Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phillies Win World Series in 5

Maybe next year the Rangers will beat the Cubs in 7

It could happen. Maybe. Really it could! I'm serious! I'm also off my meds.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who knows what it is like to support a losing team

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

No obvious clowns in fast-food chain of command

Nurry is always funny and should have a wider audience.

When I was simply an American and didn't have "Expat-" in front of the "American" (In other words, before I moved to Hong Kong) I always avoided McDonald's if I could. Not only are they the worst fast food place in the US but I didn't like their politics. Once they mailed me a coupon for a free sandwich and I stopped in at a Mineral Wells outlet, used the coupon to get the free sandwich and then politely threw it away without opening it.

The manager asked what was the problem and I replied Joan Krok, who owned McDonald's at the time had given USD $1,000,000 to a cause I despised so I was doing my part to drive them out of business. I didn't yell, and I didn't make a scene and since the franchise involved sent the coupons to the head office didn't cost the local guy any money. So I guess it was simply an exercises in symbolism over substance but it made me feel better and I enjoyed the sense of moral superiority I got for several hours.

Then I moved to Hong Kong.

In the 3rd world McDonald's is often a Godsend if for no other reason than they have a free, non-squatty-potty toilet. They are typically cleaner than the local places (Though not always) and serve items that have recognizable ingredients and are cheaper than say Pizza Hut or KFC. They also have that wonderful Thai Chili-sauce that you can get instead of ketchup. I don't know if I am ashamed to say I have lost my political scruples when it comes to bad cheeseburgers or not?

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The blogger whose food is probably way too fast

Monday, October 27, 2008

Which came first?

Now we have melamine tainted eggs as well as milk. These may just be the tip of the iceberg.

What is really scary is that in the last several years I remember these other food related scandals as well:

1. A year or so ago a distributor in Hong Kong was caught selling rice that had gone moldy and been re-polished. It caused hallucinations and liver damage.

2. Fake soy sauce made out of human hair.

3. Fake fungus that looks like hair that may have actually been less dangerous than the real vegetable

4. Cancerous fish tainted with something called "Malachite Green"

5. Baby formula mixed with corn starch

6. Anti-freeze in tooth paste.

7. Moon Cake filling that was kept for years and was covered with mold

8. Poisonous fish sold as cod

9. Pesticides in dumplings

10. Antibiotics that were anything but.

11. Cooking oil that was sold as new but was really filtered cooking oil that had been discarded by restaurants

12. Halal cookies made with lard.

The story BBQ pork made from cardboard and industrial cleaners however was not true. But, can you blame people for believing it?

These are just the one's I can remember off the top of my head.

I have a friend up North who warned us about eating the freshwater crabs that come from China. Crabs are scavengers and he said that the people who raise them have been caught feeding them dead rats and dogs as well as plain old garbage. I don't like crab so they were easy for me to avoid.

There was a story on ATV this weekend about what are known as "Cancer Villages" in China where the water is so polluted with heavy metals and other toxins that the cancer rate is hundreds of times higher than normal. Question, do they water vegetables with that water and if so, are those vegetables sold in Hong Kong?

If I went into product recalls this list could get really long.

If I wanted to write about working conditions I could write a book.

China may be about to reach a point of no-return. There are enough people, even those who live in China who are afraid of the goods being produced here that they simply will not buy them. They'll either source those products elsewhere or do without them. I think this is kind of analogous to the situation US automobile manufacturers caused for themselves in the late 1970's. At that time the quality standard of US cars was absolutely horrific. We called them 50,000 mile throwaways. They were ugly, poorly designed vehicles. What a shame. The 1950's & 1960's were, in many ways the golden age of the American automobile and they fell off that pedestal really fast. It was at that time that the Japanese cars improved their quality and many US consumers decided that they were better off with a Toyota, Nissan (Called Datsun at that time) or Honda. Once that happened it became very difficult to regain those customers unless the Japanese makers pulled a similar stunt and only Subaru obliged. Now 30 years later, the US automobiles are actually a pretty good product but can't get those loyal Toyota buyers back.

