June 2006 Archives

A cracker of a game


...but the wrong bloody team won.

That was a clear dive in the penalty box right at the last minute, an unfortunately successful attempt to force a result before being swept away by the Socceroos in extra time. Disgusting, cynical and unsportsmanlike.

Australia had the possession and were constantly on the attack in the second half; they had the fire and the style and given extra time would have swept the Azurri away.

The BBC summary.

Lens tools

| | Comments (1)

If you're in Hong Kong and looking for some lens tools to open up your 35mm and Medium Format lenses, the only place I've found which does them is "Camera Repair", Room 17B, Champagne Court, Kimberly Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong. It's a few doors away from David Chan's shop. I went in with a vague request, and they were helpful very courteous, and spoke perfect English too.

I bought a little tool to open up a lens, and the shop owner tested all the workings himself, replaced a bit that was a bit wrong, and put bits of two tools together to make one for me.

Also, their rates for cleaning fungus out of lenses sounded quite good: HK$500 for an FA* 80-200 f2.8 Pentax lens.

If you're a tourist to Hong Kong, or a potential tourist to Hong Kong, and you're considering buying a camera in Hong Kong, check out this thread: Camera Stores in Hong Kong at photo.net, and never, ever, buy a camera in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Note on that thread: rude shop assistants are a fact of life in Hong Kong. Just because the guy behind the counter isn't bowing and sweet like what you *think* an Asian shop assistant should be like doesn't mean he's dishonest. He's probably treating you like he'd treat anyone else. Only worry about actual criminal intent.

Actually, I've bought a lot of stuff in Tsim Sha Tsui (I hate that TST abbreviation - it smacks of colonial "some names are just too hard to say" arrogance), and you need to learn to spot certain signs, like the lack of prices in the window and the fact that there are no Chinese people inside the shop.

If there's no prices on everything in the window, DON'T GO IN. YOU'LL GET RIPPED OFF! If they won't let you look at a camera unless you buy it , WALK OUT, YOU'RE BEING RIPPED OFF!.

I should point out that, whenever I go shopping for camera gear in Hong Kong, I'm usually wearing bright floral shirts, shorts and sandals.

(All of which is actually designer clothing from the sample shops in Wanchai, so I've paid maybe HK$300 for Armani shirts, shorts and Adidas sandals. It's all natural fibres and very comfortable for the incredibly humid summers we get here.)

But the guy in the camera shop just sees a foreigner who looks like the quintessential tourist with Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and sandals, with a camera bag attached. It always brings out the worst in the camera shop guys. Those that react to me in a polite and professional fashion get the business, the guys who go into the tourist spiel get short shrift.

Alexa Kitchen


Alexa's Place: a seven year old graphic artist.

(Via Neil Gaiman's blog (indirectly).)

it's the end of the world as we know it


(and I feel fine)

We got past 6/6/06 without the world ending, but there are some serious signs of the impending apocalypse*:

You can boot into windows on a Mac;

OK, so this one isn't news...

Duke Nukem Forever may ship this year

I'm here to kick ass and chew gum. And I'm all out of gum.

I remember two games with very long development times: DaiKatana, (probably one of the most embarassing failures in the history of computer gaming) and Half-Life2, which was as revolutionary as the original was. I'm predicting the DaiKatana route for DNF.

The 5th Chtorr book may be finished this year;

(Find the June 3, 2006 entry)

This leaves only two major sequences to finish. I'm guessing 20,000 words more and the narrative sections of the book will be pretty much done. Then I'll have to correlate three separate interlocking storylines, finish the interstitials and add the Solomon Short quotes. My target is to be done by the end of July.

I also need to make sure that all the people who bought character names are fairly included and appropriately dismembered. That could take another week or two. I hope to turn in the final draft before Labor Day. Then I have a handful of short stories and one other book to finish before I take up book six.

Well, it's only been about THIRTEEN YEARS since book four, so, you know, no worries dude.

* I'm personally looking forward to the Apocalypso, where all the nations of the earth rise up and dance the limbo while drinking rum.

Displays for all to see


From Saturdays SCMP

Displays for all to see

We refer to Alan Sargent's letter on the English used in LED displays on Kowloon Motor Bus vehicles ("Blink and you'll miss it", June 5).

KMB's Electronic Bus Stop Announcement System, introduced in 1998, informs passengers of upcoming bus stops with voice announcements in Cantonese, English and Putonghua and corresponding LED displays. The length of the Chinese and English LED displays correlates with the length of the voice announcements, and the Chinese version is shown twice to match the Cantonese and Putonghua.

The system is checked regularly and any abnormalities are rectified promptly. Passengers who observe any malfunctions should note down the bus registration number and call the KMB hotline on 2745-4466.

To help passengers, names are also displayed at bus stops and detailed route information is available on the KMB website.

