Current Affairs

Posts filed under Current Affairs

Ouch!

Filed in Current Affairs, Hong Kong

The price of petrol has just gone up in Hong Kong; again. We're now paying HK$12.66 per litre for normal grade petrol and HK$13.44 for high grade petrol. It's very expensive here but the oil companies don't mind increasing the price every chance they get anyway.

The latest excuse for increasing the price was the world wide cost of oil which recently hit US$61 per barrel, possibly the most expensive it's ever been. It's good and it's bad.

Caltex & Esso

It's good because it means that people will be more conscientious about the cars they buy and how much petrol they consume. It's good because more people will begin buying hybrid cars which are more environmentally friendly but still a little more expensive than a straight petrol burning car. It's good because institutions and companies working on engines that burn water rather than petrol will have more funding and more opportunities to finish their developments and release the final product onto the market.

It's bad because it's affecting the world economy. With higher oil prices, the only winners are the oil distributors and drilling companies. Everyone else loses. Companies' profits decrease. People have to spend more on petrol leaving less for other purchases. Overall, people have less to spend and that hurts the economy and everyone working within the economy. That's why the stock market is still not returning to healthy normal levels; although healthy might not be the proper word to use for a market where almost every company is over-rated.

Current petrol prices For years, we have heard rumours of people, inventors and companies who have worked on alternative engines, who have made progress and then been either bought out by the oil cartels or assassinated by the oil cartels when they refused to sell their inventions. Today's world is probably twenty years behind what it could have been in technological advancement if all of the world's inventions were allowed to be used and produced, including countless inventions not related to engines. Has anyone heard of the light bulb invented in Japan that doesn't burn out? No replacements needed. That was bought out real quick.

Another rumoured invention was that of an advanced passenger aircraft invented by a scientist in Holland, apparently for the U.S. government. The aircraft used advanced technologies to fly from Europe to the U.S. in just a few hours. That kind of invention wouldn't last long in today's world though. With all of the airlines heavy in debt paying large mortgages on their current aircraft, the last thing they'd want to see is a new airline using planes that can fly four times faster for the same price. They'd all be out of business quicker than you can fry an egg, and the banks holding their mortgages definitely wouldn't like that. Boeing wouldn't like it either and since they're best friends with the U.S. government, nothing that could hurt Boeing's earnings would be allowed onto the market without a major war.

HK$12.66 is a lot of money to pay for petrol. Our car is a very comfortable albeit slightly ageing car with a three litre engine. To drive my wife to work in the morning costs around HK$83 including tunnel fees. That's a little shocking. It's no wonder smart people use the public transport here when they can. Add to that the cost of parking should you want to park your car at or near the office and you'd need to be a millionaire to survive through the year.

As a rule, there is no free parking in Hong Kong unless you're in the countryside. Parking in the city costs anywhere from HK$20 to HK$30 and more per hour. A few car parks even charge HK$50 per hour. That's a lot of money. During SARS and the economic depression, people stopped driving so competition began increasing among car parks. Consequently, a few things occurred. First, the hourly fee came down; just a little. Second, the car parks began using deceptive advertising. Their fee boards at the car park entrance would show the fee in large friendly letters. It was only after turning into the car park enough that you couldn't back out again that you would discover that the large friendly fee was per half hour, not per hour. It's now common for all car parks to advertise half hour fees rather than hourly fees. In some ways, it's good for the drivers because we can pay per half hour rather than per hour. Overall however, it's still more expensive than it used to be. Some car parks are now charging per quarter hour with a minimum charge of one hour. That gets rather complicated to calculate if you're in a hurry.

The charge-per-half-hour method used by the car parks is similar to the deceptive pricing methods used by the local supermarket chains, most notably ParknShop; owned and run by the infamous Li Ka Shing. They frequently put products on 'special'. If they change the prices frequently enough, people lose track and begin to think the prices really are special when they've actually been increased. My wife and I only buy a few things from ParknShop so we have excellent mental tracking of the prices. For some products, we watch for the fair dinkum discounts and then buy enough to last until the next discount; for example, washing powder and long life milk (fresh milk is way too expensive here).

