Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Bauhinia and bike

 

Hong Kong Flower. Bauhinia and the Boomer's Bike
Madagascar Periwinkle. Catharanthus Roseus
Discovery Bay, Hong Kong looking west to Tiger Head mountains

Biden in free fall

Isn’t this interesting? Of the steepest falls in approval ratings right after an election, all the worst are Democratic presidents. I wonder why that is? Buyer remorse?

In the case of Joe, it’s put down to “inflation, Covid and crime”. 

In the case of inflation, perhaps we’d be in a similar situation if Trump were still president. Though surely to goodness it helps not one whit that the BidenAdmin is pumping trillions into an already overheated market. That’s Eco 101. 

Covid is covid. What’s to say? Vaccine mandates are unpopular for sure. 

Crime? Well, wow, in progressive states all over the US, crime rates are up.  Vids of shoplifting are just breathtaking / shocking: in San Francisco they’re looting shops right in front of security guards. Who are told that they are not to touch them, on pain of dismissal. This has been going on for some time now, but somehow the connection between policy (defund and demonise police) and outcome (more crime) is never made. There are no dots joined up. Weird. [ADDED: another eg]

/Snip:

Crime is a major issue across the country — and it is hurting Democrats badly. Last year, as progressives shouted “defund the police,” a cowed Democratic convention failed even to mention the riots breaking out in city after city. Total silence. The “bail reform” they pushed is directly responsible for putting violent offenders back on the streets and behind the wheel in Waukesha.

Now, disappointed voters are responding. They are defeating proposals to defund or reimagine the police in even the most liberal cities, including Minneapolis, the epicenter of the defund movement. The recent spate of smash-and-grab robberies in Los Angeles, the Bay Area and Chicago have ratcheted up public outrage even further, much of it directed at “Justice Democrat” prosecutors who refuse to prosecute “property crimes.” Criminal gangs have taken notice and taken advantage. [More]

Cool calligraphy: Zoomorphic!

 

An example of Arabic Zoomorphic calligraphy. The name says it all. I didn’t know that it was a thing in Arabic writing. I can see why, with the more free-form and less pictographic script than Chinese characters, it would become a thing, and if you google it you can find all sorts of animals scribed in Arabic. They’re fun.

I thought there would be even more zoomorphic artwork in Chinese, thinking of the character like 🐎 馬 ma, for example, but it’s not such a big thing after all. Given, I guess, that the character itself is a picture. Below is some early Chinese pictography, done on oracle bones, dating to pre-CE. I do find these attractive, the precursor to one of my favourite Chinese scripts, the Lesser Seal.

From Beyond calligraphy. Read Top>bottom, R>L

@Jack “loves Twitter “. But does the new CEO love free speech?

Dorsey tweeted Sunday night that he loves Twitter. It’s fair today to wonder if he loves where it’s headed. “Will Twitter become an ocean of suck?”

Above link: Matt Taibbi on Jack Dorsey's resignation as Twitter CEO.

Me, I never tweet. Because I fear getting caught up in Twitter battles. But I do have an account, for access. I follow a few hundred people. Which I enjoy. I try to have a mix of left and right. I reckon my Twitter feed gives a pretty good taste of the zeitgeist. Worldwide even. At least for the world that speaks English on Twitter, which is to say: Anglophone Plus. The “Plus” is for the many non-native speakers who use English on as the lingua franca as in science journals. 

I’m worried that Parag Agrawal, the new CEO, will be even less a champ of free speech than Dorsey.Who wasn’t great but tried. Remembering that Twitter’s mission statement was “the free speech platform for the free speech party”. And Agrawal seems to have played that down. In past tweets….

Monday, 29 November 2021

Being Bjornborgian… a realistic take on climate change

Bjorn Lomborg, head of the think tank Copenhagen Consensus, talks to the Triggernometry lads, Konstantin Kisin and Francis Foster.

TL;DR: Climate change is real and man-made; we need “renewable” policies to tackle it. That’s to say ones that survive elections. Extreme policies touted by climate alarmists will not survive elections in democratic countries. And are thus self-defeating.

Even if you’re a follower of Extinction Rebellion or similar, this talk has a lot to chew on.

