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spikegifted.net - Archive Q4 2005

December 2005:
In some countries, telling the truth is considered 'unpatriotic'. No, I'm not talking about the US, where it is famously for government censorship and having a media that follows the government line. No, it is China I'm talking about. See, in China, if a newspaper editor makes too much noise against the government, he gets sacked. (In China, it's called 'reassigned'.) There's no softly-softly approach in this, unlike the US. Well, at least the readers know the paper they've been reading has turned into a pile of junk; unlike in the US where the editorial simply bend the truth to make friends with the government. 
Now, here's a logic puzzle for you folks to look at: A boy, with parents who are not HIV-positive, claims he contracted the virus after a blood transfusion. He has now lost two legal cases. The first time because the blood centre refused to submit the blood donor's personal file, "in an effort to protect the individual's privacy". (Yeah, right!) The most recent case was turned down because there was no solid proof the hospital and blood centre were to blame. (Oh, really!) Something is telling me that this is part of a cover-up by the authorities. If it turns out that the kid did contract HIV through blood transfusion, the centers involved will have to contact all other patients and have tests carried out - imagine the costs! Worse, if it turns out it was a negligence by the various staff in the center, it means the checks and controls are not working - more embarrassment! Better simply throw the issue out altogether and everyone's happy, except the boy, his family and anyone who may have been affected. Life is cheap. 
The legal war launched by the US music industry against illegal internet downloading has been a well documented event. In the past the RIAA has been accused of heavy-handed tactics against users and ISPs. However, it has recently been revealed that lawyers acting for the RIAA have been using bullying tactics to make witnesses lie for them in court under oath in order to get their cases heard. While there are good arguments put up by the music publishers to pursue illegal downloading, achieving results by illegal tactics is just plain wrong. Do I sense that the music industry is getting desperate?
If I haven't said this before, I'm saying it now: the US is a police state! President Bush's warrant-less wiretapping of American citizens isn't supported by a shred of law, and his attempt to justify it amounts to little more than a confession. It has been disclosed that the NSA has been illegally wiretapping American citizens. While this, in itself, is not an encouraging development, the behavior of the US president is even worse - he attempted to defend such action by claiming that the NSA is doing so under his approval and justify it because the country is at war with terrorism.
The not very democratic Communist rulers in Beijing have criticized pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong (Chinese) for blocking a controversial electoral reform package. This is rich stuff from the government that limits its citizens' civil rights, and turn a blind eye on corruption and abuse of power by its officials! According to a spokesman, the defeat in the 'vote was "not in line with the mainstream" of public opinion in Hong Kong.' I'm very curious as to where and how the CCP got this 'mainstream' opinion from? Communist sympathizers who have no democratic voice in Hong Kong?
I like it when someone has balls to say something in public that is (in my humble opinion) correct and blatantly obvious. Former US President, Bill Clinton, said to global delegates on the last day of the UN Climate Change Summit that the Bush administration is "flat wrong" in claiming that reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to fight global warming would damage the U.S. economy. If anything, this should be an opportunity for the US as it has the scientific knowledge, human and financial resources to take a lead in emission control and reduction. The Kyoto Protocol may be bad for the oil industry, but the US economy is not one dimensional. Even if it was, hurting the economy is no excuse not to do anything about it.
Here are a couple shining examples of trigger happy, or just plain incompetent, law enforcement: a) a airline passenger with a psychiatric condition was shot and killed by US Air Marshals who thought he had an explosive device (obviously they assumed the worst) and b) 30,000 people have been accidentally put on the US Terrorist Watch Lists and they have to write the Transportation Security Administration and prove to them that they're not 'terrorists' (so the innocent have to prove to the authorities that they're not guilty). Welcome to the Land of the Free - as long as you behave 'normally' and are not on a terrorist watch list...
Lately, there haven't been that many updates to spikegifted.net. Apologies to those who bother to read these pages. The infrequent updates were not owed to lack of motivation (as you can see, I've added a whole load of stuff on the 'front page'...) but because of my workload. It is now getting close to the end of the year and since coming back from Cyprus last month, our team has been under pressure to complete our reviews as scheduled. In addition to the usual annual reviews, we each have to deal with any new business that come our way. It has been a struggle. The Ruler_of_spike has been extremely busy with her work also. However, the end of the year is now in sight. We are both so looking forward to the Christmas period when we can spend sometime away from our work places and relax a little.
