Roundup for Week 7

Tuesday 22 February 2011, 4.15pm HKT


Roundup for the week of 14-20 February 2011.

A lot of things happened, a lot of thinking and remembering went on, a lot of tl;dr nonsense as a result.

* * *

THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS

(Image: Social Arts Network)

Seven weeks into 2011 and it looks like the Year of the Robot Bunny just got real, especially in the Arab world, signalling more horrors in store:

CBS journalist Lara Logan for ’60 Minutes’ was gang-raped by a mob in downtown Cairo on the day Mubarak was ousted, suggesting that the narrative painted by the media is false and something else entirely different is going on in the Mideast. [via Atlas Shrugs]

Africa’s worst dictator, Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, takes over as chairman of the African Union, an omen of dark days ahead for the Dark Continent. [via afrol News]

Anti-government rallies are a-rising in Kyrgyzstan [via Al Jazeera TV, 19/2], a development that has the potential to spill over into the Chinese province of Xinjiang.

Good Ole’ USA is removing any doubt that it’s moving towards a hate-filled, vigilante society:

South Dakota tried to legalise justifiable homicide of abortion providers, effectively legalising domestic terrorism and murder. [via AlterNet, Mother Jones]

… and won’t be long before others go down the same road:

British PM David Cameron says multiculturalism imperils the UK and must be reversed, even if only for security reasons. [via Doug Geivett]

… and the picture looks less than salutary when you add this to the equation:

The World Bank’s chief economist says global food prices are rising to dangerous levels and 1 billion people in the world have been pushed into extreme poverty since June 2010, mainly through speculation of food commodities by financial institutions. [via Al Jazeera TV, 19/2]

P.S. The Naked Listener’s Weblog covered this topic two weeks ago [see Week 6 roundup].

If money solves most problems, how then to solve money problems?

The International Monetary Fund issued a report saying SDRs (or Special Drawing Rights) could be made a possible replacement for the volatile U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency and help stabilise the global financial system. [via CNN Money]

(Methinks: How is a quasi-currency like the SDR, which isn’t equity or debt, supposed to be more stable than standard reserve currencies? The SDR carries a weekly interest rate, a fact that already indicates it’s even more prone to value volatility.)

Speaking of money, this will add to the general market volatility:

Shanghai forges bourse links with Brazil with an agreement expected to lead to cross-listing of stocks, hot on the heels of the possible tie-up between Deutsche Bourse and NYSE. [via personal discussions]

On a relatively more hopeful note:

LinkedIn recently data-mined the career histories of its 90 million users to develop a picture of labour trends. It found January to be the biggest month for promotions, followed by April, July and October. The worst month is December. [via eWeek]

… so better get that promotion soon, as our days seem numbered:

The Sun is ramping up for a maximum solar flare in 2013 and it’s headed for Earth. Last year, solar flares have already briefly disrupted radio communications in southern China. [via CBS Local/Los Angeles and Breibart]

If the world gets fried in 2012/13, just infringe patents and home-brew your favourite gargling water:

A team at This American Life has ‘rediscovered’ the jealously guarded secret formula of Coca-Cola. [via Time]

… along with whatever else we’re putting into our gobs:

Obesity has nearly doubled worldwide since 1980. The USA tops the list of countries with the most obese population, followed by New Zealand and Australia. [via U.S. News]

* * *

ONLY I CAN SEE THIS

Thoughts and recollections from the past and present, sometimes even the future

(Image: Heriot-Watt University Library)

A lot of people in Asia are convinced to the bone that academics are the best writers and arbiters of language.

The mentality is as if academic writing is the only kind of writing (‘genre’ = kind) that’s up to scratch or worth paying attention to. Hogwash.

That might have been so in the past in all fairness, when a tiny fraction of society belonged to the educated classes and the rest — well, they’re mainly illiterate.

Reality check: The academic world radiates bad writing and academics are in fact the weakest writers. A reminder:

Language is not an abstract construction of the learned, or of dictionary makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes, of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground. — Noah Webster, lexicographer (1758-1843)

* * *

When you do anything, you are creating something original, inventing something unique — even if the subject matter or the way you’re doing it isn’t. You might well be reinventing the wheel, but you still shouldn’t want to be influenced by anyone else’s work. Your wheel might be a wheel, but it’s another wheel.

* * *

High testosterone levels reduce your empathy. Think of macho men — not exactly empathetic or even sympathetic, are they? Heaven knows how many years yours truly has been saying this, now finally confirmed by research. [See Science Daily]

* * *

The world is actually stagnating, despite our technologies and the Internet. Somebody says it better than yours truly. [See The Guardian]

* * *

There is no economy if people are not making or growing stuff. Entertainment and knowledge are worthless intangibles if not backed up by something physical. It’s like saying software is king — but who makes your keyboard and hard disk? This is why prices of intangibles are going down all the time and the prices of food and other tangibles are skyrocketing.

