Monday, August 31, 2009

Paying the cost to be the boss!

I was relaxing in front of the TV last night watching "Newline" as it was better than sitting there drinking beer in the dark while the wife wrote emails to the kids overseas. I really have to hope that the people who appear on that show are only ones with nothing better to do rather than the brightest and best that Hong Kong has to offer. Geezes Cheeses, what a bunch of dolts!

Last night they were talking about drug testing in schools. They had a Catholic priest who in effect said: "There are better ways to solve this problem" and some guy from Poly-U who is also the head of some sort of citizens concern group that advocates drug testing.

The priest was cogent, well spoken and had his position pretty well thought out. The only problem was, he was wrong. The guy supposedly advocating drug testing was, despite his PHD and head of what ever division at Poli-U a bumbling train wreck. That is a shame because he supports the better position.

The gist of the Catholic argument was essentially two pronged.

First, schools are for education. Education is easier in an environment of trust. Introducing random drug testing reduces trust. If students trust their schools and teachers they will receive a better education and won't be as tempted to use drugs. Therefore, drug testing is a bad idea.

Second, schools are for education. We should not introduce elements into the curriculum that do not further education. Drug testing does not further education. Therefore, drug testing is a bad idea.

The priest also took a couple of swipes at privacy issues but his basic argument was as presented above.

I am not sure what the other guy's argument was except: "We have this HUGE problem that is getting even more huge and so we have to do something."

I would have presented a better argument. Maybe Michael Chugani should have me on as a guest sometimes.

The arguments for random drug test in schools is simple.

1st. Argument
You cannot speed on a public road in a private car because even though you own the car you don't own the road. This is true even if speeding in a car did not endanger other drivers. If it is moral for the state to set and enforce speed limits then it is moral for the state to demand a drug free school and setup the enforcement procedure to ensure it. There is no difference between the two. If you hold that the state can do one then must be able to do the other.

2nd Argument
The state has a vested interest in seeing that school children grow up to become tax payers not welfare receivers and that is why the state funds schools, to create tax payers. This is a win win situation because through education the state gets more tax revenue and the student gets a higher standard of living. But, since drug users are prime candidates for welfare rolls and need more medical and social services than otherwise healthy people then there is a good chance that the state is wasting its money trying to educate them. Since students are taking money for their education from the state then the state has the RIGHT to demand they are drug free to ensure that the money spent on them by the state is not wasted.

3rd Argument
Schools, especially government supported schools are not private places. They are supported with public money which makes them public places. If you want to protect your privacy then stay at home. Don't go to school you are, by definition, not in a private place at school but a public one. If the state can stop motorist randomly and test them for blood alcohol to try and reduce drunks behind the wheel then it can force 15 year-olds to pee into a cup to reduce the number dopers in the algebra class.

As to someone getting a hold of the record 30 years later and trying to use a failed drug test in high school to keep Wolfgang Wong from becoming the Assistant-Permanent-Secretary-to-the-Second-Temporary-Vice-Secretary-of-the-Public-Hand-Sanitation-department-who-is-Seconded-to-the-Greater-Over-administrative-Secretary-for-Development-in-the-West-Kowloon-Cultural-District (Which still will not have been built),well, if smoking one reefer in high school ruins a civil servant career in Hong Kong then I'm all for it. But, I think that most people would be more tolerant than I on this issue and realize that youth sometimes do stupid things. That's what youth is for to some extent. I can't see that it would have that deleterious of an effect.

However, if that one failed drug test was the warning that allowed his school to do some caring intervention on little Wolfgang and start him on the path to an illustrious career as a nameless, faceless, but obscenely over paid civil servant then he should be grateful it happened.

Now to the refute the Catholic father's position.
Schools are for education. But a large part of that educational process is actually learning what the rules are for living in society. One of the rules of society is trust. But trust is earned. Does this priest advocate that schools stop having teachers check for students cheating on test? Doesn't looking for cheaters reduce trust? As Ronald Regan so famously said: "Trust but verify" Actual trust between students and teachers is not reduced by a drug testing program provided that testing is truly random, fair and honest. Most youth benefit from having parameters in place that help them know the limits of proper behavior in society. Drug use is, I believe one of those areas.

His second objection is refuted simply by asking if he knows that most schools in Hong Kong require uniforms? Are uniforms part of the curriculum? How exactly do they further the curriculum? Schools do lots of things that do not directly relate to the curriculum. They do these things to make the administration of the school easier. Yet many of these things are not directly related to education or curriculum. Why should drug testing be a special case?

