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Simon World

East meets Westerner

Published: 2008-04-21T10:52:13+08:00


Hail to the elite?


Does anyone else find the weekend Australian gabfest for 1,002 of the country's best and brightest disturbing? I see three main problems: 1. Out of population of 20-odd million, why are the ideas of this select group important enough for a government to devote time to? 2. Isn't it the job of political parties and governments to come up with these ideas, rather than outsourcing them? 3. Isn't there a touch of irony that it's the Labor Party that's organised this elitist exercise? And surely the biggest irony is that in this modern democracy we are getting government policy by unelected committee? But what do I know, I wasn't invited....



Tragedy strikes in Hong Kong:Australians in Hong Kong are finding expatriate life harder to cope with due to a shortage of one of their favourite foods - Vegemite, a news report said today. Supplies of the popular spread have run out across the city of 6.9 million, where tens of thousands of Australian expatriate business people, diplomats and their families live...British-made yeast extract Marmite, which looks similar to Vegemite but has a different taste, is still available in Hong Kong but many Australians refuse to accept it as a substitute.Let the conspiracy theories begin....

Ridiculous editorial d'jour


Not many bother to read the SCMP's editorials and with good reason. Today's one on speed guns has a couple of gems:Speeding is not the most serious traffic offence. But as it puts lives at risk, police have to do their utmost to prevent it.Can the SCMP list for us the seriousness of traffic offences in order? I assume jaywalking is nearer the bottom, driving fast into a crowd near the top, but the order in the middle is vague. Is speeding better or worse than not wearing seat belts? Or broken headlights?If this means using the latest technology available, so be it. Technology itself cannot prevent reckless driving on our roads, though.Speed guns don't save people, people do. Nice of the SCMP to concede that using "latest" technology (Wikipedia tells me it was first used in Chicago in 1954, which admittedly is several hundred years after the Gutenberg...

Hong Kong's clean air solution


The winter monsoon has brought both cooler weather and clearer skies to Hong Kong this past week. It is commonly accepted the air quality in this city is getting worse...and the clearer skies have shown how beautiful the city can be if only the government would seriously address the issue of pollution. At the same time the NPC has decided that 2017 and 2020 Hong Kong might be ready for universal suffrage in votes for the Chief Executive and Legco...but there's no chance for 2012. The carrot keeps getting dangled just a little further out of reach so that the pro-democracy parties can keep themselves mired in their dead-end rhetoric while their support continues to collapse. Meanwhile the pro-Beijing camp continue to find ways to further their intensely close ties with China's powers-that-be through declarations of fealty and loyalty, such as hosting the equestrian events for the Olympics this...

Book Review: We Deserve Better by Hemlock


A recent change in circumstances has meant that posting to this site is likely to be far more infrequent going forward...whether that is a good or bad thing I'll leave for you to judge. As part of my holiday season reading I've just read Hong Kong diarist (blogger seems to prosaic) Hemlock's We Deserve Better: Hong Kong since 1997. Fans of his website looking for more of the witty and satirical ins-and-outs of daily Hong Kong life are not going to find more of the same: there's no Winky Ip or Odell in these pages. Instead this book is a calm and flowing history and political analysis of the Big Lychee over the past decade. It is no surprise to find that Hemlock's is an insightful, thoughtful witness and commentator in addition to a diarist without peer. The first 12 chapters are a potted modern history of the first...

Regina Ip


I know this democracy thing is a bit messy, having to mingle with the masses and all, but could Regina Ip look any more awkward in her public appearances? Best of all, we get to do this election all over again next year....

Hong Kong Halloween


When and how did Halloween become such a big deal here? I can understand why Park n Shop and Wellcome want to flog as much as possible, but how does importing this pagan celebration fit in to the city's cultural landscape? Will we see politicians standing by the road side with a pumpkin and will anyone be able to tell the difference? Tonight I'll have the pleasure of taking my kids around to get their body weight in lollies and chocolate, which they will thoroughly enjoy. I'll also have the pleasure of having to ask numerous young adults WTF they think they're doing sticking their hands out for's often hard to tell if they're dressed up. Meanwhile everyone else will be trying to scare the living daylights out of young kids. I suppose that's the deal: nightmares for candy. Couldn't we come up with something better?...