In other words, a ‘knowledge-based’ economy sounds nice enough but is doomed to fail.

* * *

The 1971 Dodge Challenger is one helluva sexy muscle car. Its successor, the 2008 Dodge Challenger, is a nice enough design, but still ugly, especially its front end. (Click on image for larger picture and see for yourself.)

Dodge Challenger: 1971 (left) vs. 2008

(Images via Dodge Challenger Site)

* * *

Linguists (as in linguistics) and sociologists are totally unable to write anything short, direct, witty or even slightly offbeat, let alone humorous. They are the tensest bunch of people I’ve ever known. They’ve got this automatic gearbox built into their heads to impress others but talk down on them at the same time — a sure-fire way of screwing up royally.

* * *

Branch out. Don’t write about things or people you know. Stuff you know (especially people you know), they suck most of the time. And people don’t want to read about that.

People with the worst problems branching out in nearly anything they do are: any professional or academic, but especially psychologists, medical practitioners, sociologists and linguists (as in linguistics). By contrast, philosophers are very good at branching out into PR, lobbying and sales work.

* * *

(Image: Zazzle)

Copycats often have self-inflicted disasters. You and I knew that for a long time. Now confirmed: “High levels of mimickry can be quite a general indicator of the potential for self-organised crises.”

* * *

Is China the only place in the world that confuses nationality, citizenship and race? You can’t be Chinese unless you’re … umm … Chinese. Actually scrub that — there are lots of places like that, mostly in Asia.

* * *

An individual’s love of morality tales is often in inverse proportion to the morality that individual practises in private life.

* * *

PARADISO e INFERNO

Heaven and Hell: things happening in and around my life, or even away from it

Brrr! Phew!

The week kicked off with 9°C (48°F) on Monday, warming up to 16°C (60°F) by the weekend. But it also become more humid.

No prob

Natasha C. deconnected my months-long friend request on Facebook. I’m fine with that. We all get to choose our friends, online and in real life. It’s just the request housekeeping that needs dealing with that keeps me preoccupied.

Future tense

I honestly don’t know how D. is going to make a living in future. D. is very close to working age now. Knows practically no English. Chinese only marginally better. D. thinks catching up later ain’t no problem. And then D. will realise it’s all too late. Mark my words.

Images (all pilfered and used without permission):

© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2011

Roundup for Week 6

Sunday 13 February 2011, 11.00pm HKT


Roundup for the week of 07-13 Feb 2011.

It’s tl;dr. Srsly.

In case you’re wondering, I’m trying out the What The Papers Say format, for those who actually remembered that TV programme.

* * *

THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS

Loyalty, honour and tradition should last a long time, but sometimes it all gets a bit warped:

Reaganites perversely celebrated Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday, with birthday cake, lit candles and singing, and a birthday speech by Mrs Reagan.

’Scuse me, but Reagan (1911-2004) has been dead and gone for seven years already. Didn’t they get the memo?

The Year of the Robot Bunny is supposed to be more peaceful and peaceable. Might be, until this happened on the first day of the lunar new year:

Thai and Cambodian forces clashed over a longtime disputed border area around an 11th-century temple. Both sides blamed each other for making the first incursion and drawing first blood.

No, because it’s the Year of the Cat down in Southeast Asia. It’s a different ballgame there.

Another brain-damaged ballgame is being played out elsewhere:

The Egyptian military sent reinforcements everywhere to increase security. At the same time, the military was telling civilians to protect their property from looters on their own.

[via France24, 04 Feb 2011]

So what’s the point of having the military and the police in the first place?

And these should scare many Mideast regimes fartless:

Tunisia unbelievably suspended ex-President Ben Ali’s party from all political activity.

[via France24, 04 Feb 2011]

Refusing to quit at first, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak finally relents and steps down from office after 18 tense days of demonstrations.

[via France24, 11 Feb 2011]

Back home, a favourite piece of non-news crops up year after year on the telly — much to the delight of overwrought expectant mothers like a validation (or vindication) of their having made the right decision:

Hong Kong women are having babies later in life than expected and are now giving first-time births in their late 30s and 40s, and more and more women are taking to in vitro fertilisation.

[via Inside Story, ATV World, 07 Feb 2011]

Part of the endearing charm of that episode is how quickly it disintegrated into relaying scare-tactic reasons about older-age pregnancies and the benefits of in vitro fertilisation. To those with even a marginally functioning brain, you can’t help but notice the episode’s almost-total reliance on interviews with excited (and excitable) uninformed expectant mothers and ob-gyn medicos who stand to gain the most from the advice they churn out for the show.