Everybody loves to increase their prices. The local banks just announced service charge increases due to 'increasing operation costs' even though they continue to profit billions of dollars every year (which is why we keep our savings in bank equities rather than bank accounts). Oil companies increase their prices all the time, usually in response to crude oil price fluctuations. Unfortunately for us, they almost never decrease their prices, even when the crude oil prices fall. Anyone want to guess what the oil companies will do should the crude oil price come back down to US$50 per barrel?

Terrorism in London.

Filed in Current Affairs

The bombing in London has been very high profile news all around the world. It's not surprising. Bombs going off in the middle of London; and more than one bomb at the same time; is very disturbing for most of us. If it happened in the middle of Iraq, we wouldn't think much of it even though we should. After all, lives anywhere in the world are lives and as such are valuable no matter who or where they are. The important aspect about the bombing in London though is the information being provided by the governments and the media.

In acting class, one of the things we are told to remember is that nothing is as it seems. Stereotypes should be avoided. Not all fat people are slow runners. Not all black people have excellent singing voices or are amazing athletes. Not all caucasians eat bread every meal of the day, or even potatoes every meal of the day. And not all politicians are corrupt although it can be difficult to find one who is not.

As soon as the bombs went off in London, we heard that they were planted by terrorists. I would have to agree with this. Anyone who plants and detonates bombs in areas populated by people is a terrorist, whether that person is your friendly neighbourhood priest or even an officer in the national military. Terrorism was a certainty, but then everyone assumed that the terrorists were from the Middle East; Bin Laden's people or Islamic militants or something else of that nature. Unfortunately, everyone today has established a stereotype when it comes to terrorism, and that stereotype is that all terrorism is the product of Middle East non-Christian groups.

It's rather sad that we believe these reports without question. The same governments that cheat the average citizen every day of the year with new promises that will never be fulfilled, or with new laws to take our birthrights away from us for the benefit of the corporations and other rich people, or with new expensive projects apparently to enhance our lives but actually to profit their friends; the same governments that listen to most of our phone conversations, read most of our faxes, audit almost everything we write on the internet and run random checks on our incomes and finances; these are the governments that we trust without second guessing when they tell us that Middle East terrorist groups are behind the bombings.

Well think about the following possibilities, and they are just that; possibilities. They might not be true. They probably aren't true, but they could be.

The C.I.A. of the U.S. government is working for someone other than the U.S. government, and their goal is ultimate control of the world. The C.I.A. and the government needs all citizens to trust it and obey its every command without question. To do this, their greatest weapon is fear. In fear, the citizens will stop thinking for themselves. They'll believe anything that is fed to them, especially from the government who supposedly is trustworthy and looking out for them.

To install fear, the C.I.A. finances groups in non-Christian regions of the world to begin battles and war in their territories, and terrorism throughout the world, normally only when and where they are instructed to by the C.I.A. Religious wars are always easier to believe. History is filled with them, so it only makes sense that the C.I.A. would seek non-Christian groups to pretend to be terrorists.

On an increasing scale, the C.I.A. instructs their terrorist groups to bomb Christian countries, especially in high-density metropolitan areas. It is rumoured that 911 was pay-back to Bush for not being nice to his rich oil friends in the Middle East. It is however also possible that the C.I.A. planned the bombing.

You have to realise that the twin towers were specifically designed to withstand the collision of an aircraft. It was stated in the building specifications. The C.I.A. had planned the attack allowing for the possible loss of three, maybe five floors of the towers. They never imagined that both towers would collapse completely. It would have been as much a shock to them as it was to anyone else around the world. Of course, they'd have to pretend they didn't know about it and create a story to cover their backs as quickly as possible, but they're very good at this, having had many years to perfect the art of falsification and fabrication. If the C.I.A. didn't plan the attack, how did the planes make it to the towers without interception?