Stupid HK things


Why does the SCMP insist on using the most inane breakout boxes in history, simply so they can have a number in large type in the middle of an article? Typically the number is a repeat of some factoid from the attached article. For example in today's world section the box says "The numer of cars it would take to produce the equivalent emissions in a year: 440,000" in talking about the California forest fires. The article has the same information in paragraph three...but the editors assume you won't get that far. How about this: number of useless factoid boxes with numbers in today's SCMP? Secondly, what's with the idea of politicians standing by the road side and waving to speeding motorists? If that's how politicians here promote themselves then one needs to reconsider their marketing techniques. Have there been any wave inspired car accidents yet? Has anyone driven...

Voting Tsang style


Sure it's been done to death (pardon the pun) but The Don's no retracted view of the Cultural Revolution as extreme democracy proves something interesting. First what the Don said:Mr Tsang was speaking to government radio RTHK on Friday. "People can go to the extreme like what we saw during the Cultural Revolution. For instance, in China, when people take everything into their own hands, then you cannot govern the place," he said. When challenged that the Cultural Revolution was not really an example of democracy, Mr Tsang said "[It] was the people taking power into their own hands. Now that is what you mean by democracy if you take it to the full swing."This falls back on a typical fallacy: that democracy means "the people taking power into their own hands". If I'm not mistake, that's anarchy, a state that more accurately describes the Cultural Revolution. Democracy...



Apologies for the lackidasical posting...there's some life changing events going on. Catching up on some reading and came across David Webb's Incredibubble article...go read it and start worrying. Bubbles are fun to watch up when they burst they tend to make a mess....

Notes from a "free" economy


Hong Kong's newest "free" paper reports on the world's "freest" economy...where the Government has spent the past year or so buying shares in the Hong Kong stock exchange, ostensibly to protect the exchange from foreign predators and enhance co-operation with mainland exchanges. The government has invested about HK$10 billion of the public's money, only a decade after the last, more massive intervention, in the market. Cato, please note. Update: HKEx director David Webb isn't impressed....

Mattel are over-reacting


Mattel is recalling yet another batch of Chinese manufactured toys....but if only they'd asked I've got proof the toys are safe. Recent studies with dogs and Barbie dolls have shown that consisent chewing of Mattel products does NOT lead to any health problems. And if the kids are out there licking their Barbies then perhaps whatever lead leaks into their systems will teach them a lesson. In the good old days a bit of lead was considered a part of any healthy kid's diet....

The price is right


The Standard announces it is soon to be free, with the catchy slogan "first past the post"...gettit....which now means at least one of Hong Kong's English language newspapers are priced correctly....



"Records smashed" reports The Standard, a newspaper who not co-incidentally largely relies on the level of the Hang Seng for its own financial health. The Hang Seng has managed to go from 19000 back up to 23000 in the space of a week, largely thanks to news that China is to allow the hordes of mainlanders (previously despised, now welcomed with open arms) and their wallets to spend as freely on Hong Kong shares as they do on their own. The only problem is a small one...the Tianjin authorities haven't quite got the paper work sorted out yet. This troubling detail means the Hong Kong market has managed to go up in anticipation of the hordes rather than because of them. And no-one has yet asked an obvious question: why is it that the Bank of China branch in Tianjin is the only one on the mainland that gets...

Good times


Certain parts of the Hong Kong economy are expecting a boost this week, courtesy of the US military:Wan Chai rolled out the red carpet yesterday as bar owners eyed a bonanza of up to HK$78 million from the 5,000 visiting sailors aboard the USS Nimitz. The nuclear-powered supercarrier, one of the largest warships in the world, steamed into Hong Kong yesterday, and ship officers said crew members were expected to each spend between US$800 and US$2,000 (HK$6,240 to HK$15,600) during their four-day stay. However, the crew has been advised to strictly adhere to the 11pm curfew and the fact that the legal drinking age for American sailors is now 21.Let's see...a bunch of 19 year old sailors who aren't allowed to's going to be a busy week down in East Central....