Now suppose it wasn't just GM, Ford and Chrysler? Suppose it was all the wheat, all the apples, all the oranges, all the beer, wine, whiskey, bottled water and soft drinks, all clothing, machinery and services combined? This is where the Chinese are headed if they are not careful. What happens if the "Made in China" label has been so tarnished that it has the same cache as "Made in Detroit." What if people are willing, as happen to the American auto industry, to spend MORE for a Toyota made overseas than they are for a Chinese Ford?

If that happens, Hong Kong might not be such a great place to live.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who isn't normally given to economic fear mongering

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is this the October Surprise?

Interesting stuff

Fai Mao

Maybe I was wrong

Maybe, unlike I thought in my long post this morning, reporters do know they are biased.

Damn! Just when I thought I could feel sorry for them

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who is still not a newspaper man

So you want to move to Australia?

Maybe not if they have spiders like this!

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who doesn't really like spiders

Would the Last Honest Reporter Please turn on the lights

BTW: The article above appears in a Mormon Newspaper. I, however, am not a Mormon

There was a rather interesting study done at (I believe) Princeton several years ago that shows an inverse relationship between the level of competence an individual thinks they have in a field and the level of competence their peers perceive them having. In other words, bad employees do not know they are bad employees because they don't know enough to know what they are doing is wrong. This study actually made me feel good about my job because I know what I do and worry over the areas that I need to improve. Thus, because I can see my own weakness I can have some assurance that I am not as totally incompetence as I sometimes feel. (Proving a positive by a negative is a favorite trick used by many philosophers and merely shows that we are as weird as most people think we are.)

I think that in large parts of the US and indeed the world we can see a very scary version of this idea.

Conservative politicians and thinkers in the US often use the term "Liberal Media Bias" and it is this that Science Fiction author Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game) is complaining about in this article. However, I do not like that term. What is going on is not "Liberalism" which is the promotion of freedom and human dignity but something else. That something else could be either incredibly idiotic or extremely sinister but is, I think, probably a form of the perceived and actual competence cognitive dissonance people experience in their careers.

I was watching the financial news on Bloomberg the other day when they interviewed left wing economist Paul Krugman. I don't agree with Mr. Krugman but he always comes across as a nice guy and I enjoy hearing him. He was actually asked about media bias in a softball way and gave a rather standard left wing answer about how the media are part of the establishment, are business and can't be either conservative or liberal because bla, bla, bla. I normally get kind of upset at this this line of reasoning which I've heard several times over the years. I'd always assumes that this argument was a ruse, a red herring to throw the hounds off the sent; an argument so bizarre that opponents are left flabbergasted and trying to refocus the argument on actual facts. I could, if I wished write a vigorous refutation of Mr. Krugman's ideas on this point and the PhD in Philosophy that I hold gives me at least the nominal credentials to do so. However, what struck me the other day, that I'd never considered before is that he actually believes it.

I'd always assumed that the obvious bias seen by many people in the way news is reported by the US media was intentional. But, what if it isn't? What if newspaper and television reporters cannot see their bias because they believe so strongly in their lack of bias? What if there is a form of incompetence at work and they do not even know how biased they are?

This whole issue is why despite my general euro-phobia I like the UK papers. When you pick up "The Guardian" you know where they stand, they know where they stand, and they don't try to hide it or fool me into thinking they don't have an agenda. The same is true of the "The Sun" and the "Times of Londonistan." UK papers take an editorial position and make no pretense that the rest of their news isn't slanted in that direction as well. That, in my opinion is a better approach than the New York Times claiming to be unbiased.

This problem gets worse when incompetence is combined with a sense of infallibility and moral certitude. I believe that these two character traits, unknowing incompetence and a sense of moral infallibility are why newspapers are a dying species in the US. It is also why it is impossible to argue with a journalist. They have such a well developed sense of infallibility that they can never admit that they are wrong. Thus, I normally resort to ignoring them as my only other option would involve violence. As strange as it sounds, I'd never considered the possibility that they actually believe in their own lack of bias.

