Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bees make money. But in honey?

Beehive populations crash and burn in the US, with worrying repercussions. Almonds may be one of the culprits as US beekepers earn more pollinating crops than making honey:

California’s almond crop, by far the biggest in the world, now draws more than half of the country’s bee colonies in February. The crop has been both a boon to commercial beekeeping and a burden, as pressure mounts for the industry to fill growing demand. Now spread over 580,000 acres stretched across 300 miles of California’s Central Valley, the crop is expected to grow to 680,000 acres by 2010.
Beekeepers now earn many times more renting their bees out to pollinate crops than in producing honey. Two years ago a lack of bees for the California almond crop caused bee rental prices to jump, drawing beekeepers from the East Coast.

Honeybees Vanish, Leaving Keepers in Peril: (registration-free link) NYT

Hong Kong: Legislative Council Questions + Budget for 2007-08

Some of the questions (and answers) from the LegCo meeting of Wednesday, 28 February 2007:

LCQ3: Seismic resisting capability of buildings
LCQ17: Eco-Coffins
LCQ19: Landscaping and slope stabilisation works

And -> Budget (2007-08) highlights

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

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On the waterfront, nighthawks and night-hawkers

Monday, February 26, 2007

Hong Kong: I Ching, Book of Changes

Hexagram 22, 賁 Pi / Grace -> Hexagram 17 隨 Sui / Following
Source: afpc

Sunday, February 25, 2007

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Saiwan public pier

Saturday, February 24, 2007

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Village square

The Shipping Forecast

For the weekend, a guilty pleasure.

Rockall, Malin, Hebrides. Southwest gale 8 to storm 10, veering west, severe gale 9 to violent storm 11. Rain, then squally showers. Poor, becoming moderate for a time:

Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Hong Kong: total eclipse of the moon

For those who stay awake on Saturday night or wake up real early Sunday morning, there's the chance to view a total eclipse of the moon.
Moonrise 5:57 p.m. (3 March) East
Moon enters penumbra 4:16 a.m. (4 March) West
Moon enters umbra 5:30 a.m. (4 March) West
Total eclipse begins 6:44 a.m. (4 March) West
Moonset 6:46 a.m. (4 March) West
Middle of eclipse 7:21 a.m. (4 March) West
Total eclipse ends 7:58 a.m. (4 March) West-northwest
Moon leaves umbra 9:12 a.m. (4 March) West-northwest
Moon leaves penumbra 10:25 a.m. (4 March) Northwest
Weather permitting.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

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On the waterfront, one more from day three of Chinese New Year

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Reading matters

The Undertaker's Tally, or The Long March of Donald Rumsfeld: how Rumsfeld changed our world for the worse.
By Roger Morris.
Part 1, Sharp Elbows
Part 11, The Power and the Glory

Eye | Land | View

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On the waterfront, day three of Chinese New Year

Hong Kong: Wage survey

English-language summary of a report in Apple Daily:
The Clothing Industry, Clerical And Retail Trade Employees General Union interviewed 227 store service workers, stock clerks and cashiers and found that Watson paid HK$27, Manning paid HK$25, ParknShop, OK, Wellcome and 7-11 paid between HK$20-22 per hour. An interesting feature is that the wages are not uniform across Hong Kong for the same store chain. The highest rates are for the Manning and 7-11 in Tsimshatsui at HK$30 and the lowest at HK$16 at the 7-11 in the Tin Tsz estate in Tin Shui Wai.

Why would 7-11 pay HK$30 in Tsimshatsui but HK$16 in Tin Shui Wai?
More: ESWN

Monday, February 19, 2007

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On the waterfront, day two of Chinese New Year

Sunday, February 18, 2007

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First day of Year of the Pig . . . Kung Hei, Kung Hei, Kung Hei Fat Choi (Congratulations and be Prosperous)!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

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Fashion note: the ladies (?) bicycle with shopping basket and pillion is not only a mode of transport but also a subverted signifier on a little island in the South China Sea. For that type of bike is much favoured hereabouts by those males who also tend to sport dragon tattoos and masculine as well as muscular attitudes.

For reasons best known to itself, the banyan tree at the lower end of the square is shedding its leaves.

Asha Bhosle: Lucky Lips

For the weekend, a guilty pleasure.

The Bolshoi mix:

Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Hong Kong: Bun Festival, a clarification

Bun Festival upholding both tradition and safety, it says:
press release

Where the hell is Matt?