I’ve long been impressed by Lomborg’s analysis. Pity is, on the extremes of climate alarmism, his views will be dismissed as “climate denial” or worse.  He’s not. He stresses innovation, a view that is mocked by the alarmist factions; but should not be. The UN climate panel reports have all said the same: climate change Is real, man made but not cause for alarm or despair. They do not support the alarmist narrative, but do support the importance of innovation to address climate change. The UN reports also, by the way, support nuclear, as, of course, so does Lomborg, especially Gen IV nuclear which requires… innovation! Which will reduce costs and time-to-market.

RE: @06:15: Lomborg’s point on the drop in people killed by climate-related catastrophes (typhoons, floods, droughts), which were 500,000 a century ago and just 7,000 in 2021a drop of 99%), we have seen it right here in Hong Kong. We used to have hundreds, sometimes thousands, killed by each typhoon (“hurricane” in the west), where’s since I’ve been here, forty years, there have been zero killed. That’s because we adapted and got better at protections. And we have those protections because we’re rich. Contrast poor Haiti, where the last typhoon killed over a thousand people. 

Sunday, 28 November 2021

‘To protect one retired leader, China’s bungling censors turned the Peng Shuai mess into a major incident…’

Wang Xiangwei’s take is similar to mine a few days back: clumsy, botched self-defeating efforts at top-down censorship of Peng Shuai’s claims that she was forced into sex with Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

But that end-of-day they don’t care so much about the international reactions as they do about making sure no one in China gets the idea they can get away with criticising senior leaders. Especially given forthcoming “elections” of new members to the supreme Politburo Standing Committee. I put “election” in quotes because the outcome will already have been decided and elections are just needed for the formality.

But there’s a bright spot, or two, here.

First that Peng is out and about, seemingly unharmed, at least physically. And that’s the result of international pressure. Pressure worked, this time, because Beijing is worried about possible boycott of the Winter Olympics opening in February. 

Second is simply the fact that an article like this has appeared in our very own South China Morning Post. 

The article is written by Wang Xiangwei, a former editor-in-chief of the paper now resident in Beijing. After the crack down here in Hong Kong last year and the promulgation of a swingeing National Security Law, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. So far, cross fingers, it hasn’t and pieces strongly critical of Chinese malfeasance continue. That’s good. And good on the Post !

Saturday, 27 November 2021

I just witnessed murder most fowl and ritual live disembowelling …

T’was the Robin, in the shade, M’lud
… right here on our lawn. I was idly birdwatching, one of “our” Magpie Robins prancing and strutting about, when it darts full tilt six feet or more and impales a lovely yellow and black butterfly. And as I watch proceeds to eat it, as the flutterby struggles with its last breaths.

Which brings to mind that horrid as Homo sapiens can be, we tend not to eat our prey while it’s still struggling. 

Mostly. I’m reminded of a “Live Fish” (活鱼, huo yu) dish served up to us in northeast China fifty years ago. A fine fish on a platter, still moving. We eat the flesh chopsticked off, down to the head and backbone, still wriggling. One of the Aussie guests, scientists on an exchange program, was rather taken aback and asked “but isn’t this cruel?” his host replied “yes, it is!” laughing…. Then told us how it’s done. The fish, usually carp, is quickly gutted while still alive, the head wrapped in a wet towel to keep it from cooking, dipped in boiling oil for a few seconds and popped in a plate for our schmeck. 

Our Magpie Robin is just doing her stuff, to live. Not knowingly cruel. That’s life. And death.

Friday, 26 November 2021

Thanksgiving is awesome

Sure, the founders were pirates, but even that’s a bit funny
Thanksgiving Day is here, and as is the fashion, it’s taking a beating. “What is Thanksgiving to Indigenous People? ‘A Day of Mourning,’” writes the onetime daily Bible of American mass culture, USA Today. The Washington Post fused a clickhole headline format with white guilt to create, “This tribe helped the Pilgrims survive for their first Thanksgiving. They still regret it 400 years later.” Even the pundits who didn’t rummage in the past in search of reasons for Americans to flog themselves this week found some in the future, a la the Post’s climate-change take on Turkey Day menus:What’s on the Thanksgiving table in a hotter, drier world?” [Read Matt Taibbi’s take].

