Friday 31 December 2021

My grouch about 2021…

…That people are still saying “two thousand and twenty one” instead of “twenty twenty one”. I mean, what’s with that? I though clicking over to 2020 would do it. After all, we’re so used to saying “20-20 vision”, “20-20 hindsight” and so, that I assumed people would start saying “twenty twenty” for the year. But no. Still insisting— many are, anyway, and maybe even a majority, it should be polled — on the long form “two thousand and twenty one”, seven syllables, vs. “Twenty twenty one”, five syllables. That’s a saving of two whole syllables right there.

So, my hope for 2022 is that the kind of balance of the number will lead more to the logical “twenty twenty two”. After all, we never said “nineteen thousand and twenty two”.

There we are. Covering the important issues of the day.

RELATED: Someone in Quora agrees

Can’t stand the news. Silencing Stand News

That bit I boxed red is about Article 23 which half a million of us — including all of our family, John then aged six— demonstrated against in November 2003. The big worry there is “theft of state secrets” — we know China has a veeeery broad interpretation of what “state secrets” are. And the bit about “foreign political organisations or bodies” could cover just about anyone including this blog, I guess. 
Nearly twenty years later and somehow I don’t think there will be the mass demos this time. Developing “Democracy with Hong Kong characteristics”.

ADDED (Wikipedia):

Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23 (Chinese香港基本法第二十三條) is an article in the Basic Law of Hong Kong. It states that Hong Kong "shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treasonsecessionseditionsubversion against the Central People's Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies."

Attempts to implement the article and create the. Hong Kong national security law have seen protests, particularly in 2003 and 2020. In 2020 the mainland National People's Congress imposed a security law on Hong Kong under Article 18 of the Basic Law.

‘Omicron could be a blessing in disguise for Hong Kong’ | Letters

“…your correspondent” (above) is my letter published 24 December. I’ve written again in the same topic but they’ve chosen a different whining gweilo to deliver the same message. That Omicron may be the way out of the pandemic: more catching, less deadly.  “Omicron science: good news”. For the world not just Hong Kong.
They don’t mind us moaning foreigners, we whinging gweilos. Let us play in our little sandpits..

Thursday 30 December 2021

A conversation of geniuses. Lex Fridman talks to Elon Musk. Elon's life lesson: "Try to be useful"

What a privilege it is to be able to watch two people with genius level IQ, talk about things: humanity, the future, science, love, the meaning of life. This is the first time in human history that we have this privilege. And these two are bona fide geniuses. Elon we all know. Perhaps the world's best entrepreneur. Lex is a front-thinker on AI.
Towards the end, Elon answers the question of what should one aim at in life and he answers ("Advice for young people"):
"Try to be useful".
Learn a little about a lot of things. Read the encyclopedia, or at least its digest. 
Learn as much as possible.
Read broadly
Don't have a zero-sum mindset. Most things are not zero-sum.

And a lot more:
Here are the timestamps. To support this podcast, check out our sponsors below. 0:00 - Introduction 0:07 - Elon singing 0:55 - SpaceX human spaceflight 7:40 - Starship 16:16 - Quitting is not in my nature 17:51 - Thinking process 27:25 - Humans on Mars 32:55 - Colonizing Mars 36:41 - Wormholes 41:19 - Forms of government on Mars 48:22 - Smart contracts 49:52 - Dogecoin 51:24 - Cryptocurrency and Money 57:33 - Bitcoin vs Dogecoin 1:00:16 - Satoshi Nakamoto 1:02:38 - Tesla Autopilot 1:05:44 - Tesla Self-Driving 1:17:48 - Neural networks 1:26:44 - When will Tesla solve self-driving? 1:28:48 - Tesla FSD v11 1:36:21 - Tesla Bot 1:47:01 - History 1:54:52 - Putin 2:00:32 - Meme Review 2:14:58 - Stand-up comedy 2:16:31 - Rick and Morty 2:18:10 - Advice for young people 2:26:08 - Love 2:29:01 - Meaning of life

What a gorgeous omicron pandemic day

18 degrees C. Fine and dry. Basil barking. Birds wandering by in what they consider is their lawn.

And listening to the England lads summarise the Ashes to date.

Wednesday 29 December 2021

“Hong Kong’s Stand News shuts down after national security police arrest 7, freeze HK$61 million in assets” | SCMP

“Stand News”?  Who cares? Or is this good news? No it is not. Unless you’re a Beijing apparatchik, or CCP fellow traveller.  