So come on kiddies, line up and here is your cup. Fill it at least 1/2 way up.

Please note. I am not advocating either position Merely knocking holes in both

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who is smarter than the guest on Newsline

Monday, August 24, 2009

The wife considers a career change

The really pretty-looks-25-years-younger-than-she-is-smart-and-hard-working wife and I were watching a Cantonese soap opera the other night. I get the impression that it is hugely popular in Hong Kong and she seems, at times to find it funny. My inexcusably poor for someone who has lived in Hong Kong as long as I have Cantonese prevents me from following the dialog. However the plot is pretty transparent and I can normally guess whats going on. I even have my own derogatory nicknames for the characters like "Fat legs," "Hot to trot," "Helmet," "Cute Fat," "I'm so gay," "Mr. Snake" "Triad Guy" "Tom Boy" and the like.

Recently the wife has been complaining about this show however. She thinks that the plots are overly simplistic, poorly written and predictable. But her major complaint is that the characters lack depth. She used an interesting comparison. Yesterday we were watching a DVD of an old Star Trek movie and she commented about how the characters had consistent personalities. How they have depth and personalities that are consistant from movie to movie and you knew how they'd react and how it was very different from TVB soap opera. Captain Kirk and friends were believable people and the TVB characters are not. She then commented that what made that even more startling was that she could see how well the characters were developed and she didn't really like that movie.

She thinks she could write a better script for TVB soap operas than whoever is currently doing it. I actually don't think that would be so hard because the plots look rather stupid but had assumed they are supposed to be because it is a soap opera. However, she has spent a few idle minutes looking at the TVB website devoted to this program and told me that the fans of the show have huge arguments about the plots and who they want to see married to each other and what not and this and that. So, she was wondering if the show was better written would it be less popular? Is the average HK TVB watcher too stupid or ignorant for a higher quality program? I had no answer on Friday but today I do!

I think the low level of scripts exhibited on TVB and ATV Chinese programs is because they are trying to provide a very important service to the city! I read in one report, I wish I remembered where and could link to it, that this woman was watching TV when the police broke down her door.

TVB and ATV are allowing the social welfare department to not keep track of paranoid schizophrenics by providing them with mind numbing entertainment so that they do not require anti-psychotic drugs. What a wonderful group of broadcasters we have in Hong Kong! York Chow should give the executives of TVB and ATV a medal.

But then I wonder, how many of the fans of this show are paranoid? It's probably just me.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who would rather watch a DVD of an old movie

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Freedom and Control

I was watching Newsline on Sunday. I have come to really like that program in a perverse sort of way. It is a perverse pleasure because it almost does not matter who Michael Chigani has as his guest. If they are a government official, civil servant, legco member or the permanent-under-secretary-to-the-temporary-over-secretary for this or that government department I already know their answer. It is always the same. The words change but in essence they always say:
1. "You can't blame me for that!"
2. "We are very concerned."
3. "That is a problem that needs more study."
4. "Of course I'm worth what I'm paid."
5. "mumble-mumble-mumble, ergotaetoticsylibolicdiatribic national pride, mumble growl, sub vocalization, We're all Chinese. Now you see what I mean, don't you?"

Sunday was no different. Two legco members supposedly on opposite sides of an issue and they agreed with each other most of the time. How can you disagree if you accept each other's points? The question at hand was whether or not Hong Kong could use a 3rd broadcast television station. They yakked about it for 30 minutes and then the news came on so I could get the sports scores.

Here is the deal. Both of these guys were saying how IF and it seemed to be a big if another television license was granted then the government should make good and sure that the new station did not simply become a better or worse version of TVB and ATV.
Both want the new new station to reach out "minority interest" in Hong Kong and to raise the cultural level of the city.

I sometimes think that the reason my Chinese wife does not let me wear shoes in the house is so that I won't throw them at the TV. This was one of those moments where the stupidity, and foggy thinking of the self-perceived governmental elite is just so ignorant that they deserve to have something thrown at them.

If these hotentots want to ensure that "minority interest" are being represented on TV then they should advocate allowing 8 or 10 more television station to operate in Hong Kong. Think about it. What would happen if they took the same line towards restaurants? Then these dim-bulb legislators would say things like "You can't open another noodle shop! You have consider the needs of the minority diets. You have to open an organic vegetarian Halal eatery instead." To say that it is the governments' responsibility to regulate minority programming on TV is exactly the same thing as saying what type of restaurant a chef can open. Neither is the purview of a bureaucracy. More than that there is a distinct whiff of snobbery in the idea that a TV station or any entertainment should raise a cultural level. Why is classical music any more "cultural" than canto-pop? Just because someone with a degree from HKU says so don't make it so. I get really worked up about this because it is simply one level of society, normally the level with more money trying to force its values on those without. Faugh! Stuff you Pavarotti CD's up where the sun doesn't shine. That is not to say that there is not value in opera. Just don't make me listen to it.