Here’s my question on the Washington Post claim that American Native tribes “still regret” helping the Pilgrims 400 years ago: what is the counterfactual
Either that the Native tribes didn’t help the Pilgrims or that the Pilgrims didn’t come in the first place?
Do we, do they, does WaPo, imagine that, had the Pilgrims not come, these tribes would today be living in their pre-lapsarian paradise? Which paradise, by the way, is pretty much a fantasy — Native American tribes were warriors and conquerors. 
Or, that had they come but the Native tribes had refused to help them, the Pilgrims would have perished, unable to give Thanks? And the tribes still be living, 400 years later, in that fantasy land? That no one else, just not Pilgrims, would have come to settle in these vast and beautiful lands? (美国, Mei Guo, “Beautiful Land” = the Chinese for “America”). 
Can we seriously imagine any of these cases as a credible counterfactual? 

It seems rather a stretch. But is never discussed in polite society woke circles. (We used to say “in polite society”, but there’s little politeness in woke-dom; and none among the most hysterical critics of the American origin story, 1619 and all that).

Thursday, 25 November 2021

5 things Americans get wrong about Europe

Note that this guy, the article author Paul Skallan, is a major plagiariser, as proven here
Substack took Skallan’s post down, but it’s been made free by the complainant Antonio Garcia Martine. Some sort of deal I guess. 

So, OK to read it and it’s interesting!

Especially pour moi. 8+ years in Europe, 3+ in the US, and 40+ in Asia. I mean, if there are such misunderstandings between those of the same culture what hope is there for China-US comprehension?

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

What on earth?? What is Kamala (and Joe for that matter) on about re EV. It’s TESLA, stupid

 

Click above to see Kamala roasted.
going to build…” ??! 

Truly weird. Like Biden’s weird claim the other day that GM had created the electric car market in America. When of course it’s Tesla. So Mom Mocks Joe

Did they really forget >> ??

Bloomer (by Boomer)

 

OK, Zoomer?

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

My take on Peng Shuai disappearance

First up I thought “here they go again”. The Chinese apparatchiks, clumsy, obvious and crude, find an offensive post on China’s social media — a rambling jilted-lover letter, from tennis star Peng Shuai to her ex-lover, ex Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli — and they don’t just take it down, they “disappear” its author. Peng was out of sight for three weeks until yesterday. 

And I thought these goons are again doing Xi’s bidding and again going full Streisand Effect. Something the outside world would never have noticed now becomes a major world story because of their bumblings. Job, guys!

Then I thought: the idea is to keep the local population ignorant of the post. They don’t care about the international. Beijing bully-boys don’t want their own population to call out senior leaders and get away with it. As for the west, well Beijing simply doesn’t care. (Though now there’s the fear of boycott of the Winter Olympics, which maybe led to her recent “release”, reported in WhatsOnWeibo)

So I rang a couple of contacts in China, well plugged into locals, and they confirmed: there is NO news about this in China. Nothing. These contacts get their own news from set-top boxes with cable to the likes of CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, DW, but most locals don’t have that. Locals watch the ubiquitous local soaps and quizz shows. I tried out my theory on them and they agree — Beijing has to keep the lid on people in China. If that means pissing off the rest of the world, so be it.

ADDDED: Cindy Yu on China’s “mistress problem”.

A few other observations:

The original post was taken down in two minutes. Two minutes! Imagine that! I’m thinking -- and my contacts agree -- that the censors must have an Alert button for every single important leader, like Zhang Gaoli, and for every single public figure like Peng Shuai. 

Process is like: Alert goes off > routed to a Human > human thinks 该死! Holy shit! > immediately takes it down > tells goons > Peng disappears > the west goes ape  > the goons (maybe under direct orders from “the X-factor”) talk Peng into doing what she did yesterday > give “Proof of Life” > to the head of the IOC > fixed smile on face > “I’m fine”..... Really! (She asks for “privacy”, a touch ironic given the intimacy of her post, but…oh, well…).

Forced sex? The character 要 yao in the first tone means “to force”, but in the fourth tone means “to ask. This has been rendered both ways in the translations, first as “ask” (for sex) and second as “force”. Later, Peng is clearer and uses 逼 bi, which is unambiguously to “force”. So there’s definitely that accusation against Zhang. Just some ambiguity in places.

That said, the whole of the post, this open letter, reads to me more like the outpourings of a scorned woman. A jilted lover. She’s been dumped and she’s upset. It seem clear that she was in love with him, and apparently he was smitten with her as well. He was a cad, for sure. And I don’t want to sound like I’m excusing some horrid actions by Zhang. But read the post, an anguished love letter, really, and see if you don’t feel this is recognisable as that.