Picking up from the last entry of November, I see that the proponents of Intelligent Design, in an act of desperation, have scored an own-goal. In their desperate search to find something scientific to support their completely unscientific dogma, the ID folks have evoked the help of SETI (I've captured the page in case someone wants to forget this incident in the future). Yes, that's right. Apparently ID, which the author describes as 'the science of design detection' is just like SETI's work. That is just a load of tosh, according to Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute, a man who knows quite a bit about the science of SETI. Seth's rebuke of the ID folks' association is an excellent piece of scientific writing. Without being aggressive, he dismantled all the premises of how SETI's work could be linked to ID. In short, the ID folks claim ID is a 'science' of sort, yet it make claims without actually understanding the science that they are hoping to link their ideas to. How very unscientific.
November 2005:
Fundamental Christians in the US are making a mockery of the basic foundation of science by insisting 'Intelligent Design' ('ID') is to be taught along side evolution. Evolution (and natural selection) is supported by a vast body of evidence - fossils preservation and genetics being the most obvious. On the other hand, ID are claims based on a book used for propaganda and self-justification. Even the Catholic Church doesn't recognize ID as a science. So, why do the religious Right in the US insisting on arguing the case for ID to be classified and taught as a science subject? IMHO, bigotry and dogma are the only explanation.
This has to be a 'classic', even by the typical levels of lies and incompetence of the Chinese Communists - on November 13, an explosion at a petrochemical plant in northern China caused a massive (100 ton) leak of the chemical benzene (not the nicest of chemicals). Eight days later, water supply to a nearby major city was cut off; local officials cited maintenance. It took ten days before someone admitted that very high levels of benzene have been found in the water. And the contaminated stretch of water was 80km long (Chinese)... Woops!! Incompetence, ignorance, untrustworthy... These are only some of the words I can think of describing those illustrious leaders. (Here are what others think.)
If you don't want to do the time, don't do the crime. That's a very simple logic. Yet, there are some people who think that if their fellow citizen is caught doing something naughty abroad, the foreign government should not punish the offender the same as they'd punish one of their own. That's the message from a former Australian PM regarding an Australian drug trafficker caught in Singapore. As if his brand of extraterritoriality doesn't sound blatant enough, he also called the city state a 'rogue Chinese port'. No doubt Singaporeans felt warm and fuzzy when they heard that they were rogues and being part of China. Wrong, wrong and wrong, again.
Now, if there is one very strange idea, this is it: Imagine you live in a place where people have limited democratic rights (ie. what the majority of the voting population thinks is a "good thing" may not be represented as such at a political level, and no, I'm not talking about the UK), where universal suffrage is a distant dream, yet the leader of the place goes on TV to appeal to the general public for some policies that he thinks is a "good thing" (tm). So... What's the point of that? Mass appeal and limited suffrage do not go hand in hand. The leader in question is the newly appointed chief executive of the Hong Kong SAR and the policy he appeared on TV for was a proposal to double the executive election committee and increase the LegCo by a further ten seats. However, the appointment/voting structures remain the same. So what's all the fuss? There is no change - bigger doesn't make better, often just messier!
Freedom is a funny thing: the more you have it the more you want it. And in a democratic society, freedom has a price attached: the price being personal and social responsibilities. Whether you like it or not, personal responsibility is not something you can allow people imposing on you, otherwise, it would not be 'freedom' and people will accuse those who promote such ideas as dictatorial (they call it 'nanny state'). You must be wondering where I'm trying to say here... It was reported that a third of people think a woman is partially or completely responsible for being raped if she has behaved flirtatiously. While it is recognized that great many incidents of rape are not reported, it has been argued by some that women should bear some responsibility. Another 'rape' incident was reported that a case collapsed after the accuser confessed that she could not remember whether she consented to sex because she was too drunk to remember. While I love to believe that we live in a law abiding society, it is sadly not always the case. For those who actually prefer to enjoy some personal safety, I strongly believe that it is high time people stop relying on others' good nature and instead have some control over their own lives - by observing their personal responsibilities.