Where the rubber meets the road in this issue is where am I as blind as they? I see their faults; can I see my own?

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who isn't a Newspaperman

Friday, October 17, 2008

Space smells of steak, say NASA

I knew there was reason I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a boy.

Holy Cow! could you get three better smells than Steak, hot metal and motorcycle grease?

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who thinks he will hop on his hog and ride over to Dan Ryan's

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Nancy Kessel could maybe get some sympathy if....

Notice what this guy didn't do.

While claiming he wasn't guilty of the particular crime he was executed for he didn't:
1. Blame anyone else for what happened to him.
2. Try to weasel out of his convictions for other crimes.
3. Pretend he was too sick to walk.
4. Act like a coward.

Make no mistake. This was a bad man. When convicted of the murder he was executed for he was already serving a life sentence with no opportunity for parole for other crimes. He may really have not been guilty of this particular crime or he could have been lying, I have no way of knowing. But, it is surprising that he was not on Death Row in Texas for the things he DID admit to.

Was his religious conversion real? Who knows? What is clear is that he faced death with a dignity and resolve that is admirable.

God bless you Alvin Kelly. Rest in Peace.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao

In Hong Kong she could plead guilty and go free

The headline says it all.

Here if she plead guilty, showed remorse in court and got a letter from her neighbor saying she was a decent person she'd get probation.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who thinks the HK legal system is broken

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Of Hot Stoves and Fields of Dreams

One of my few links back to the US is that I am a baseball fan. Baseball is big in Japan and South Korea as well as Latin America but is a relatively unwatched sport in most other places. Part of the reason that I am a baseball fan is that it was the only pro team in my hometown (Arlington, Texas) when I was young. It is also about the only sport I could have possibly played well as a child. I am not tall enough for basketball nor big enough for American Football but am way to big to be a jockey (as if my Baptist parents would have let me be affiliated with horse racing anyway.) I am not a sprinter and distance running events were simply not on the sports menu when I was a child. Soccer was a girls game. I didn't become a bicycle racer until I was 20 so that left baseball.

My poor eyesight means that I have poor depth perception but I could put on a catcher's mask and chest protector and squat behind home plate. You don't have to judge fly balls when it's being thrown at you. Catchers have a mystique about them. The great ones are legends but the major leagues have always been peppered with catchers that fill the backup role and travel from team to team. I guess that wanting to grow up and become a backup catcher is not a very exciting boyhood dream but it was about all I had until Charlie Hough showed up as a Ranger. Then I wanted to be Charlie Hough. My God, a good knuckleballer is about the pinnacle of baseball as far as I am concerned even to this day and Good-time Charlie was the best of his era.

One of the best parts about baseball to me is the off season. Because my local team, the Texas Rangers have generally been a team that misses the playoffs and have never won a playoff series the off season was a Rangers fan most pleasant part of the year. If the team was on the rise and looked like it might be better or even have a chance next year then fans looked for trades or Free Agent signings that would become the guy that put the team over the top and into the World Series. If the team was rebuilding or stagnant we could always hope that the manager would be fired and replaced or that the owner would sell the team to someone who would somehow, someway bring a winner to town. Such hopes were always dashed upon the rocks of the real season. Even when the Rangers were a good team they were never good enough. One year they won 94 games but the Kansas City Royals won 103. Since at that time only the 1st place team from each division went to the playoffs the Rangers were out. That stunk because they were arguably the second best team in the league but had to sit home while an inferior team lost to KC in the American League Playoff Series.

Every year as boy I would wait impatiently for Spring Training to begin in Port Charlotte Florida. I'd show up on opening day with my old Wilson catchers mitt that was autographed by every starter from the first opening day (I wish I still had that mitt) after the Washington DC Senators had moved to Texas and became the Rangers. I'd sit in the bleachers hoping to catch a foul ball or a Jeff Boroughs homerun. I was at the first 5 Opening Day games. I saw David Clyde pitch his first game as a Ranger. I had a bumper sticker on the back of 1966 Mustang that said "Trade Brad" and you have to be a long time Rangers fan to remember that one. I wore a black shirt for a week when Eddy Childs died. I became a Charlie Pride fan and bought his records because he would go and play a couple of exhibition games with the team each spring. I never did catch a foul ball.