Having babies this way is a sign we’re descending on a slippery slope:

France’s first ‘saviour child’ was born via ‘preimplantation genetic diagnosis’ (PGD) in order to save an older sibling from a deadly, genetically inherited blood disease.

[via France 24, 08 Feb 2011]

Remember the movie “The Sixth Day“? Before becoming cloned yourself, you might just like to gem up on the ethical problems with PGD, which aren’t news anyway (Time 1990Sheldon & Wilkinson 2005The Westchester Institute 2007Fasbender 2009).

In techworld, the same skills are still in demand, year in, year out:

Java, Python, Apex and Windows top the list of 10 IT skills in demand in 2011.

In the even-more-virtual world of the Intarwebz, please stay calm, for now:

No need to stampede to IPv6 because IPv4 is running out of IP addresses. It’s just the supply of IPv4 addresses that is running out. You can still reach IPv4 sites for years to come because there’s practically no place in the public Internet that’s using IPv6 yet.

Big Brother won’t be watching us; he wants us to watch him instead:

AOL buys Huffington Post for US$315 million. The deal is seen as a bet on the viability of free content.

[via The Financial Times, 07 Feb 2011]

Watching the world turn to mush, we learn that:

In China, men buy 45% of luxury handbags, a global retail industry worth US$1,200 million. Hip Chinese men are toting expensive purses that were once exclusively in the female domain.

[Los Angeles Times, 07 Feb 2011]

We see middle-aged Chinese businessmen in the all-too-familiar ‘uniform’ of blue blazer, white shirt, designer slacks, loafers and light-coloured silk socks clutching an expensive purse — just like fancy pseudo-European men did back in the Supersonic Seventies. The twist is the kind of purse favoured by today’s Chinese alpha males:

 

Chinese guys dig this?

Another titbit that might turn you to mush:

“70% of sex workers polled use a Blackberry; only 19% use an iPhone. Perhaps Apple needs to rethink its App Store policies if it wants to gain a larger market share here.”

[via Hongkie Town]

* * *

ONLY I CAN SEE THIS

Thoughts and recollections from the past and present, sometimes even from the future

To think that all the girls named Fion thought I was really pleased to see them, let me explain:

‘Fion’ is a popular enough girl’s name in Hong Kong, but it’s French slang for asshole.

Try out more weird Hong Kong names here [link].

Never thought two names would ever be said again:

“Back in the ’70s, there were two people called Rayson Leung and Berry Benson Wong who constantly rang the radio to have their requests played.”

(hat tip to Tess C. via Secret Hong Kong, 07 Feb 2011)

We in the Terrible Teens carry on the sterling tradition of the Supersonic Seventies in crumpet and Uganda:

Social English: Status and sex play a great deal in enhancing English varieties.

(hat tip to the Speculative Grammarian)

Which reminds us of how we’ve learnt to know how to not know things:

TYDKYDK = Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know (because they aren’t actually true) — a student’s pearls of wisdom

(hat tip again to SpecGram)

Which leads to a recollection that most people didn’t know they could suspect:

Charities and similar NGOs in Hong Kong funnel donations into itself in the form of administrative overheads. If donations show signs of keeping pace with administrative costs, then administrative costs are simply adjusted upwards to compensate. In other words, charities spend more money on themselves than on helping the needy.

(Personal recollection)

Speaking of master/servant relationships, many linguists (as in linguistics) literally forget this:

Language is properly the servant of thought, but not unfrequently becomes its master. — Clulow

To which we hear:

“Finally you guys got it! Many linguists grew up with the idea that the mind commands language but very often it’s the other way around. We do create worlds with our words.”

(hat tip to Elena K. via SpecGram, 07 Feb 2011)

To which The Naked Listener reminds those who need reminding with the corollary:

We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us. — Churchill

Speaking of linguistics, a not-so-recent but admittedly shallow observation:

Have you ever noticed how linguists (as in linguistics) often get things back to front? Linguistics blog Sinoglot, despite their writers’ ability to read Chinese (which The Naked Listener admittedly couldn’t), doesn’t seem to realise that Chinese usage especially for public signage purposes follow the sterling Chinese tradition of using sloganised prose with the characteristics of verse, not straight prose as Sinoglot seem to be thinking.

Find out how clueless these people are despite their knowing Chinese here [link].

Which leads to another related, but not-so-recent practical observation:

Most linguistics blogs (ergo, their writers) I come across often make quite fundamental errors in the way they tease out and analyse things. Of course, their analytical technique is fully in keeping with the established methodologies of their areas of study. Yet it doesn’t absolve the fact that they also reflect little or nothing of what’s actually happening IRL (in real life).

So another reminder comes ringing in our ears:

There is an outside world of brute fact … which we reduce to order by receiving them through a linguistic screen. — George B. Caird

Staying with things chinoises, form your own opinion (and tolerance) to this:

Another devastatingly long-drawn-out, over-academicised article from a China Hand who, honestly speaking, doesn’t seem to recognise the CCP-approved Chinese weasel words he/she was reading and seems to take things a bit too literally.