Before moving here I lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Coincidently that metropolitan area is about the same population as Hong Kong those much larger geographically. There are 18 broad cast television stations there. They are in three languages and most are 24 hours. There are stations that cater to Hispanics, to Blacks, to sports fans, to a religious audience, online shopping (That would be big here) and everything in between. They all make money or there would not be so many. It also isn't as though cable isn't available and various satellite dish systems are ubiquitous as well. Holy Cow, I can get more Chinese language TV stations through cable TV in Dallas than I can in Hong Kong!

So, question, if the DFW area with a population of 6.3 million people can support 18 full power free to air TV stations and probably well over 100 radio stations then why does HK have only two and a largely empty radio dial?

One of the guest on Sunday, I have forgotten which one touched on the answer. It is a matter of control. Despite the cries of "Self Censorship" that are raised occasionally here the real issue is government control. Because there are fewer outlets for news and opinion, the government has an easier time controlling what the population thinks about various issues. Imagine how much easier time Barrak Obama would have had if the US democratic party could control talk-radio in the US? However, an easier time does not necessarily mean better and that is true whether you agree with BO or not. Part of living in a free society means that the government allows people to voice their disagreement. Neither the British colonial government or the current Chinese sponsored fascist government wants to be disagreed with. So, the government in Hong Kong does not really want that many more media outlets. They'd lose control. They'd have to be responsive to the needs, and will of the citizens.

I'd also be willing to bet real money that TVB and ATV don't really compete any more than Wellcome and Park-n-Shop. The two TV stations here probably like their semi-monopoly. This would be especially true of ATV because it does not really compete with TVB in revenue. However, it is easier to keep taking the governments money than find an audience.

So, should Hong Kong allow another broadcaster to launch a television station? The answer is "No." The government should let as many as want to launch television stations, start them.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who watches TV

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Why everything Sucks

I also think that as people have lost their religion they are afraid to grow old and go to the Hell they claim not to believe in.

Until Mext Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who is happily middle-aged

That's So Retarded

The past couple of weeks have been real back breakers.

We renovated our flat in Causeway Bay but only paid “professionals” to do part of it. We had a non-weight bearing wall removed and the floor in that area redone and the area rewired. We would have had the professionals do the whole thing but they kept finding additional charges beyond the contracted price.

So, in the back of the flat rather than paying a painter and then paying him some more I did it all myself. I must admit that I still have the noble-savage bug and believe that every real man should know how to, and enjoy painting walls, building fences, sawing lumber, swinging a hammer and making furniture. Real men, or so my somewhat addled librarians’ mind thinks' know how to sweat and enjoy physical labor. But, painting in Hong Kong is just so frustrating because the painters are not only dishonest but stupid. They thin the paint thinking that it allows them to save a few dollars and then apply three or four coats of colored water rather than one or two coats of thicker paint.

That may, in fact save a tiny bit of cash except for three things that both relate to time.

First, it takes a lot more time to apply four coats than does one or two. If they didn’t thin the paint then they could finish faster and have more time for other jobs. They’d also spend a lot less time cleaning up because thicker paint drips less and makes less of a mess.

Second, thicker paint sticks to the wall better. But, because the painters here excessively thin their paint, every time you paint an interior wall you must remove the old paint. If you don't then the new paint softens the old paint and the whole mess pulls the old paint off the wall and you end up having to paint the same wall twice after scraping the weak old and your new paint off the wall. So, in addition to having to apply four coats of thin paint, local painters have to also remove the old paint which also adds to the time and mess.

Third, the thinned paint does not stay on the wall as long so you must repaint more often. This might make the painters feel they will have more work and thus a higher income but it is frustrating for residents to have to repaint their walls every three years.

So in a rather stupid attempt to save a few dollars of paint that is, most of the time paid for by the person who owns the flat anyway, painters spend more time to provide a lower quality job.

I'm not even going to get into the fact that they use small, cheap brushes, only 100mm rather 250mm rollers and I've never seen one use a heavy bodied paint sprayer to save time.