Unfortunately, most U.S. citizens are going to believe the C.I.A. and the U.S. government. It would be almost impossible for them not to believe. It is almost exactly the same as a woman who after twenty years of happy marriage discovers that her husband has had a regular affair for ten years, or that her husband is in fact gay. That woman feels extreme disbelief because her whole life was built around the trust she had in her husband and her marriage. That woman will feel disorientated, betrayed, stupid, confused, ashamed and enraged because to her, it was simply not possible for her husband to be untrue (this after I've told everyone to avoid stereotypes). In the same way, the citizens of the U.S. would never believe that their own government bombed them, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands of people. It would mean questioning everything they had lived for, everything they believed, and everything they knew. It's easier to simply believe the government, no matter how questionable their explanations are.

911 gave the U.S. government and the C.I.A. something they had been after for a long time; the excuse to serialise every citizen in the country, and a population finally willing to accept the serialisation without question. After all, who was going to stand up in front of the people of the U.S. and oppose serialisation when the government was promoting serialisation as a sure-fire method of preventing terrorism and catching terrorists before they had a chance to cause any more grief? No one.

In England, the powers that be needed the same thing, an excuse to serialise the nation, and a population willing to accept the serialisation. The recent bombings will help to this end but they won't be enough. Photographs and reports throughout the internet show that Londoners continued with their daily lives less than twelve hours after the bombings. They're not scared yet; just nervous. If the C.I.A. and their bosses are going to succeed, there'll be more 'terrorism' in England before too long.

Now everything that I've just said could be true. It could also be completely fictional without a shred of truth. Nobody except the agencies and the governments know the truth and they'll never divulge it to us. They want to control us, not befriend us and definitely not serve us.

If you get anything out of this article, it's that you need to question everything you hear. We'll never know the absolute truth but if you think about everything you're told instead of accepting it without question, then there's still hope for all of us, hope that the good guys will in the end win.

My promotion

Filed in Current Affairs

( Fiction; ie, it's imagined, made up, invented, sort of, and it's not about me! )

eight fifteen a.m. just enough time to say my prayers before going to the office, only if we cut across the lanes into the exit though. if we had to go all the way down to the bottom and back up the other side to get to the car park entrance, I'd be late for work. crossing the white lines may be illegal but I can afford the fines.

prayers are all done. time to get to the office. things have changed a lot recently. I thought I'd be retiring soon. had to get that big project all organised so that I'd have a decent salary to fall back on after retirement. if it wasn't for all those noisy buggers complaining about the way the project was set up for bidding, it would've been finished by now too. oh well, doesn't matter anymore now that I've got this big promotion coming up. I'd dreamed about it but just didn't think it'd actually happen, or come so soon. all that shoe polishing finally paid off.

some of the shareholders really don't want to see me promoted but it'll happen anyway. I've heard from top management that all eight hundred shareholders will be contacted directly and asked about their nomination intentions. if they don't nominate me, their personal business prospects will be dubious. I'd like to see their faces when they begin receiving those phone calls. aren't open ballots great?

nominations went through. not a single nomination for any other candidate. no way the promotion's going to anyone else now. still got to make it look official though so I'll have to look surprised and happy when I 'officially' hand in my nomination application, all prettied up in that nice blue box with a ribbon around it. my secretary did a good job with that. not bad at all. it'll look good on tele.

promotion's official. I begin work in the new position today. this'll be fun but I'll have to work out something to keep the nay-sayers and trouble-makers in line. I'm sure top management have their opinions and methods, and my friends should have more than a few suggestions that'll help too. at least I don't have to worry about my salary anymore. this position pays top dollar and the additional investments I'll be able to make will guarantee a comfortable retirement when I'm ready for it.

this'll be an interesting four years indeed.

The Anti-Christ nears?

Filed in Current Affairs, General, Hong Kong

Many many years ago when I was still a young person growing up in Australia, a New Zealand evangelist by the name of Barry Smith used to make the rounds of the churches preaching about the future of the world. In very basic terms, his message was the usual "repent or die with everyone else". Many people did convert and become Christians at the time but the end of the world didn't come. However, Barry's message was much more than simply that the world was coming to an end. He included many specifics, his (divine?) interpretation of the prophecies found within the bible. A few of his specifics may have been wrong but many were correct although they occurred much later than he had predicted. You can't fault him on that. Throughout history, many evangelists and foretellers of doom were very enthusiastic to see the end of the world sooner rather than later. Even now, we really can't be sure how close the end is, and if it will in fact actually occur.

