a viscious and ugly sexcrime that led to her death..

The girl, Yang Li, who may have been a karaoke hostess, died on 30 December 2006. The masses' patience finally snapped on 17 January 2007 and as a result the Nest Business Hotel at Xinhua Plaza, Zhuyang town, Dazhu county, Sichuan province, went up in flames.

Report, translations, photos and even youtube: EastSouthWestNorth

Eye | Land | View

(click on image to enlarge)
An overcast Friday afternoon in January; the helipad of a little island in the South China Sea. A Government Flying Service helicopter comes in to medivac a patient from the local cottage hospital to a major public hospital in town.

The aircrew, which usually includes a Flying Nurse or Flying Doctor, wear very cool uniforms and those Top Gun helmets. Whirlybirds are go!

Anyway, whoever they collected didn't need a saline drip or oxygen, just the usual stretcher, blanket, rubber cover, and noise reduction ear muffs.

Whoever . . . we hope you Get Well Soon!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Eye | Land | View

(click on image to enlarge)
On the waterfront

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bob Dylan: Highlands

Bob Dylan in a rare performance of his sad yet whimsical epic narrative Highlands. Last track on the "it's not dark yet / but it's getting there" album Time Out of Mind, Highlands clocks in at 16 minutes. Here, Dylan does it in a sprightly 9 minutes 47 seconds. Watch it while you can: youtube

Highlands lyrics: bobdylan

Hong Kong: Legislative Council Questions

Some of the questions (and answers) from the LegCo meeting of Wednesday, 17 January 2007:

LCQ3: Assistance for persons in need during cold spells
LCQ9: Counterfeit Renminbi banknote
LCQ20 : Regulating village vehicles

Reading matters

Lurking in the Blogosphere of the 1840s -- Hotlinks, sockpuppets, and the history of reading, by Meredith L. McGill: common-place

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Connexions? We have connections (update)

Connexions? Noun, chiefly British: dictionary

It was only after the earthquake off the southern tip of Taiwan on 26 December 2006 severed IDD and Internet links that users hereabouts learned most international telecommunications are routed eastwards along undersea cables through the Luzon Channel and onto (and through) the USA -- regardless of final destination.

For the American security services, this long-established eastbound routing has, since at least post-9/11, proved to be a a mighty useful facility in their so-called War on Terror. How so? Because of the routing of a good chunk of international telecom traffic through continental USA they are able to scan and sniff most such telecom traffic emanating from the Far East, easy-peasy. But I digress.

In the Far East, connections on Ye Olde Internet have been restored.

Yet accessing some web sites can be grindingly slow -- most especially of an evening when local traffic congestion is at its most congested. It doesn't look as if things are going to improve any time soon:
Workers couldn't apply any electrical technologies or dispatch a robot, as the damaged cables are 4,000 meters deep under the water, said John Walters, general manager with Global Marine, one participant in the repair.
It will be a long time before Internet access is fully recovered between Asian and the US as workers are using "technologies of the 19th century to solve problems of the 21st century," said today.
Workers have to adopt a method used in the 19th century to identify the location of the slender cables, whose diameter is about 21 centimeters, Walters said.
No single cable has been fully repaired till now, Walters said.
Read more? Repair lags over poor equipment, weather: Shanghai Daily Thanks, Gavin!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hong Kong: Year of the Pig -- postage stamps

What breeds of pigs? Haven't a clue. All Mister Bijou knows is Hong Kong's Year of the Pig postage stamps feature four plump pigs and, according to Hongkong Post, a "spirited" piglet. Stamps available 4 February 2007. Details here: hkpost

This year, Chinese Lunar New Year is a bit later than usual in the Western calendar. Chinese Lunar New Year Day is 18 February 2007. Oh, Chinese Lunar New Year holiday period hereabouts is Saturday, 17 February to Tuesday, 20 February 2007 (inclusive).

Hong Kong: Tunnel vision

Fascinating exploration around Hong Kong's Central Business District and Government offices:
Hong Kong’s financial and government leaders have traditionally been based in the Central district, so it’s no surprise that the area was given several air raid tunnel shelters in the lead up to the second world war. Can you still see any sign of them? Let’s take a look.
Air Raid Precaution (ARP) tunnels in Central: batgung

Saturday, January 13, 2007

George Carlin: Modern Man

For the weekend, a guilty pleasure.

George Carlin (69) is in fine form, he's a modern man:

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Eye | Land | View

(click on photo to enlarge)
Night time, public pier

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hong Kong: Legislative Council Question Time

Some of the questions (and answers) from the LegCo meeting of Wednesday, 10 January 2007:

LCQ3: Three-pronged strategy adopted to combat street deception activities
LCQ14 : Roads works at Tung Chung Road and South Lantau Road
LCQ19 : Designation of marine park plan

Eye | Land | View

(click on photo to enlarge)
Once upon a time on a little island in the South China Sea, old people and parcels were treated much the same: ferried about on crude trolleys, like the one on the left.

Thankfully, those days are no more. For people, anyway. Wheelchairs have become commonplace (usually powered by a Filipino), while the more affluent and independent have the run of the island on their electric-powered wheelchairs. Good for them!