Weasel words may be harmless enough but the mother of arselickers can cause this using them:

Democracy is on life support in the USA, says social critic Chris Hedges in his latest book ‘Death of the Liberal Class.’ He blames the liberal elites in media, labour, religious groups and the academic world for allowing the unfettered rise of the corporate class.

Watch how Chris Hedges explains it in this video here [link]

The corporate class probably would be more overjoyed to see this instead:

Copper prices hit a 30-month high on Wall Street, signalling growth hopes.

Something else is going to shoot up like a rocket, and we’re going to get shot down in a ball of fire by it:

Food prices are going to skyrocket like mad after March.

(1) Snowstorms have been pummelling the USA since December 2010.

(2) The 20 inches of snow last week eventually will have to melt, and that means more-than-usual topsoil erosion.

(3) Rising fertiliser prices for most of 2010 mean many crop farmers this year may well forego using fertilisers on weather-damaged farmland.

(4) That also translates into lesser springtime planting around March.

(5) By June-September, fast-growing crops that should have been ready for harvesting will be less or even non-existent.

(6) Meantime, farm animals are likely to be slaughtered ahead of time because of low-running stockfeed supplies because of lower stockfeed production because of high cost of stockfeed production because of low stockfeed raw inputs.

(7) The result would be a quick-but-slight spike in food supplies first, followed by a long fall. The food situation doesn’t look good this autumn or winter.

* * *

PARADISO e INFERNO

Heaven and Hell: things happening in and around my life, or even away from it

Adventures in sights and sounds

  • The M Shift podcast #212
  • The M Shift podcast #213 with special guest Andrew Wowk
  • The Deckz or Dollarz Show with Beatmassa (episode 28)
  • The Deckz or Dollarz Show with Beatmassa (episode 29)
  • Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” (2008), directed by Marina Zenovich
  • Stealth” (2005), directed by Rob Cohen, starring Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx.
  • The Way of War” (2009), directed by John Carter, stars Cuba Gooding Jr, Clarence Williams III and John Terry
  • F.I.S.T.” (1978), directed by Norman Jewison, stars Sylvester Stallone, etc.
  • Chaos Theory” (2008), directed by Marcos Siega, stars Ryan Reynolds, etc.

Weather

Global wobbling. Hong Kong weather increasingly unstable. Was around 21°C (68°F) for most of the week, then suddenly fell to 14°C (57°F) by the weekend, and will go down to even 9°C (48°F) next week. Dry places getting drier, wet places wetter, hot places hotter, cold places colder. Enjoy while we can: cold weather won’t anymore, forever.

Worshipful company

Mr Popcorn the Housecat not being brought over because my place is a battlefield. As well, P’s getting a bit hefty to ferry around now.

The business of socialising

Attended the Social Media Week’s Geek Chic blogging conference at Vibes on Friday evening (11 Feb 2011). Geek chic and geek chicks were in heavy attendance. Some were pretty hefty too, if you know what I mean.

Favourite things

Zapps, one of my favourite crisps (BrE) / chips (AmE), is no more here. Zapps landed here out of nowhere around November last year, at first around HK$16 (US$2.05) a packet, then shot up to HK$23, from which it dribbled to HK$6.50 (83¢) in January. Now it can’t be had for love nor money. Obviously, too much of a challenger for the crappy local brands.

Meanwhile, a packet of Waitrose wine gums continues to go for HK$29 (US$3.72 or £2.30). Out-effing-rageous.

Spoons

Old Mike bought me two souvenir spoons from Paris.

Q for query

Is ‘Q’ actually flying over here at all? It’s always a big guessing game with Q.

Back to basics

‘W’ finally replied to my email after a whole week, telling me to “go back to the basic [sic]” — which I have to say was sniffy and condescending after all the years between us. What a fion ‘W’ turned out to be, who now treats me like a marketing game.

Hitched at the right time

‘Writing’ is getting married to ‘Jackhammer’ in a fortnight’s time, and I’ll be attending the wedding. Doin’ the right thing by doing it early in their early 20s. Here’s why [link].

Word-wrought

Word-wrought. Friend/acquaintance had to write a 1,500-word essay for uni. Sounds like the friend was struggling with it. At this level, it could be hard as hell. But it’s still 1,500 word. If people learnt (or get taught) how to draft properly, they wouldn’t need to struggle more than they have to already. Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional. (07/2)

First and only unfriender

Hiroko E. out of the blue unfriended me on Facebook. Can’t imagine why (since we’re in constant non-contact anyway) but it was disconcerting for a while. Hiroko is my first-ever and only unfriender. (10/2)

* * *

Images (all pilfered and used without permission):

© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2011.

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