Cyprus in November is very pleasant - it is usually relatively warm and usually dry. Having spent nearly an entire working week there, it was a shock to get back to London where the temperature was struggling to rise above freezing. During our typical weekends, the Ruler_of_spike and I went for a walk and it was the same this morning. There is a common near where we live and we enjoy our little walk in it. In the common, there is a little pond where much of the activities is usually focused around - the dogs take their dip in the water, the birds get their rest and kids play near the water edge. Today, when we got to the pond, we discovered that much of it was frozen - the birds were standing on the surface of the ice instead of either floating on or standing in the water. This is highly unusual. Since the UK usually experience colder weather in January and February, few cold snaps take place before the New Year. If the forecasters' predictions are correct, we're in for a long and deep winter this year...
November has been a bit of a slow month when it comes to updating the site. That's because this is a particularly difficult month on my review schedule. It's not because I have a lot of outstanding reviews to be completed - my portfolio is relatively well distributed throughout the year, so I don't face any particular 'review bubble' towards the end of the year. However, as a number of transaction documentations are now either completed or are close to completion, credit limits need to be put in place for the front office to start trading. So, on top of the annual reviews, I need to write up some new businesses with some more complex clients. On top of that, I have just spent a week away on a counterparty due diligence trip in Cyprus which, while very rewarding in terms of getting to know our clients, could have been better timed. Anyway, there are now five weeks until the end of the year and now is the time for the big push to get those review out of the way!
Recently, one of my relatives passed away. This was the first time a close member of my extended family has passed away since my grandfather when I was three years old. This member of my family lived in Hong Kong and as events was taking place over there and me being several thousands of miles away here in the UK, I could do nothing, but to wait for news from my relatives in HK. There is this 'unreal' remoteness that shielded me from what was actually happening far away. Then today, I received a couple of photos of the funeral and some of the gathering afterwards, it suddenly hit me that my aunt is gone. For me, it is very difficult to express how I feel. Of course, I'm very sad that she is gone and am very sorry for the family and my relatives. On the other hand, I'm the lone member of the family in the UK and I don't really have anyone to share my feelings with. I know that I've the Ruler_of_spike, but she doesn't really know all the members of my extended family, and while family is very important in the French culture, it is a little different and difficult for her to comprehend. Grieving and sadness exists in very culture, but how it expressed and how individuals are expected to react is different in every culture. As this is the first time I experience the passing of one of the members of my extended family and being alone in the UK, I don't know how I should react...
Ah... The annual excuse to lighting up vast amount of gunpowder was with us again. Having moved to different area in London, I'm happy to report that the ferocity of this year's fireworks has been less extreme compared with the past few years when we were living in Putney. However, I'm saddened to hear that, yet again, people have been injured as the result of mishandling of fireworks. When are they going to learn?
October 2005:
I travel on the public transport everyday. The only reason why people, like myself, would continue to commute on public transport is because there're no alternatives - they're too expensive or take too long. When Labour came to power in 1997 (under Tony Blair), the government encouraged people to use public transport. Then in 2003, London's Mayor Ken Livingstone introduced the Congestion Charge, making public transport the viable method to move around London. With such 'encouragements' would you think making the public transport system safe, reliable and efficient would be the number one goal. Well, apparently not. The old train carriages are usually 'revamped' rather than new and are poorly maintained, the aging tracks are not properly monitored and replaced, the signaling system can't handle any decent volume of traffic and the fares keep going up. We're paying to suffer and risk our lives! That's no way to live...
Harrah!! A moment of clear thinking! The government is considering banning drinking alcohol on public transport. It is apparently part of the effort to deal with the growing anti-social behavior problem in the UK. Personally, I don't think this goes anywhere near far enough - the government should make the consumption of alcohol in places other than homes and licensed establishments illegal. Nothing is more annoying than to see a horde of drunken morons (or female equivalents of) roaming around towns and villages with their drinks in hand. What is the problem with this dump of a country anyway? Are people here so sad and shallow that they can have a good time without drinking in a stupor, or that they have such poor social lives that they need to spend their entire weekends drowning out their sorrows with alcohol? People in this country use alcohol tolerance as a measure of manhood (or womanhood). While they drink themselves to unconsciousness, they literally pour their hard-earned money down the drains. Yet, there are those who claim that this is one step too far for 'nanny state'. I would agree that there are plenty of things in this hole of country are over-regulated, but not anti-social behavior. People complain about protecting their freedom and other 'human rights', but they should remember freedom comes with responsibility. The way many people, young and old, behave in this country is just plain irresponsible. It's about time they put a stop to that.