Zhang’s wife is a piece of work. Name of Kang Jie, which immediately reminds me of Kang Sheng, Mao’s secret police chief. A thug of the first order. AFAIK Kang Jie is no relation, but seems as sinister. Complicit, like Ghislaine Maxwell, procuring Peng for her husband, stationing a guard at his door so he wouldn’t be disturbed while poking Peng.

The below translation is from here. I’ve checked it against the Chinese; it’s accurate, indeed felicitous. It’s below the fold, with thanks. The Chinese original is underneath it.

Great Barrington Declaration: update letter from the authors

 Dear Friends,

 

From the depth of our hearts, a belated thank you for signing the Great Barrington Declaration. With over 850,000 signatures, together we opened up the pandemic debate. While many governments continued with their failed lockdown and other restrictive policies, things have moved in the right direction. For example, most schools have re-opened, most countries prioritized older people for vaccination and Florida rejected restrictions in favor of focused protection without the negative consequences that lockdowners predicted.

 

While occasionally censored, we have not been silenced. Since authoring the Declaration in October 2020, the three of us have actively advocated for focused protection through social media, op-eds and interviews on, for example, vaccine passports and natural immunity.

 

We have also launched Collateral Global, a charity staffed with academics from across the world to document and disseminate information about the collateral damage of the restrictive measures so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of this pandemic and are able to inform future policy with evidence and analysis. Collateral Global is crowdfunding so that this work can be done to the highest possible standards. You are welcome to join us and help us in those efforts at www.collateralglobal.org, as well as follow us on Twitter, etc. We are also planning an initiative on scientific freedom soon.

 

 

With enormous gratitude,

 

Jay Bhattacharya    Sunetra Gupta    Martin Kulldorff

 

Twitter: @gbdeclaration@collateralglbl

@DrJBhattacharya@SunetraGupta@MartinKulldorff

Facebook: GreatBarringtonDeclaration

LinkedIn: Jay BhattacharyaMartin Kulldorff

--------------------------------

PF: a reminder, that the “Great” in the Declaration doesn’t refer to the Declaration, but to the place it was signed and published, Great Barrington in Massachusetts. 


Jay Bhattacharya is a professor of Medicine at Stanford University 

Sunetra Gupta is a professor of epidemiology at Oxford University

Martin Kulldorf is a professor of Medicine at Harvard


I mention their titles to make the point the these are not some random rubes. They are people who know whereof they speak. They did not advise let it rip as they were falsely mischaracterised; they advocated “focussed protection”, which always, to me, this random rube, did seem the logical way to proceed. And which, as they indicate above, seems to be the way countries are moving.

Perhaps the most silly thing I heard to justify lockdowns was that you couldn’t just protect the elderly because that would be “age apartheid”. So instead, lockdown the whole population! 

“One Divides into Two” redux

Zuby: a British rapper and heterodox thinker.
Click above to go to tweet thread
Some non-binaries of mine: 
  • I’m fully pro-vaccine; I’m against vaccine mandates. [ADDED: doesn’t make me “anti-vaxxer”]
  • I wear a mask when mandated; the science shows they are of limited use
  • I have accepted lockdowns; though lockdowns are of limited effect
  • I believe in the coronavirus; but Zero Covid policy is not the best way to stop it.
  • White Supremacy is horrid; Kyle Rittenhouse is not a white supremacist. 
  • "Black lives matter” (lower case); Black Lives Matter (upper case) doesn’t help improve their lives
  • Social justice is important; woke-ism makes it worse.
Another thing. Which is in the “things I don’t get” category. The MSM, which is almost all on the Left (in the 2016 election, 93% of print media who endorsed chose Hillary Clinton), often calls for Fox News -- the only MSM outlet on the Right -- to be shut down. That’s despite the fact that they denounce countries where there is only one source of media, places like China or Russia. 
But what then? What if they succeeded, got rid of Fox and there were only voices on the Left? They would probably coalesce between more Left and less Left, and the ones to the right of the Left would likely drift further right, and the ones to the Left further left. 
Because "One Divides into Two”, a favourite saying of Mao Tse-tung and which I first heard in 1976. 一分为二,Yi Fen Wei Er. Which we ought resist, despite its pull. Most things are not binary. And thus resist moves to limit the range of views. 