(H/t: First they came)

First they came for the Apple Daily 

and I mocked the Daily, a trashy tabloid

Then they came for Stand News and I did not speak out, 

coz, like, who’s heard of them?

Then they came for …? 

ADDED (30/12): At least the lost covers the story front page in today’s print edition. Stand News’ “crime” was covering the 2019 demos and riots rather too sympathetically.

Omicron panic: must I really “pray”?


"Everyone must pray for Hong Kong to come through unscathed", De Leung Chi-Chiu, Respiratory Medicine expert. [Link]

Two questions for Dr Leung, our Respiratory Medicine expert:

1. What if I don't believe in god? Must I still pray? Or follow the science?

2. The Science: Omicron is 70 times more transmissible but 10 times less deadly than Delta. In South Africa, the UK, US and other places where Omicron is most advanced, hospitalisations and deaths are 70-80% down compared to Delta. Our own University of Hong Kong showed why. That's the science. No need to pray to a supernatural being, Dr Leung.

Shame on the Post for putting this on the front page with no context. Omicron is catching but not deadly. That's the context. And it's good news. Print it. 

PF etc …

ADDED: Dr Angelique Coetzee Chief Medical Officer of South Africa where Omicron was first identified, says — on 26 November— that Omicron has only “mild symptoms”. She suspected this even earlier. And she’s been “taken aback” by the world refusal to acknowledge this. AND: Omicron fears

The BBC is only just now (29/12) — over one month later — telling us that Omicron might have “mild symptoms”. I mean, only just now. Isn’t that some kind of dereliction by the MSM?

ADDED (30;12): SCMP continue with the fear and loathing headlines. Front page back page, all about “crisis”, “city vulnerable”, “very high risk”, etc… The only word about Omicron being mild, is buried deep in one only article. I gotta say, WTF? I mean, why? The even stricter measures put in place are threatening Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s world-class airline, with bankruptcy. And threatening HK position as global trade hub. We sit here perfectly comfortably in the fine winter sun; but cut off from the rest of the world by lengthy quarantines. 

BREAKING (30/12): there’s a “tsunami” of new cases in the UK, while # of hospitalised steady-ish (80% of which new Covid admissions are for reasons other than Covid — ie, Covid was “incidental”), and Covid deaths were down 34% last week. In UK Omicron is 93% of all new cases, so it’s displacing Delta. Trend in US is similar.

“Everyone must pray for Hong Kong to come through unscathed” | huh?

“Everyone must pray for Hong Kong to come through unscathed”, De Leung Chi-Chiu, Respiratory Medicine expert. [And, Dr Edwin Tsui, controller of the Centre for Health Protection, “raises the alarm” over Omicron spread]

Two questions for Dr Leung, Respiratory Medicine expert:

1. What if I don’t believe in god? Still pray? Or follow the science?

2. Science: Omicron is 70 times more transmissible but 10 times less virulent than Delta. In South Africa, UK, US, places where omicron is most advanced, hospitalisations are 70-80% down compared to Delta. Our own University of Hong Kong showed thisThat’s the science. No need to pray to a supernatural being, Dr Leung.

And shame on the South China Morning Post for running this scare piece front page. Especially after I wrote them a letter

ADDED: the subheading of the article above talks of “rising Omicron fears”. Rising amongst who? (whom?). Not me. And I’m in the elderly, vulnerable category, overweight and high BP. Reason I’m not fearful is: (i) we are all triple vaccinated and (ii) Omicron is just not that deadly. That’s it. That’s the data = the science. Wouldn’t it be good if some of the “Respiratory Medicine experts” we seem to have so many of, would also tell us a bit more about the science? Instead of “raising the alarm” and telling us “to pray”. 

Some interesting data on Omicron so far

Tuesday 28 December 2021

More Commi-speak: “only one correct understanding”


And it’s, like, “Democracy with Hong Kong characteristics

James Webb the Mighty Telescope

So much excitement out there. Understandably. We’re goin to learn a ton of new stuff about how our universe was created. And maybe find other life out there. There’s also a ton of vids. Above is just one came across my transom.

Boland out

Scott Boland shows off his Johnny Mullagh Medal
for Man of the Match
This Boxing Day Ashes Test just about had it all. Until it didn’t. 

Aussies dominant with the bat on Day One, England dominant with the ball on Day Two. Game in! Then ruthless Australia struck back to put England on the ropes. And knocked them out in an hour on Day Three. All out 68. Ya. 68. 