The authorities in Hong Kong have unveiled reforms to the way the territory is governed... Beijing has already ruled out universal suffrage in Hong Kong in the near future, so the only change here is the number of people in the Legislative Council and doubling the size of the chief executive election council. These just form another part of the smoke screen. Even though half of the LegCo will continue to be directly elected, it still has half of it members appointed by the Communist masters outside the territory. Also, appointing more members to the chief executive election council will not make the selection of the foremost official of Hong Kong any more or less democratic - they will simply pick the candidate that they think will be most acceptable to the Communists, but not necessarily for Hong Kong. Beijing has ruled out direct elections in 2007, and insists they should only take place when the territory is ready. Yeah, right! The only time those control freaks north of the border will feel comfortable with direct elections is when they know the outcome will be favorable for them. Until such time comes, there will not no universal suffrage in Hong Kong. 
The Communist government of China has published a white paper on democracy and political reform, in which it describes the Chinese Communist Party as the "fundamental guarantee for the Chinese people to be masters in managing the affairs of their own country." So, not much has changed then? According to the paper, "bureaucracy and corruption still exist and spread in some departments and localities". It is precisely because of the lack of audit and governance in a single-party state that bureaucrats and party members can get away with such behavior. Wake up, people!
May be it is because I'm Chinese, I've never questioned, never mind doubted, whether the ancient Chinese invented noodles. Yes, we are talking about food here. Well, this question (if there was ever one) is now settled for sure - scientists have found the oldest preserved sample of noodles in China, along the upper reaches of the Yellow River. This sample has been carbon-dated to be about 4,000 years old. Now, I'm certain that there'll be people who argue that this sample does not constitute an example of 'modern' noodles as it was not made from wheat, like the modern ones. Take it whichever way you want to, but those who even bother to argue are just asking for trouble.
Here's another piece of news from China: Democracy is not working! Well, not to the liking of the Chinese Communist Party anyway. I previously mentioned that local CCP officials are trying their very best to exploit their positions to gain economic advantages in the booming Chinese economy. Well, as you can guess, non-party folks don't like such blatant abuse of power - they try to 'recall' the elected official. However, the local police joined the side of the party officials and arrested dozens of villagers. So there was a stand-off. Worse is to follow: A political activist who tried to help the villagers was severely beaten by a group of people, including some in police and army uniform! The party officials and their cronies may have gained a little time for now, but they can't get away from their crimes forever. Next time, protests against them will be even stronger and people will be even more determined to rid them from their village. And that applies to the entire CCP. That day can't come quick enough.
Harrah!! Finally, the penny has dropped! A survey of teachers found the majority blamed discipline problems at school on a lack of parental control. Yaha! Education is a continual process - it takes place during all waking hours of the person, young or old. The classroom only forms a small, but important, part of a child's education, namely the academic part. When it comes to moral, social and personal education, it is the responsibility of the parents. A child spends the majority of his/her time outside the classroom. Teachers, and academic establishments in general, can only what they can during those limited hours. Most kids who turn into losers are largely the products of failing parents, and less likely to be those of a failing society or school system. Get real!
According to Chinese official sources, losses to funding in the Guangdong province, owing to corruption and poor management (Chinese), totaled US$11bn! While China is a large country, and Guangdong being one of the most prosperous provinces (thanks to its proximity to Hong Kong), its resources are not limitless. US$11bn is a lot of money by anyone's standard and it is unforgivable for the officials in privileged positions took or wasted these funds away from the hard-pressed citizens of the province. The Chinese Communist Party's is suppose to act in the name of the people, for the good of the people; yet the party officials act to enrich themselves and deprive the people. People of China - rise up resist this tyranny!
I work in an industry that is paranoid about security. In this environment you can't walk through a door without an entry pass with the right access levels, you can't get into a computer without a log-on and you can't gain access to certain applications without a load of passwords. Well, actually, my current employer is actually one of the better ones already. In the past, I've been in places where so many different passwords were required (and they encouraged people to use as many as possible so that if one password is compromised, other systems remained secure...) I was writing them down on post-it notes and stuck on the inside cover of my notepad. The worst part was that passwords were changed regularly to maintain security integrity. So after changes, I would usually have to go to the helpdesks and have them reset again because I forgot them. I thought I was going insane. Well, it would appear not. There has to be a better way than what we have now!