Monday, 22 November 2021

Shock: Blue states don’t live up to their liberal ideals, especially on housing for the poor

 

Click above to go to the video
I would never have posted something about this from a conservative site because it’s been known for yonks and is routinely dismissed as “right wing talking points”. 

But this is the New York Times, a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party, a paper clearly on the Left and long-time supporter of the Democratic Party (an OR suggests the “mouthpiece” is rather too strong..)

It’s really damning. Progressive Democrats routinely block measures that would allow more housing because “Not in my backyard”.

ADDED: In print media 93% support Democrats.

Sunday, 21 November 2021

Last day of the outdoor pool

Club Siena Discovery Bay Hong Kong 
Closing for winter tomorrow. Open again 1 April  

We’re picnicking 

‘More than 800 diners, staff warned or fined in police joint operation against illegal Hong Kong barbecue sites’ | SCMP

Why? Why the need now to shut down this bit of freedom right now, 18 years after they started? 

Priorities…

More than 800 Hong Kong diners were warned or fined on Friday night after police raided two unlicensed barbecue sites in Mei Foo, arresting 17 owners and staff.

The move followed recent efforts by authorities to put up giant banners outside housing estates in the district, warning residents they could be prosecuted if they patronised the unauthorised venues at Kau Wah Keng. [Read on…]

Saturday, 20 November 2021

Gorgeous day in Hong Kong; sailing on the cards

Our patio Siena One. I read the morning papers here and am thankful
24C. Low moisture. Clear skies. Gentle zephyrs from the east.

Sailing to the Po Toi and Lamma on the agends.

Pool stays open until tomorrow. We’ll go for a valedictory swim. 

Tonight is my every-Saturday-night-meal that I cook, with 7:00 pm as the strict starting time. I enjoy doing it and it seems the recipients do too. For the few times I’ve gone into “grumpy old man” mode and threatened not to serve up any more Saturday meals I’m pleaded with to continue. TBF, we all enjoy the process and the routine. Every week I have to come up with a new main dish. This week it’s a French take on seafood pie: Seafood gratin Dieppe style (a Rick Steyn inspiration). Simple and yum. Served with caramelised apples, which Rick assures us is “not too Normandy”. We’ll see.

The seafood is prawns, scallops, salmon and cod. All harvested responsibly, of course! The gratin is Emmental and Panko. Result: crunch. Maybe I’ll add a touch of the Parmesan I just bought from Il Bel Paese.

Fine Days in Hong Kong. 

Mates return from Po Toi. Ask us to join. We agree

Friday, 19 November 2021

‘Expat exodus is bad for China, bad for the US and bad for the world’ | SCMP

When I arrived in Beijing in 1976 there were a few hundreds of we foreigners, almost all students and diplomats. Forty years later there were hundreds of thousands. Ditto Shanghai. My first time there in 1976 there were so few everyone knew each other.

For decades foreigners arrived in floods. decades. Now they are leaving. That’s sad. As the article says good for neither China nor the world. Some of this China has brought on itself. Some cause Covid. (Of course. Everything bad these days is “cause Covid”).

/Snip:

At a time when China’s role on the world stage is growing, it is also becoming more isolated and less international. The number of foreigners working in China’s two most important cities has declined sharply in the past decade.

In Shanghai, China’s international and commercial centre, the number of expatriates fell more than 20 per cent in the past decade from more than 208,000 to around 163,000.

The numbers are even more extreme in Beijing. The number of foreigners has fallen by more than 40 per cent since 2010, to about 63,000. By comparison, Luxembourg has around 630,000 total residents, almost half of whom are foreign workers. [More…]

Thursday, 18 November 2021

My disappointment in Francis Collins: this time on Covid issues

Click screenshot above to go to the video
I first heard about the famous scientist Francis Collins in 2006 when he published “The Language of Godwhich had the enticing (to me) subtitle of: a scientist presents evidence for belief”. 

I’m an atheist. Have been since the age of nine. I remember thinking, wow! Here’s a bona fide "famous scientist" and he says he has evidence for belief. Evidence. Not just faith. 