Ashes newbie Scott Boland had a six-fer: six wickets for seven runs. Right! 6-7 in four overs at 1.3. Wow!

The boys at The Grade Game make a meal of it, close of Day Two. And now Day Three

Sweet and Sour. Would have loved a bit more of a game of it. Still. Celebrations at the MCG were something! Glad I watched it all. 

Thursday 23 December 2021

“Jesus Christ Almighty (they/them)”. Please do respect my pronouns

What would I say if asked “what are your pronouns?” (Which, for the uninitiated in Woke, is often demanded these days)

One or other of:

“Whatever you think my pronouns should be based on your seeing me and hearing me speak”


“Ta, Ta, Ta". (this being 它他她 in Chinese, it, he, she, but no different in pronunciation. And that’s how I identify so please, respect my pronouns...)

Communist babble… spreading like Omicron


“Biased”, “baseless”, “smears”,”slander” …the typical ad hominem of communist bureaucrats from time immemorial. Well, to be accurate, since Trotsky and Stalin, perfected in China post ‘49. I had to study the turgid stuff in the 70s. It’s dreary and depressing to see it spreading again. Spreading like Omicron. But potentially more deadly.

OTOH: Some good news…

Wednesday 22 December 2021

Omicron: What if it really is just like the common cold?


South Africa is four weeks ahead of the rest of the world in its Omicron experience. Which is this: a huge spike in cases; hospitalisations and deaths remain flat. The UK is two weeks behind SA and has similar experience. The US another week behind, again the same experience. 

Shorter Omicron: many cases; little death.

We don't see this real world experience reflected in the Post. All we have is scary front-page stories and chilling editorials.

And yet very own University of Hong Kong has world-class research on Covid which explains Omocron's lower pathogenicity.  Omicron infects the upper airways, not the lower lung tissues, making it 70 times more infectious, but ten times less deadly. People with symptoms of Omicron report: runny nose, sneezing, cough, headache and itchy throat. That is: the common cold.

If that continues to be the case, I have two questions:

One: What is our government's plan, in the case that Omicron is only as deadly as a common cold? Will they continue to lock us down, like, forever?

Two: When will the South China Morning Post give more balanced reports? Instead of the breathless editorials of "rampaging" case numbers, with no context of lower hospitalisations and deaths?

Peter Forsythe, etc…

LATER: Add Australia to that list above: The Australian Protocol . 
Meantime: deaths from Omicron to date (23/12): United States = One.  Britain = One. Australia = zero. South Africa (iirc) = 14.

As published, 24 December:

Sounds arounds


A squeal, kids in the park

A squeak, chitter-chatter, Bulbuls in the hedge

The drone of a faraway ferry (Kai-to)

A drone above, looking down

Mosquito-loud (or louder)

Coo-coo of Doves in the Banyan

Or maybe the Bauhinia

Which lost all their 🌸 

In typhoon Rai which still swirls around us

As a “tropical depression”

Which I sometimes suffer…

But lifted by:

Water falling down slime-stone walls 

of the koi-carp pond.

And I wonder:

Do they think it’s “theirs”?

This will go well…


Siena International Photo Awards (SIPA)

De Young Museum
Being as how we live in Siena. The one in Discovery Bay Hong Kong. Some of the winners of SIPA 21 at Siena, the one in Italy…

Tuesday 21 December 2021

Looking back in time with the James Webb Space Telescope

A million miles from earth and 130 times more powerful than Hubble
Click above for video
The wonder of the universe and the wonder of humankind to apprehend it 

Yay Elon

I love this man, not (just) the richest man in the world, but the person giving us a future. The interviewer is a bit dopey, cutting him off when he’s talking about Neuralink, his company that might allow paraplegic people to walk again (oh... and that’s in addition to his company that makes 2/3 of electric all vehicles in the US (Tesla) and his other company (Space X) that launches people into space. I mean, come on!). 

I got to thinking that he’s today’s Einstein. ‘Cept that he doesn’t have a new theory the physics of the universe. But pretty much. His idea is the theory of how homo sapiens can continue to exist in the cosmos. Recalling that we are the only species that can apprehend the universe. 

‘Origins: Hunting the source of Covid-19’ | BBC

Maybe the BBC is trying to make up for its poor coverage of the pandemic by putting out a doco on the origins of SARS-Cov-2 that’s reasonably balanced and at least incudes the possibility that it was a lab leak. Even if it’s coming rather late to the lab leak theory party. And fails to include the most exhaustive review of all sides of the origin hypotheses, set out in the recent book Viral: the Search for the Origin of Covid-19, by Alisa Chan and Matt Ridley. (We’re down to two main suspects: Zoonotic or lab leak).