Wonderful, just wonderful:

Thanks for the reminder, Nick!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

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Late afternoon on a very overcast day, on the waterfront

Whither Asian Newspapers?

Are Asian Newspapers Under Siege?
By Doug Crets: Asia Sentinel

Bob Dylan: Theme Time Radio Hour

Dylan continues to crank out his radio show, TTRH. So far, one of Mister Bijou's favourite's is Countdown.

That show kicks off with the ska classic Prince Buster's The Ten Commandments and thenceforth countdowns to Zero Willpower by Irma Thomas. In between? A bunch of other musical numbers . . .

For Countdown (and a whole bunch of other shows): patrick crosley

While you're there, you might like to check out his blog, too: pc blog

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

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Late evening, 14 February 2007

Reading matters

Notable Quotables, by Louis Menand: New Yorker

Connexions? We have connections!

Connexions? Noun, chiefly British: dictionary

What a difference a day makes. Twenty-four hours. Yesterday evening, wandering the Internet was achieved with speeds little better than 56K.

This afternoon? 2.53 Mbps.

At 6.20pm. 'Course things will slow down a tad during the evening as it's peak traffic time hereabouts. Still, that'll do nicely. Test: speed test

Repair of submarine cable systems damaged by earthquakes completed: press release

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

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Just around the corner from Mister Bijou's bijou residence grows an antique, sacred banyan tree.

In anticipation of Chinese New Year (18 February 2007), the tree's base has been decorated with peacock feathers, statuary of various Chinese gods, incense sticks, votive offerings, a chrysanthemum flower, foliage (unindentified), lighted candle, and seasonal and festive banners. Which Mister Bijou is unable to read as he is functionally illiterate. Any offers?

For several evenings, the whole thing had its own fairy lights and was lit up and sparkled and twinkled. Sadly, the ensemble is now cast into darkness as a result of some electrical mishap. So it goes.

Hong Kong: Bun Festival to go Plastic!

Plastic Fantastic . . . Today's South China Morning Post front page carries a report (pay wall, no link) that beggars belief.

As of this coming month of May, a little island in the South China Sea's Bun Festival will be featuring plastic buns on the Bun Tower. Yes, plastic buns. Lots and lots of plastic buns.

Out with the organic, in with the synthetic!

Ah, the synthetic aesthetic! And the utility! For according to Islands District Councillor chairman Daniel Lam Wai-keung, "[the buns] would look nice and create less mess."

That's what Mister Bijou's mum said the first time she brought home a plastic Christmas tree. Life went downhill ever after.

But, wait. The SCMP further reports the plastic bun decision was the result of brainstorming by the Council and Government's Leisrure and Cultural Services Department. Brainstorming, you say? Er, well done everyone.

Beaucoup de buns? Visualise between 8,000-10,000 imitation plastic buns. No doubt with an eye on the environmental lobbies Mr Lam hastens to add, "as long as [the buns] were in good condition they might be reused."

Or, not.

Mr Lam is a man of the moment, and has no known link to any pecuniary interest in plastic bun manufactory. He is, however, a political operator and man of vision: as well as being Chairman of the Islands District Council he is also Member of CPPCC Shenzhen Municipal Committee; Vice Chairman of the well-known environmentalist heavy weight the Heung Yee Kuk, New Territories; the Chairman, Peng Chau Rural Committee; and Member of the Selection Committee of the HKSAR of the People's Republic of China.

Anyway, perhaps words of support are in order from the toiling masses? How about other blue sky thinking to further improve the Bun Festival? What about other out of the box suggestions? Or otherwise . . .

Emails to SCMP: letters at scmp at com. (NB: scmp requires yr full name, address and contact number).

Emails (please be polite) to Mr Lam and other members of Islands District Council: IDC members

Mister B is sure overseas input welcome at the above.

Plus, comments (below) most welcome!

Monday, February 12, 2007

And the Winners Are?

Winners Gallery 2007: World Press Photos

Hong Kong: avian flu

Just prior to Christmas 2006, a Scaly-breasted Munia bird dropped dead in Leighton Road, Causeway Bay. Since when a Crested Goshawk in Shek Kip Mei, a Japanese White-eye in San Po Kong, a House Crow in Sham Shui Po, and a White-backed Munia in less than sylvian Mong Kok have also dropped dead. There may have been a few others . . . Mister Bijou is not an obsessive collector of dead bird data.