So I bought me a copy. It’s now sitting in my “Disappointing Books” section of my library, together with "The Koran”, Edward Said’s “Orientalism” and  “Watching Paint Dry II: The Second Coat”.
Not only did he not present compelling evidence. He produced no evidence at all for a God. From a famous scientist.... I remain an atheist.

And here is Collins again, above, talking to Lex Fridman, who I love and respect. But Lex dropped a real dud. Collins is again evidence-free, or simply wrong, about heaps of what he says on Covid. 

Example: at the beginning Collins says “... with SARS it was 14 years before we figured out it was the civet cat” -- and so, by implication, we shouldnt expect to have discovered the natural, animal, source of the virus in “just two years”.

But thats wrong. I recall early on that we suspected and had some strong evidence that the Palm-civet cat was a reservoir for the SARS virus. I was here in Hong Kong at the time, running a business, having to take measures against the virus, so was very tuned in to what was going on. I remember being told, early on, that the civet cat was the likely source. Thatnot the case with Covid.

What Collins done here is repeat something at a Wikipedia entry that says it took 14 years to find the source. But that was only to fine-tune what we already knew. From Chinese studies and from studies right here in Hong Kong [All in US Journals] we knew that the sources had been identified as early as May 2003, just three months after China notified it to the WHO.

The reason this is important is that China is wanting to keep on with the theory that the origin is natural (zoonotic) and not a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. So far, after testing over 80,000 animals in Southern China not a one has been found to be a reservoir of anything like the SARS-coV-2. Why not? Well “remember that it took 14 years to find the source of the 2003-04 SARS” is one answer. Give it time. If, OTOH, the source of SARS had been found in just months, then why have we found nothing on the new one, giving us Covid, in two years??

Here are clear references to the fact that the SARS origin was traced early on, in just months, back in 2003:
In late May 2003, studies from samples of wild animals sold as food in the local market in Guangdong, China, found a strain of SARS coronavirus could be isolated from masked palm civets (Paguma sp.), but the animals did not always show clinical signs. The preliminary conclusion was the SARS virus crossed the xenographic barrier from palm civet to humans, and more than 10,000 masked palm civets were killed in Guangdong Province. The virus was also later found in raccoon dogs (Nyctereuteus sp.),[20] ferret badgers (Melogale spp.), and domestic cats. In 2005, two studies identified a number of SARS-like coronaviruses in Chinese bats.[21][22] Although the bat SARS virus did not replicate in cell culture, in 2008, American researchers[23] altered the genetic structure of bat SARS virus with the human receptor binding domain both in the bat virus and in the mice which demonstrated how zoonosis might occur in evolution.[24] Phylogenetic analysis of these viruses indicated a high probability that SARS coronavirus originated in bats and spread to humans either directly or through animals held in Chinese markets. The bats did not show any visible signs of disease, but are the likely natural reservoirs of SARS-like coronaviruses. In 2004, scientists from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention of the University of Hong Kong and the Guangzhou Centre for Disease Control and Prevention established a genetic link between the SARS coronavirus appearing in civets and humans, confirming claims that the virus had jumped across species. [Source]

I’ve no dog in this fight. I just want us to find out where this horrid virus originated. It matters. Because (A) If it’s Lab Leak then the protocols for experiments need to be tightened. And (B) If it’s natural, then we need to shut down places that are potential sources of future pandemics. 

I’ve just bought Viral, a book by Alina Chan a Canadian molecular biologist specializing in gene therapy and cell engineering at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; and Matt Ridley a writer of numerous science books. It tells the story.

TL;DR: there’s smoke galore around the Lab Leak theory. There’s only clear skies -- no smoke at all -- around the Zoonotic origin theory. Here’s an hour’s podcast on Viral, Chan and Ridley talking with Demitri Kofinas
ADDED: @39’ Chan says “It’s problematic that the WIV investigated itself; that people with the most to lose if it were shown that it was a Lab Leak, are the ones doing the investigation”. People like Peter Daszak of the Eco-Health Alliance through which US funding for gain-of-function research was channelled, was the lead investigator. So that when he asked WIV “was there a lab leak”, and WIV answered “No”, he said “Ok, our job is done”. For the world this seemed (seems?) to have been enough. Though the WHO seems to have developed some spine and be asking for more investigations. 