The BBC’s (alleged) “poor coverage”? How the BBC lost its way on Covid, by Charlie Walsham

The BBC doco Origins: Hunting the source of Covid-19 intro:

It remains one of the world's biggest mysteries: what triggered the Covid-19 pandemic? The BBC's global health correspondent Tulip Mazumdar hears from two of the scientists who were on the controversial China/WHO mission to Wuhan at the start of the year, as well as experts who have investigated outbreaks of new diseases before. Tulip delves into the main theories, and looks at why a hypothesis about a possible accidental lab leak is now being taken much more seriously. [More…

My summary of the evidence:

  • Zoonotic: 
    • FOR (a) It’s happened before, eg SARS and MERS (b) China says so. 
    • AGAINST: in two years and nearly 100,000 animals tested, not one found with SARS-Cov-2 or similar 
  • Lab Leak: 
    • FOR (a) It’s happened before, eg SARS and MERS (b) Wuhan Institute of Virology was conducting research into similar viruses at the time (c) WIV is at the epicentre of the first outbreak.
    • AGAINST: China says “no”.
ADDED: One of the bizarrest things in all this: WHO investigators, and then the BBC, media and commenters ALL accept without blushing what China tells the WHO in Wuhan during their February 2021 investigation.  Investigators: “We asked if they’d had a lab leak and they said ‘no’”. Oh, okay then. That satisfied the WHO! And the rest. For a very very long time. Until it became impossible to do so any more. 
We must not accept that “we may never know the origin”. We need to keep pressure on both China and US researchers involved in the WIV research to release documents about the research they were doing. Even if China won’t, there’s likely critical info on US files. Eg, with the EcoHealth Alliance that was involved in “gain-of-function” research at WIV.

Monday 20 December 2021

Ashes to … ashes


Click for the vid, Ozzie lads take it to the Poms
The Chinese have a saying 哭笑不得, Ku Xiao Bu De, kind of “if you don’t laugh you cry” which pretty much does it for England efforts in this Ashes series.. And Captain Joe Roots’ experience with his meat and two veg. Twice in a day. A two-fer …

Series Five-zip now short odds…

(The Pom equivalent of the Aussie boyz above, Golden Ducks)

Sunday 19 December 2021

Disney in the backyard. And voting in Legislative Council elections

Traveller Palms and Christmas tree in our back yard
We also voted today. In the elections for the Hong Kong Legislature. 
BBC, CNN, ABC and other mainstream media are mocking this HK election because candidates have to be “patriots”. I wonder though how far a politician in America or Australia or Europe or the U.K. would get if they were not patriotic. They may not have to swear fealty or patriotism during a campaign, but anyone not patriotic would be sniffed out and wiped out. Wouldn’t they?

ADDED: if that sounds like apologia, well here’s the thing. The narrative on foreign media is that Hong Kong has gone from struggling towards full democracy (2019 and “brave democracy fighters”) to a place crushed under Beijing’s boot.  From X to Y. From chalk to cheese. From a place with a modicum of democracy to one with none. Whereas what’s gone on is a place with some democracy has become a place with less, or different, or “patriotic” democracy. Not none. 
ProDem people have boycotted the elections, which strikes me as silly. Result: moderate and even some “pro-democracy” candidates lost seats to pro-government candidates. The pan-Dem camp thus keeping its 100% record of making strategic blunders. For isn’t a boycott counter productive? There’s always one candidate that’s better than another, isn’t there? Even 2020 Trump v Biden, one or other had to win and one or other would make a better president, wouldn’t he?
For us, in this election, limited or flawed as it may have been, that candidate was Regina Ip. We don’t love her at all.  But she will stand up for Hong Kong. Or, we believe she will. Or hope she will, at least. And so she should stand up for our remaining — and still substantial— freedoms. Via standing up for One Country Two Systems (OC2S).  While not bad mouthing Beijing, which is pointless, also counterproductive and leads to Bad Things like the National Security Law.
(It always struck me as rather odd that people would say “the Chinese Communist Party are authoritarian dictators”, then expect them not to act like authoritarian dictators. And one thing about authoritarian dictators — they’re extremely touchy).