All those wild birds tested positive for H5NI. What is interesting is that everyone in Hong Kong continue to lead lives as normal. Why? Back in 1997, people died (18 cases, six deaths) as a result of H5NI infection. Extensive studies showed that all those infected had had direct contact with diseased poultry. But even before the evidence was out, people stopped buying live, chilled and frozen chickens, ducks, what-have-you. Meanwhile, the Government ordered the slaughter of a millions of chickens in factory farms in New Territories. Imports stopped, too. End of story.

Then there was the dreadful SARS crisis in Hong Kong in spring 2003: a savage pneumonia-like respiratory illness that often proved fatal. Where did that come from? How was it spread? What was it? To begin with, nobody knew.

So, panic in the supermarkets, expats flying out their families. For the rest of us, there was stoicism, face masks, and don't touch anything in the public sphere: escalator guardrails, lift buttons, door knobs, ATM machine buttons. . .

With all that past experience under our collective belt, Mister Bijou speculates Hong Kong's partially unenfranchised citizens have since been keeping an eye on Dr Martin Williams's excellent forum "H5N1 Poultry Flu and migratory birds". Hence the lack of any panic about the current dead wild birds. For the good doctor has, after all, been banging on since 2005 that poultry birds (and the trade in such birds) are the main vector for the spread of H5NI to humans: Dr Martin Williams

What's more, Peter Melchett (who he?) also has some interesting things to say about about agri-business, hi-tech farming and bird flu in today's Guardian: A wild bird chase

Eye | Land | View

Lanterns lighten a really overcast day

Hong Kong: I Ching, Book of Changes

Hexagram 7, 師 Shih / The Army -> Hexagram 35, 晉 Chin / Progress
Source: afpc

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Imogen Heap: Hide and Seek

For the weekend, a guilty pleasure.

Have a great weekend.

Friday, February 09, 2007

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Cloud patrol

Attention, cloud spotters! The Cloud Appreciation Society

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Deep throat

Gyuto Tantric Monks, sacred chants of Tibet: bbc worldmusic
Gyuto, a brief history: Gyuto

Gyuto Monks, Yamantaka (8min 58 secs) streaming audio: Wisconsin
Gyuto Monks, Mahakala (28min 20 secs), streaming audio: Gyuto

Who’s attacking

China's capitalist roaders are suspected of trying to block access to Marxist texts: NYT (registration-free link) attack log mirror site (UK)

There's heaps more, but this is some of what's in their archives . . .
Walter Benjamin: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Guy Debord: The Society of the Spectacle
Christopher Hill: The English Revolution 1640
Lu Xun: The True Story of Ah-Q
Karl Marx & Frederick Engels: Communist Manifesto

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Hong Kong: South China Morning Post drama continues

Robert Mountfort was SCMP's photo editor until he was dismissed in June 2006 by the apparently humour-impaired Editor-in-Chief, Mark Clifford . . . Since when there have been a bunch more sackings and, erh, "resignations".

The latest South China Morning Post casualty?
Tuesday, Gracia Wong, a 19-year veteran SCMP librarian, was notified that she had been fired nine months short of her 20-year pension payout as a “mandatory redundancy with immediate effect.”
Nice one, SCMP.

SCMP's continuing turmoil: Asia Sentinel

For newer/previous posts, please click on scmp in Labels.

Hong Kong: Legislative Council Questions

Some of the questions (and answers) from the LegCo meeting of Wednesday, 7 February 2007:

LCQ1: Natural gas supply strategy
LCQ5: Seismic resisting capability of buildings
LCQ19: Organic food

Eye | Land | View

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Pak Tai Temple, hoop dreams

Hong Kong: Wordjazz for Stevie

For many years Jonathan Chamberlain lived on a little island in the South China Sea. But he doesn't live here anymore.

Since when, however, he has written a memoir about eight of those years. Tumultous years they were too. For those were the years he shared with Stevie, his profoundly handicapped daughter, and wife Bernie, soon after taken away by a terminal cancer.

Two excerpts from the memoir: Wordjazz For Stevie. Thanks, Jonathan!

Plus, Jonathan's Fighting Cancer: A Survival Guide

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Eye | Land | View

Late afternoon, sitting out area

Hong Kong Copy News

Hong Kong's on-line satirical roundup of Hong Kong news -- Hong Kong Copy News -- delivered in glorious hand-crafted 2D animation.