ADDED: Alexandros Marinos gives Lex a huge serve in this Thread for more infelicities, errors and duplicity by our “famous scientist”. I begin to think that Collins is in the positions he’s been in because he’s a good bureaucrat, not for his science. 

Zero Covid strikes twice and Biden pays the price


 A “three-fer” of fun stories in the front page of today’s South China Morning Post

1.  Top story is about the closure yesterday of the whole of Hong Kong Disneyland. Because one case. Imported. 

2. The second story is also because zero Covid policy: FedEx says it’s pulling out its HQ from Hong Kong because there is “no clear pathway out” of the current  order lockdowns.

As I describe it, this is Hong Kong deciding on the GBA strategy rather than the GFC strategy. 

GBA = the Greater Bay Area of southern China. That is looking inwards to China. Part of Belt and Road. A boring government description of GBA, highlighting civil servants’ ineptitude at PR. Plenty of other descriptions at your favourite search engine…

GFC = Global Financial Centre, which is what we’ve been since the seventies. Which means looking outward to the world. Well, we e made our bed, it would seem. FedEx is just one more in the gathering departure of international companies.

3. The bottom story is Joe Biden asking China for more oil. Because he’s shut down pipelines and halted fracking. Which kind of means no net reduction of emissions due to oil hasn’t really changed, just that the source of the oil has changed. Fracked gas emissions are less than a fifth of oil’s. The escaped methane during fracking issue is largely fixed. Opponents are driven by opposing the good because it’s not perfect. Yet it did allow the US to reduce carbon emissions while increasing renewables. 

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

New Beaut Composter

Buddha Pine. Tumbling Composter, kitchen garden
Our first tumbling composter lasted three years. Its stand broke recently so we re-recycled its already recycled plastic. 

The one above cost about $US 90 delivered HK. It’s even better than the old one, as each chamber is individually rotatable. So it’s never too heavy to turn as the last was when full.

These tumbling compost bins are fantastic. They make rich, clean, dark, sweet compost in less than a month. At least for us here in tropical Hong Kong at 25-30C and high humidity. YMMV.

If this one lasts three years that’ll do fine. 

We do have an upright compost bin that’s twenty years old and still usable. But we don’t use it much as it’s home to a family of field mice that we don’t like to disturb. They’re rats, really, but that’s just so much of a pejorative and we don’t like to diss them. After all, they’re smart and considerate. They gave us considerable pleasure as we watched them work out how to get to the bird feeder when we’d moved it specifically so they wouldn’t be able get to it. They were. Eventually they worked out a path and now they share the bird feeder, which we let them and the birds don’t seem to mind. They — the Mouse Family — trouble us not at all. And, we suspect, young mouse family members provide the occasional meal to one of our resident Rat snakes. Plus they’re small. For rats. So it doesn’t seem so mawkish to call them Mr and Ms Mouse and family …

Chinese: ‘uuuuge investments in Oz

Click to enlarge. Online here
A mate resident in China and handling assets of wealthy cosmopolitan Chinese tells me there’s been no let up in their investments in Australia. 

Same is true for property investments, so seems, as above in today’s South China Morning Post. 70% increase in a year. A year in which Xi Jinping and his bully buddies have been trying to punish Oz for having the temerity to ask for an international investigation into the origins of Covid. They stopped buying Aussie coal; result: coal prices are at record levels and coal shortages in China lead to power cuts. Chalk it up. Australia: 1, China: 0

ADDED: An OP points out the big increases in investment to commercial property in Australia (article above) is from the world, not just China. True. My main point stands: China’s embargo on Australian commodities has done nothing to Oz, but hurt China. 

‘Falling regional births point to growing populcrisis’ | SCMP

The nurse is looking at the baby with such
love and tenderness. You can tell even 
through the mask
I read somewhere recently-ish that China would start feeling an economic and social impact from a shrinking and aging population while the US, mainly because of immigration, would keep a young and growing population. And that therefore the narrative of an inexorably rising China, with a world-dominating economy, may not happen. That’s looking at the medium term, say 20-50 years, rather than soon.

The article above suggests some serious concern about falling birth rates, like right now. In some places up to 21% falls y-o-y. That’s dramatic (to say the very least). Last year deaths in China outpaced births. 

Couple that with a report I posted last week: that China may have a smaller population than it thinks because regional officials have been inflating their census figures (latest 2020), because of unintended consequences of some policies, like.bigger population = more subsidies. 