I’ve painted more than my fair share of interior walls. I worked as a house painter in college. We’d go into a duplex rented to students and have 12 hours to repaint all the walls and ceiling and then clean up so that it could be rented out again in 72 hours. We NEVER had to remove any old paint. Even if the tenants had painted walls a dark color like black or purple we’d just use a an undercoat like “Kilz” and then apply a white or beige or other neutral rental property color on top. Two guys, two rollers, two roller trays, and various types of rollers to cover the highly textured ceilings and less textured walls, plastic drop cloths, several brushes, scrapers for bad spots, a tube of spackling and caulk for cracks, some towels, goggles to keep paint out our eyes when painting ceilings and a boom box or radio. We generally had a Coleman cooler with some soda, water and lunch stuff as well. Most of the apartments and duplexes we painted were about 1000 square feet of living space not counting closets which would be a 1800 square foot flat in Hong Kong. We'd paint these flats in one day for $800.00 and we provided the paint which cost about $75.00 to $100.00. Not a bad job if we could do two a week and a good job if we did three.

In Hong Kong we’d have starved. We’d have first had to use a product called “Standard Retarder” to remove the old paint. You apply this like paint with either a roller or brush. Unlike modern water based interior paints this stuff stinks to high heaven and is the real reason that your neighbors complain when you repaint a Hong Kong flat. After the Standard Retarder sits on the wall a few minutes it softens the old paint which must be scrapped off. You then have to let the wall dry or else the new paint will not stick properly.

An additional problem is created because the painters here do not use drywall board or sheetrock to cover the concrete or brick. Once again the painters are being penny wise and dollar foolish. Instead they use gypsum powder and mix it with a gelatin to make plaster that is then spread over the wall. The plaster is then sanded and the multiple coats of overly thin paint applied. But the Standard Retarder also takes this off. So, you have to reapply the plaster before you can repaint. If the builders here would seal and apply a fungicide to the underlying concrete wall then cover that wall with sheetrock, tape and bed the sheetrock to cover the joints and the texture and paint with non-thinned paint, renovations in Hong Kong would be a lot easier. Subsequent repainting could just simply be applying new paint over old. But no, they work so that every time you paint you have to remove everything down to the bare concrete. This adds not only time and money but a significant amount of waste and trouble. As paint is considered to be a hazardous waste; removing it from the walls to throw into a land fill is also not an environmentally sound practice when it wouldn’t hurt anything to simply leave the old paint on the wall under the new. The net result is that a flat which Howard and I could have painted in 6 hours winds up taking 3 days for at least three guys working 12 hours a day. But, they spend less on paint.

Doing stupid things that waste money and time appears to be endemic to many levels of Hong Kong. Especially if someone in the government can find any type of short sighted savings. There must be something in the curriculum at HKU because all the civil servant types have a real problem seeing that short term saving often translate into long term expenses. For example; The EdB is going to stop allowing disabled students stay in the school system past the age of 18 despite the fact that non-disabled students who fail a year or two can be in government schools until they are at least 20.

That is as stupid as thinning paint.

These students could really benefit from a little longer time in school. An additional two or three years would allow many of them to gain enough skills and education to become productive members of society with jobs instead a lifetime of being supported by families or on the Hong Kong welfare rolls.

EdB says “They’ve already received more funding than non-disabled students so they are not entitled to more.” So not only are the knuckle-draggers in the EdB stupid dip-shits'; they are cold hearted bastards as well. I wonder how long it will be before someone in the hospital authority says: “Hey, all you people who have had a heart attack or all you losers with diabetes, you’ve already received more than you fair share of health services. No more doctors visits for you.” Since the Civil Servants are moved from department to department probably not very long. Since the civil-servants have their own hospitals and medical system they would be exempt from such decrees.

As a sidelight to this, you gentle reader might be interested to know that the EdB just gave out 4 land grants for new International schools. One of the ones approved was for a British boarding school for the wealthy brats of the upper class whose undisciplined hellions have to be locked away so they won't die of their cocaine addition before they complete secondary school. Many of the students in that school will not even be from Hong Kong or stay in Hong Kong after graduation. They also have other educational options. One land grant that was turned down was the proposal from the Hong Kong based International Christian School (ICS) for a new school expressly for students with moderate to severe disabilities that cannot be placed in an inclusive classroom. ICS wanted to create an affordable option for disabled students. EdB didn’t think that was as important as allowing spoiled trust-fund babies an opportunity to live in a dorm with other societal parasites.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who thinks the entire EdB is really retarded