SUSANNE HO, head of corporate communications, KMB

Ms. Ho has clearly not read the original letter very clearly. He wasn't complaining about the displays not working, he was complaining that they show the English name for about five seconds, before staying in Traditional Chinese until the next bus stop. (If the announcement is being made in Putonghua, why aren't Simplified Characters used?)

While it is very useful to have the next stop displayed like that, it surely wouldn't be much of an inconvenience to have the display cycle between both languages all the while. Perhaps KMB think that only people who can read Chinese use their buses?

Robert Newman's History of Oil


Rober Newman's History of Oil is a fascinating look at the real reasons behind war in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Wish you were Gore


It's the time of the beast


Look at the time!

Approval Ratings


This is interesting: George W. Bush's Approval Ratings over time:

Bush approval graph

(my shadow adding thingy doesn't do quite what you'd expect with a largely transparent image....)

Via Daily Kos.

New Macbook


I saw my first new Macbook the other day, sitting in a shop window right next to a 15" Macbook pro. It looks incredibly cute apart from one thing.

The keyboard looks awful. Square, raised keys with sharp corners. Old farts like me can remember the IBM PC Jr. and that was the first thing that sprang to mind when I saw it. Then I thought of the Sinclair Spectrum, which had some redeeming features.

Seeing it next to a Macbook Pro, it looked very non-pro indeed.

Half Life 2 Episode 1


I've just finished playing Half-Life 2 Episode 1, the sequel to Half-Life 2. It's visually stunning and very rich in content. If you've played the Lost Coast level, you've seen the little equivalent of DVD commentary tracks — inserted notes by the creation team describing the technical details of what's going on — and seen the new Rendering Engine. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best looking game I have ever seen.

halflife2 episode1.

Quake 4 and Doom 3 are good, but they don't have the wide open feel that this game does. They don't have the fantastic lighting and character animations or the sense that you really are wandering around a city somewhere in Eastern Europe. (The design team used picture of hospitals around Chernobyl for the hospital interiors!) And they certainly don't have Alyx following them around! (She's the young lady in the picture on the game page.)

(Aside: my 6 year old daughter thinks that Alyx is much cooler than Lara Croft, who looks deformed in the latest Tomb Raider episode. A 20" waist and a pair of 42DDs do not really go together well.)

The Steam system seems to have had all its early bugs sorted out. Pre-ordering the game was a simple matter of entering some details, pushing a button, downloading it, and just waiting for the release date of June 1. (Although they neglected to mention that that was June 1, west coast USA time, which is pretty much June 2 over here. Still, I came back from a pint after work on Friday night to find the game ready and waiting for me.)

I do have one complaint about it: it's very short.

It costs USD 19.95, and there was a 10% discount for pre-ordering it. So, roughly about HKD160. What do you get for that? A game that can be finished in two nights of playing, with a few moderately difficult puzzles and some tricky Boss Combats (where you have to defeat a large and ornery Foe, for those not up to speed on gaming jargon).

A typical computer game in this genre (first person shooters) will cost about USD 40 and give you at least a week's entertainment, maybe more. (I played though Half-Life 2, before this one came out and it took me at least two whole weeks of playing for a few hours in the evenings.) For the amount of game-play involved, I think it should really be around the USD15 mark, maybe even USD 10. It seems really short for 20 bucks.

Hopefully, Episode 2, which is due in Q4, should have more game-play. The trailer (at the end of Episode 1) looks awesome.

Suit Sir?


A letter in Tuesday's ever unlinkable SCMP:

My wife and I were with a tour group that travelled through several cities on the mainland, and then we visited Hong Kong on May 16-19.

We visited several of the traditional tourist sites in Hong Kong, and then decided to walk along Nathan Road. During this walk, we, as westerners, were singled out and constantly confronted by very aggressive vendors who wanted us to purchase various items.

These vendors stood in our path, touched us and belittled us if we did not listen to them or when we told them "no". At one point I became so frustrated, I started to be verbally aggressive towards the vendor, until my wife stopped me.

We found this behaviour very offensive and violated our right to privacy.

We told other western tourists of our experience in Hong Kong and advised them to avoid the Nathan Road area, especially the south end.

We are aware that the city of Hong Kong is concerned that tourists leave with a positive impression of their time in the city, and we feel that aggressive vendors along Nathan Road leave a negative impression on tourists.

Even though I enjoyed my time in Hong Kong, the one experience that I recall the most is my negative experience along Nathan Road. When I tell my friends of my travel to Hong Kong, one of the things I pass along is the way I was treated on Nathan Road.

Wade Baker and Cora Guy, California

Well said sir! The constant touching and grabbing and "suit sir?" from the South Asians and the "Copy Watch?" from the local triads have combined to put me off going to Tsim Sha Tsui at all. Those guys, and all the crooked camera and electronics shops, need to be cleared out of what's supposed to be our 'premier tourist district'.

I would personally reccomend that tourist do not go to Tsim Sha Tsui at all. If you want electronics, go to Sham Shui Po or Mongkok.

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