“Population is destiny”.

Third Jab !

According to Israel studies, and now some others, the third jab, the “booster”, provides even greater protection than the first two at ~95%. Eric Topol thread here.

We did ours yesterday at the Tung Chung Community Centre. The usual friendly, efficient, free, process. 

‘Let’s get ties back on track’ | Xi to Biden

 

Sitting here in Hong Kong thinking that one is in the heart of history happening right in front of us. For better or worse. The major bilateral relationship in the world battering and bettering itself all around us. Trump confronts, Biden abides, Xi provides…

Chapel reflections

 


From my daily bike ride. Our local multi faith space cum chapel. Lately hosting many weddings 

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

It’s a climate *emergency* so why don’t nuclear and gas even get a mention …


Taihang, China, solar farm. Click screenshot to go to the thread
… at COP26, let alone get discussed in detail as key to solving said emergency? Yet: not even mentioned in the two weeks ob gabbing at COP26. Weird. When you consider the massive solar farm above in Taihang, China, would need to spread out to 32 times the to equal just one 1GW nuclear power station. Solar needs 300-400 times the space of nuclear.
This one at Daya Bay below, does that job and more (it’s 1.5Gw capacity) — so it puts out power of roughly 50 times the area of the Taihang solar array, above. 
Daya nuclear is right near us, just to our north east. I’ve visited and been shown around. A fantastic experience.  
It provides half our power, clean, reliable, and gives us lower carbon emissions per cap than most Australians.
Daya Bay nuclear staton. We’ve sailed in the bay often. Lovely 
But no. No Nuclear. At COP26. Not even mentioned. 

ADDED: Sweden and France have nuclear power for 40% of their electricity. Lowest cost of electricity in Europe? Sweden and France. Lowest carbon emissions in Europe? Sweden and France. More 

Monday, 15 November 2021

"Out of the 50,000 Chinese characters, why don't any have circles?"

Shu Fa “calligraphy". Top to bottom, L to R: Seal (Zhuang) Script;
Clerical (Li); Grass (Cao); Running (Xing); Standard (Kai)
"Out of the 50,000 Chinese characters, why don't any have circles?”

Asks someone on Quora, and Alex answers with some interesting observations. If I’d been asked, I’d tend to say that it has something to do with the writing instruments after the development the Greater and Lesser Seal scripts which used hard tipped writing tools. After around the Han dynasty (200BCE) calligraphers began using flexible brushes. This led to standardisation of the strokes and stroke order (summarised in the character yong, 永, “forever” which has all nine). A side effect is it’s hard to write 0 with a brush -- try it and see how unnatural it feels.

Alex makes some interesting points, so copy his answer to the question below, from here:

You have made a fascinating observation that I think does give a lot of insight into Chinese culture.

Please do keep in mind that these are no more than my own very casual reflections:

Chinese script originated in Jiaguwen or oracle bone script, with characters carved onto turtle shells. It would have been somewhat difficult to carve a circle onto a turtle shell, I would imagine: you would need to carve it segment by segment while turning it. (Yet, as some in the comments as well as one of my friends have pointed out to me, it was actually a common element present in these oracle bones. Nonetheless, I would conjecture that it was still slightly more difficult, though the importance of which might be minimal.) Over time, what once were limited by technical difficulties might have become what was normal and what was natural.

The illustrated story of the South China Morning Post’s first 118 years

The Post’s “infograms” are rightly famous. They are terrific. 

In “South China Morning Post; a Hong Kong story” they give us a century of Hong Kong through their own lens.

What jumps out at me is just how turbulent and dangerous a century it was. It makes our worries of Covid, inflation, poor leadership …seem trivial. Or at least put our concerns in perspective. 

Just what we need — even *tougher* quarantine

Here in Hong Kong we already have the toughest quarantine rules in the world. Three weeks in quarantine for all arrivals wherever you’re from and whether vaccinated or not. Must be in a single hotel room, which you can’t leave. But all hotel rooms are fully booked to next year. 

So that’s why we sit here, two years after the first cases. I used to travel 6-8 times a year. The airport being just 23 minutes door to lounge. Now it’s a ghost town. When will it end? 

All a result of our zero Covid policy which we share with our beloved mainland. We have decided to look inwards to China rather than outwards to the world