In any case, some of Barry's specifics were correct. One in particular was that Europe would become the world power after unification. He also predicted according to the bible that a few more nations would join the E.U. He was much more specific than "a few" but I don't have his book on hand to refer to. In any case, the Euro is now worth far more than the USD which makes sense if you are aware that the U.S.A. is in fact in extreme debt and has been since the early 60's after people from the Bank of England were able to get into the U.S.A. and influence the way the Federal Reserve works. Extreme debt is probably not the best word to use. Broke would be the better word. But if a country is in debt or if it's broke, then someone owns it by virtue of the debts, so who owns the U.S.A.? The Bank of England and its owners. Come to think of it, the money part of this prose didn't come from Barry. It came from another book about the history of money. If anyone is interested, I could locate the book and publish its name for you.

Barry also predicted that governments would introduce money denominations in odd sizes and shapes to confuse their citizens. The ultimate goal was to introduce electronic money as soon as possible. In Australia, they introduced smallish one dollar coins, and even smaller two dollar coins. Some people might explain that this is a reflection to inflation but you can always dilute the metal content of a coin so the size shouldn't be a direct result of its metallic content. In Hong Kong, the government introduced a ten dollar coin to replace the ten dollar note only to re-introduce the ten dollar note again later. The ten dollar coin is smaller than a five dollar coin, and to add to the confusion, the government released new editions of paper denominations whose colors likened the colors of other nominations. The color of the twenty dollar bill is similar to the color of the original ten dollar bill. Confusion reigns supreme, especially in the dark when you're paying the taxi driver. (I once gave a taxi driver a five hundred bill instead of a one hundred bill by mistake and the driver happily accepted the four hundred dollar bonus without a single syllable of surprise or an attempt to pay back the correct change)

So where is this all going? There's a lot more that can be discussed and there are countless books out there that talk about various current and futuristic developments but my point today relates to the death of the Pope.

One of Barry's points discussed the Pope. According to the bible, the number of popes was counted, metaphorically of course. Near the end of the world (well actually at least a thousand years before the the destructive end of the world if you include the thousand years of Christ-reigned peace), a pope would die, another would take his place but not survive long. This pope in turn would be replaced by one who would turn out to be the anti-Christ. The question therefore is how long will the next pope last? I'll be watching even though he might last five or even ten years. In any case, if he dies prematurely; possibly by gunfire; it'll be a sure sign that the future is near, one filled at first with wonder and peace and then followed by world war, the last and the most real of the religious wars of all time.

People will be fooled by the anti-Christ because he'll introduce amazing cures and treatments for illnesses and ailments of all kinds (probably including AIDS), and he'll introduce world peace. That won't be difficult given that government agencies hold many technological secrets within their vaults, and given that the government agencies sponsor most of the war factions out there. One word from the true world leader and all these can be used to seemingly and miraculously bring peace and well-being to the world.

In any case, we'll have to wait and see. As I said before, people have always foretold that the end was near and it never happened. It might be another case of "the sky is falling" and only time will tell.

One other thing that Barry mentioned which is of particular importance in my part of the world refers to communism. Barry said that communism would only appear to go away. It would in fact go to sleep until a time at which it would awaken with more strength than ever more. The Chinese government is truly the subject of this foretelling. While pretending that it's becoming more and more open every day, and that democracy is a possibility, it will in fact always remain communist and it gets stronger by the day. It is however not communist in the true sense of the word. With true communism, every one shares in the profits of the community. With China communism, only party members share in the profits of the community.

For now though, I'll keep my eyes on the new pope.

Multitasking; ie, using the phone while driving.

Filed in Current Affairs, General, Hong Kong

There's a good article over at CNET News.com about Attention Deficiency Trait (ADT). I've seen similar symptoms in my own life. For example, I tend to work on multiple tasks at home; including home repairs; at the same time, moving from one task to the next until they're all finished. I have a hard time completely finishing one task before beginning with the next.