Copy News took a break over Christmas and New Year, but since mid-January it's been news, news and more news: Scaly-breasted Munia, Soko Island, Nostoc (and more): hong kong copy news

Monday, February 05, 2007

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One of the friendliest of the mostly friendly dogs on a little island in the South China Sea, Juno

Hong Kong: I Ching, Book of Changes

Hexagram 46, 升 Shêng / Pushing Upward -> Hexagram 9, 小 畜 Hsiao Ch'u / The Taming Power of the Small
Source: afpc

Saturday, February 03, 2007

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Harbour, Saturday afternoon. A cormorant? Think so. But Wikipedia lists all sorts of cormorants. Anonymous, do you know which variety is this one? Thanks!

Please see Comment. Thanks, Anonymous!

Alain Bashung: Volutes

For the weekend, a guilty pleasure:

Volutes? Curlicues/spirals. In one superbly timed take: the singer, his song, harmonica, frisky girlfriend (marginally NSFW), a roadside, toke of a smoke, some aeroplanes . . .

Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Hong Kong: ParknShop shopping card

Picked up an application form for the recently launched ParknShop shopping card, "It's FREE! Apply now!"

The supermarket chain's claimed benefits for shoppers includes lower prices on "Exclusive Member Prices", which is interesting.

For instance, a one litre tetrapak of Devondale New Zealand UHT Skimmed Milk, usually retails at HK$15.50. Currently, it is on "Price Watch" at HK$12.90. With the shopping card, make that HK$12.40. Buy two? HK$18.80. Buy two with the shopping card? HK$17.80.

Prices which are academic, however, as the local ParknShop is out of stock.

At minimum, ParknShop require yr name, ID card number, address, and a contact phone number. There's also another page in the leaflet/ application where you can volunteer all sorts of personal info so they can offer you personalised offers.

Yeah, well.

What else? "Terms and Conditions" (in Chinese and English) are the usual but in the smallest type available. Mister Bijou can make out the characters in Chinese, but the English looks like a thin stream of data. Even viewed through Mister Bijou's Sunday best spectacles.

Mister B challenges anyone to read the English and tell me what it says. But there's no need; it's on their website: parknshop

Ha! Section 10: English Version Prevails

Let's see, section 9.3d gives them carte blanche to use yr details "by us, our subsidiaries, our affiliates and/or Our Partners" and section 9.5 allows for transfer of yr details "to Hutchison Whampoa Limited, Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited, their respective subsidiaries and any company in which the same has an interest (collectively "Hutchison Group")".

Not forgetting the standard (section 9.4): "You further agree that we may disclose and transfer (whether in Hong Kong or abroad) to our agents, contractors, any telecommunications operations, any third party collection agencies, any credit reference agencies, any security agencies, any credit providers, banks, financial institutions, any other persons under a duty of confidentiality to us and any of our actual or proposed assignees or transferees of our rights with respect to you to use, disclose, hold, process, retain or transfer such Personal Data for the purpose mentioned above."

Data mining, don't you just love it?

Mister Bijou will apply and supply the minimum.

Then go over to the other supermarket chain, Wellcome, and apply for one of their recently launched shopping cards, too.

Hong Kong: Pottinger Street

History of one of the oldest and first streets of colonial Hong Kong + couple of photos of Pottinger Street in the 1930s + location of the 1940-41 Air Raid Precaution shelter + link to some of the marvellous Hedda Morrison photos of Hong Kong as it was in 1946: batgung

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Eye | Land | View

Looking north

Hong Kong: Literary Mayhem

Storm in a literary teapot featuring a local self-publicist/writer and a local publisher/on-line book retailer. At stake? Pride, honour, power and the Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival and Man Asia Literary Prize. What else? A conversation secretly taped in an up-market coffee shop: Asia Sentinel

Hong Kong: smog, smog, smog

These are reading for the Air Pollution Index . . . at midnight (00.00), 1 February 2007. Presumably, the air available for living things on a little island in the South China Sea is of slightly better quality. Presumably . . .

High, High, High Very High, Very High, Very High.

(a) Nitrogen dioxide
(b) Respirable suspended particulates
(c) Current API
(d) Past 24 hours (scroll down for charts): 24API
Environmental Protection Department (ha!)