Oh. that electric Esso "truck"? Used for delivering LPG bottles, the primary energy source for firing up the wok and other cooking needs.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Hong Kong: Grass Temperature at Ta Kwu Ling

Late afternoon, the harbour of a little island in the South China Sea. Fine, dry, low humidity, blue sky, warm, a day to be out and about. . .

But with the prompt setting of the sun (around 6pm), the temperature plummets -- from 17.3C to what is now 11.9C.

There are colder places hereabouts. For instance, there's somewhere called Ta Kwu Ling. Apparently, it's in the New Territories. It's not yet midnight and the temperature there has already dropped to 4.5C. Maybe there'll be frost there in the small hours?

Why Ta Kwu Ling? Why so cold? Google -> Wikipedia -> Ta Kwu Ling

Hong Kong Observatory: Grass temperature at Ta Kwu Ling

NB: "This webpage displays the grass temperature during the period 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. the following day. It is updated every 10 minutes. The grass temperature during the period 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. is not displayed. The measurement may not truly reflect the grass temperature due to direct exposure of the sensor to the sun."

Since frost is so rare in Hong Kong, it is a matter of some import -- people will drive out in the middle of the night to places such as Ta Kwu Ling or even climb one of the many peaks in the New Territories to view the frost, touch it, photograph it. You might do too if you grew up in a place which is mostly warm.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Postcard from the edge (bis)

Further to this previous post. Here are two other members of the Brighton branch of a little island in the South China Sea on their hols in the Carpathian Mountains. Thanks, Gavin!

Zoe Keating: Legions

For the weekend, a guilty pleasure.

Zoe Keating, cellist:

There's more in a similar vein on her album One Cello X 16: Natoma: Zoe Keating

Friday, January 05, 2007

Life of Brian

Not Monty Python's Life of Brian, but the other Brian, Brian Clough. Cloughy the soccer player, alcoholic, football manager of Hartlepool United, Derby County, Brighton & Hove Albion, Leeds United (for 44 days in 1974) and, of course, manager of Nottingham Forest for eighteen years.

Now this:
Released without fanfare in the summer, David Peace's novel The Damned Utd became the sleeper hit of the year. Tracing Brian C[l]ough's 44-day reign at Leeds United this tour de force offers a compelling insight into the mind of a footballing genius, proud father and legendary drinker.
That's the opener -- complete with a Gruaniad typo -- for a great review of the book The Damned Utd: Guardian

Thanks, Fat Buddha!

Eye | Land | View

(click on photo to enlarge)
One of the three sets of doors of the fire station on a little island in the South China Sea.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Hong Kong: A different pair of glasses

Hong Kong labour activist Au Loong-Yu was born in Hong Kong in 1956. Au describes growing up in Hong Kong, Hong Kong's Maoists, Trotskyists and anarchists in the 1970s, June 4 1989, the impact of Chinese sovereignty on the former British colony, Pacific Rim protests against the WTO, and mobilizing around the 2008 Olympics. A taster:
British rule in the postwar era can be divided into two periods either side of 1971. In the earlier period, there was a form of spatial apartheid—the Tai Ping Shan area was restricted to Westerners—and conditions were much more oppressive: working hours were long, wages low and strike activity ruthlessly suppressed by the colonial government. National oppression took a very visible form: nearly all high-ranking posts were occupied by Brits, and English was the only official language; at school, we would be refused permission to go to the bathroom if we didn’t ask in English.

The British clamped down hard on the labour movement after the 1967 events—perhaps 4,000 or 5,000 trade unionists were sacked, and thousands put in prison. This took a toll from which the Maoist unions never recovered. Nevertheless, by the early 70s, pressure had begun to mount on the British, both from within and from without, to make some reforms in order to maintain any legitimacy. Hong Kong students and social activists were agitating for Chinese language rights, and against the possible transfer of Diao Yu Island to Japan. A key turning point came on 7 July 1971, when the colonial government harshly repressed a demonstration by radical nationalist youth movements. A wave of further protests ensued, and the government was forced for the first time to permit demonstrations. After that student groups mobilized with some success against official corruption, and in 1973 pressured the government into forming an Independent Commission, which continues to function. Externally, China’s rising international status — its assumption of a Security Council seat in 1971, Nixon’s visit and so on — was an important factor pushing the British into granting limited political freedoms.
New Left Review

Postcard from the edge

(click on photo to enlarge)
Some members of the Brighton branch of a little island in the South China Sea enjoying the tail end of 2006. Where? In the Carpathian Mountians, Translyvania. One of them even has a travel leaflet. That's Romania, right? Thanks, Gavin!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Desolation Row: They're selling postcards of the hanging

A Hanging, by George Orwell:
It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working — bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming — all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned — reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone — one mind less, one world less.
Orwell library

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Eye | Land | View

(click on photo to enlarge)
Still life

Monday, January 01, 2007

Hong Kong: I Ching, Book of Changes

Hexagram 54, 歸妹 Kuei Mei / The Marrying Maiden -> Hexagram 1, 乾 Ch'ien / The Creative
Source: afpc

Bonne année!

Tout le monde! Bonne année!