Saturday 18 December 2021

Two trees better than none

We ended up with two Christmas trees. I’d ordered one, then they said it’d be late coz supply chain probs. So Jing ordered one thru different supplier. Hers came first and is inside in traditional garb. My one came second so is in the garden in cool rose-pink uni-garb. Above, being sprinkled coz winter drought.

Why do Xmas 🎄 have to be imported from NW America? Why can’t China grow them? My guess: of course China can grow these Noble Firs. But for a once-a-year small gweilo market in Hong Kong? Better things to do.

At least our Noble Fir #1 came in time for our party last Friday night, which went on till 4 AM and wrecked me us. (Tho not coz said tree…)

Friday 17 December 2021

‘Shelved nuclear tech revived in safe power drive’ | SCMP

Let’s see how this goes. New-tech nuclear — Newclear! — the first operational 4G reactor in the world, is to open at Shidaowan in China’s northeast Shandong province. Apart from Warren Buffet & Bill Gates with their TerraPower reactor in Wyoming, China is the only one doing nuclear energy R&D on a serious scale. Shidaowan at 2GW is a monster. 

China has fifteen reactors under construction, more than the double the rest of the world combined and plan another 150 by 2035.These alone would make China’s electricity carbon neutral.

The story above explains itself: a new and safer “fourth generation” nuclear technology about to start ops in Shandong. Cross fingers. We need large-scale safe nuclear for the world to have any hope of keeping global carbon emissions down. 

Thursday 16 December 2021

Omicron: real-world data from South Africa a predictor for rest of world

“Too early to panic about Omicron”. Click above
From Discovery, South Africa’s largest private insurers, real-world information of what it’s going to be like in Europe, the US and Australia in a couple of weeks. Real-world analysis of Omicron outbreak based on 211,000 COVID-19 test results in South Africa. From here via h/t to Dr Campbell.

Discovery Summary:

  • Vaccine effectiveness: The two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination provides 70% protection against severe complications of COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation, and 33% protection against COVID-19 infection, during the current Omicron wave.
  • Reinfection risk: For individuals who have had COVID-19 previously, the risk of reinfection with Omicron is significantly higher, relative to prior variants.
  • Severity: The risk of hospital admission among adults diagnosed with COVID-19 is 29% lower for the Omicron variant infection compared to infections involving the D614G mutation in South Africa’s first wave in mid-2020, after adjusting for vaccination status
  • Children: Despite very low absolute incidence, preliminary data suggests that children have a 20% higher risk of hospital admission in Omicron-led fourth wave in South Africa, relative to the D614G-led first wave.
My comment: With booster jabs common now in many countries, including us here in Hong Kong, there ought be strong protection against both catching and falling ill. Hospitalisations and death rates therefore ought be much less per capita than in the previous waves.  [Testable prediction!]
Another thing to note: Omicron is displacing Delta, not in addition to Delta. This is good news.

ADDED: I’m watching DW tv from Germany, also BBC and CNN — not a single mention of the above, which is, to repeat, live real-world data. Likely to repeat in the UK and elsewhere. But it’s as if it doesn’t exist. Why? Cause it’s not scary enough? Snootiness about South African data?
10:00 GMT: UK CMO Chris Whitby now on Sky UK and talking about issues as if the SA data simply doesn’t exist. Weird. Whoops! 10:40 GMT and he just mentioned SA. Finally!
ALSO: the idea that lockdowns have led to less help for cancer patients (or other non-covid diseases) is “an inversion of the truth”. What was needed were the lockdowns to enable cancer and other treatments.
Overall he is very impressive.
A thought: he says even Omicron is still a disease mainly of older adults. Talk of how to handle aged care patients. Seems to me brings to mind the Great Barrington Declaration and its “focused protection” strategy.

Because what we need is Winnie the Pooh lecturing us on art


Is irony allowed in art “under the leadership of the party”?

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Racial tolerance around the globe


Blue is better
I’m pretty sure I’ve posted this before. It’s kind of well known. That despite all the BLM stuff and the CRT stuff and the ongoing attacks on the US for “systemic racism”, it’s actually in the group of countries with the least racist attitudes. Which includes my own Australia, and the UK. Also large swathes of South America, interestingly. 

As “Eden” at Free Black Thought” says:

This is the least surprising map to anyone who doesn’t live in an anti-western bubble. The US is *incredibly* tolerant, radically so when compared with other countries. Everyone should travel and see for themselves.

I’ve decided to vote after all — this Sunday 19th December

Because I think one ought to, when one has the chance. In the US you end up with a choice of two for President. Both may be awful, as 2020 with Trump v Biden. But one is less awful than the other.