I haven't been to a game since 1986. After I got married I had other priorities and the games were expensive for a guy with a wife and small children, especially since my wife is not a baseball fan and barely tolerates it on the radio. Not to mention I now live in China and a 21 hour flight each way to catch a baseball game is bit of a stretch for any fan. But that doesn't mean I stopped being a fan. It also doesn't mean that the off season isn't still an exciting part of my year as a Rangers fan. Each year at this time I find myself hoping that I can get back to Texas for a visit next summer and see a game. Some years I get back for a visit with my family but haven't found a way to go see a game.

Maybe next year. Maybe next year I can finally get back to a Rangers game. Maybe next year will be that magical season where men, some who are young enough to be my sons will win it all. My head says; "Nope, it won't happen." My heart says: "It might happen! It could be the Rangers year in 2009" Hope spring eternal when the stove is hot and I can almost see the field of dreams from my window in Causeway Bay

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who generally struck out when it came to sports

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hand them over?

I suspect that if the US agreed to do this these guys would suddenly discover they liked living in Guantanamo Bay.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who may be less than sympathetic in this case

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Badly Written Headlines

Shouldn't there be a hyphen in this headline?

Somehow I don't think that a cat ate the festival.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The cat who could possibly eat a festival

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Bang that gavel down, case closed

Nancy Kissel officially lost her appeal yesterday.

According to ATV last night, the judge evidently spent only a few minutes to completely dismiss the case. I thought this would happen. I am surprised he/she/they/it took this long to deliver the opinion.

The Kissel legal team is going to appeal to a higher court (Equivalent of the Supreme Court in the US) but I don't think that will go anywhere either.

I know my position on this case is strange because I think Nancy Kissel is guilty as Hell but should still be released. I think if she'd had legal council that really understood the Hong Kong legal system and gotten her to plead guilty, show some remorse, set out the extenuating circumstances and thrown herself on the mercy of the court then she'd be a free woman today. When a third-strike child molester gets 8 years in prison and government social workers start lining up to vainly try and "rehabilitate" him from the day gets locked up then Nancy Kissel's sentence is unjust.

I will admit however, to losing a little sympathy for her after this last court appearance. I was sympathetic towards her situation because I feel that the legal system in Hong Kong is capricious and that very often the punishment does not fit the crime. That, to me should be the basis for her appeal. Instead her lawyers are trying to argue legal loopholes. This is not the US. Hong Kong does not have anything close to the US "Bill of Rights." As far as I can tell from reading the Basic Law, we do not have the presumption of innocence in court either. It just seems to me that Nancy's legal team are simply chasing butterflies.

To compound this problem, there was Nancy's mother on TV talking about how her daughter has developed "health problems" in prison and is now often too weak to walk. Maybe it really is true but I do not know many, non-paralyzed 50 year old women that require a wheelchair. Whatever else the prisons in Hong Kong may be, they are not like those in the non-SAR bits of China, Thailand, Cambodia or Mexico. This "developed health problems while in prison" bit looks like a cheap stunt to get her term reduced to time served. If I am wrong about this I sincerely apologize. I just can't see how she isn't faking. If that is the case, maybe she was lying about being afraid of her husband in her first trial.

I'd feel better about releasing her if she'd come to court fit, maybe tanned and looking like she spent time in the prison weight room trying to flirt with the guards and said. "I am innocent because that man threatened me and my children and getting him away from my kids was the best thing I ever did. I sent him to Hell and he deserved it!" Instead, she tries to make me feel sorry for her and that's not going to work.

I've been call cynical before.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who still thinks that the HK legal system is broken and blames the British

Friday, October 03, 2008

Wasted days and wasted night

Geez, here it is a Friday afternoon the day before a 4 day weekend and we cannot even find a way to end this school day at 2:30

Until next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who'd like to bug out early today but can't