People claim they can talk on the phone while driving. I don't see it. I have tried it, even with hands-free accessories, and for me personally, it is simply not possible to perform both tasks as the same time and be aware of working on each task at the same time. If I focus on what the voice coming out of the phone is saying, my driving goes into auto-pilot mode. If I place extra focus on my driving, for example while driving through a round-about, then I don't really hear (as opposed to 'listen') what the voice on the phone is saying.

As Doctor Edward Hallowell says in the interview; You're brain literally can't multitask. You can't pay attention to two things simultaneously. You're switching back and forth between the two. So you're paying less concerted attention to either one. I particularly like the word concerted.

The message? Don't use the phone while you drive, and use an answering service or a secretary when possible so that you can complete the task at hand without interruption.

USD. I feel the pain.

Filed in Current Affairs, General, Hong Kong

I have a 200GB external hard disk which has developed serious media problems. A surface scan of the disk produced more than 900 bad blocks with 2 million blocks remaining to be scanned. After three days of scanning, I cancelled the scan. The Maxtor Diamond Plus is less than 2 years old but because it's an OEM, the warranty is only 1 year. Consider carefully before you purchase an expensive OEM external drive. It might be cheaper to buy a lower capacity drive and swap the bare drive for a full-warranty high capacity drive yourself.

Anyway, I had a quandary. The 200GB drive contains full resolution film scans of many of my photographs. The thing which many people tend to forget these days is that digital media can evaporate before your eyes and there's no way to get the material back, whether it be Word files, your favourite music (Apple iTunes music store) or your memories. A lot of people are backing up to CD or DVD believing the hype that the media will last for 10 to 20 years not realising that there are different grades of media, that CDs don't last as long as DVDs, that DVD+RWs don't last as long as DVD+Rs and that with temperature changes and exposure to light, NONE of these are certain to last over time.

The solution for me was to purchase a hard drive unit with RAID 5 capabilities. For those of you not in the computer business, such a unit is made up of 4 or more individual hard drives with the data shared among all four of them. If one of the drives dies, the unit keeps working and supplying your data. You can often switch the dead drive out without even turning off the unit and the unit will automatically rebuild the new drive with the data that would have been on the old drive. These units used to be very expensive but prices have come down a long way.

After some research, I decided on the "Lacie 800 Bigger Drive with RAID". A 1TB (ie, 1000 GB) unit would cost me around USD1,500 which is not too bad for that much storage and for the peace of mind it would give me. In addition, it sports FireWire 400, 800 and USB 2 connections so it would serve me well for many years to come.

I asked my friendly local Hong Kong reseller for a quote. The unit is not due for release until the middle of February so the price could not be finalised but he estimated about HKD16,000; ie, USD2,000! Why the price discrepancy? The Hong Kong government has decreed that all imported electronics must be grounded. The power plugs must have three prongs. Unfortunately, the USA is not as stringent so many appliances there are supplied without the grounding prong. The same apparently is true for the Lacie 800 Bigger Drive. Consequently, my reseller who happens to be the Hong Kong Lacie distributor has to get the drive from the Lacie head office in France.

The Euro is EXPENSIVE! Remember that the Hong Kong dollar is currently pegged to the US dollar. If the US dollar depreciates, so does the Hong Kong dollar. So if European product is expensive for US citizens, you can be sure that it's expensive for us in Hong Kong too.

So what to do. At USD2,000, I feel the unit's a little too expensive for this at-home user. I'll probably just swap out the faulty Maxtor drive for a better and larger Seagate Barracuda (with 5 years warranty ;-) and make regular backups to DVD+RW. Did I mention that DVD+RW is not absolutely reliable?

I wonder which lawyers will be getting filthy rich in a few years time when multiple class-action suits are brought against the CD-R manufactures for false promises of 10 to 20 years shelf life?

USD. I feel the pain.

Filed in Current Affairs, General, Hong Kong

我地今早喺邊? Where are we this morning?

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