Here we have a choice of three people to represent our constituency of Hong Kong islands west. One is a “pro-democracy independent”, one from the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong and one from the New People’s Party. So it’s a choice. 

Regina Ip, above, is the only one pushing “One Country Two Systems” (OC2S) which strikes us as the best guarantee of keeping our remaining freedoms and our independent rule of common law. These freedoms remain real and substantial.

The “pro-democracy independent” candidate is of the group of “Pan-dems” who in 2019 pushed for independence for Hong Kong (ludicrous and … triggering!)  led to Beijing stepping in — fully predictably— with the National Security Law and its swingeing control measures. Arguably good intentions by Pan-Dems gone badly awry — again, predictably. The road to hell, and all.… 

The DAB guy is all about bread and butter issues, housing, etc. Fine. But we need some high-level big-picture stuff, to support bread and butter. That’s OC2S.

ADDED: By the way, we were very anti-Regina when she was a government Minister pushing Article 23 legislation back in 2003, and we all marched in opposition. Have followed her since. At the very least she’s a woman of principle who we believe, or a least hope, will stand up for Hong Kong. That’s why we’re going to vote. Jing for the first time; me just continuing.  Chinese have a saying for a woman like Regina Ip: 厉害 Li Hai = “someone or something that makes a very strong impression, whether favourable or unfavourable”. In a word, perhaps, formidable. Said in French accent.

ADDED  (20/12): election results

Tuesday 14 December 2021

“Politics and the English language” by George Orwell. Has anything got better in the last 75 years?

I met someone in the coffee shop today who used to teach Science writing at Curtin Uni in Perth Australia. The idea was to teach students of various science disciplines how to communicate in clear English, given that the standard of writing of these students was appalling. 

We chatted and I asked if they used Orwell’s essay Politics and the English language at any stage of their teaching? Their answer rather surprised me: they’d not heard of it. I ought really to add an exclamation mark to that! How strange that someone teaching the use of English should not know of what is probably the single most famous essay on the subject.

I went back to the essay myself, first via Wikipedia, which is worth doing, and then back to the text itself

I find many passages still resonate strongly today. They seem so fresh. Which is exactly why Orwell is quoted by both Left and Right. But “have we got any better”? I think “no”. Look at these quotes below and one will surely conclude we’re making the same mistakes today. And yet, there’s something about writing clearly that everyone loves and aspires to. Examples of Orwell’s foresight:

But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks....

Bad writers, and especially scientific, political and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones. ...

The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’. The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of régime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning....

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

I sent this essay to my staff back in 1990 when I was named the first boss of the East Asia Region of Austrade, the Australian Trade Commission. I encouraged clear writing and I thought the essay a basis for that. I  don’t know what they might have thought of this in private. Mocking, perhaps. But I think -- I like to think -- that our writing, or reporting to our superiors in Australia, became simpler and clearer. 

To simplify Orwell, maybe the “TL;DR” of the essay: 

  • Avoid the passive voice. “X killed Y” rather than “Y was killed”. 
  • Avoid Latin, Greek; prefer the Anglo-SaxonAnglo-Saxon words are short, simple and blunt: 'think', 'pick', 'help', 'eat' and 'drink'. Compare these with their Latinate equivalents: 'imagine', 'select', 'assist', 'consume' and 'imbibe'. Latinates are multisyllabic, cerebral and a bit soft.
  • Short sentences.

Monday 13 December 2021

A lovely day on the water

1,200 swim Wanchai to Tsim Sha Tsui
I’ve  swum in Hong Kong’s Victoria harbour. Not exactly voluntarily— at the end of a race we won, tossed in by crew mates. Yay! I do know that it’s been cleaned up a lot and now we have a Cross Harbour Race every year, Covid aside. The sea water temp is around 25C Air temp 23C, humidity 60%, fine, dry, moderate northerlies. Perfect. SCMP report.
 The Post’s Akira Reinfrank did it for her first time and loved it:

‘I stripped off and dived in’. Akira takes a selfie
The winter sun was warming, the crowds of swimmers (1,200 in total) were joyous and cheering each other on and most of all the water was surprisingly clean and clear. I still took precautions like ear plunges and did my best to keep my mouth closed especially at the beginning and the end when there was an odd smell in the air. But in general the water conditions were so good it was almost easy to forget you were swimming in the middle of a harbour.  [More…]