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Hong Kong

Hong Kong panic buying salt due to Japanese radiation fears

It doesn’t take much to move a crowd, and in crowded Hong Kong even the whiff of something can stir a rush of panic.

Take for example salt. Some salt contains iodine to help prevent against iodine deficiency.    It’s been this way for nearly a century and most people (save for the conspiracy theorists) don’t really notice it.  In fact in some countries it is a requirement that all salt sold be iodized.

But iodine is also part of Potassium Iodide (KI) which is a frequent pill given in nuclear emergency situations.  The US has stockpiles of it surrounding most nuclear reactors, and sales of this have gone through the roof throughout Asia given the current situation in Japan.

However, to get the necessary dose of iodide from common iodized table salt requires some mass quantities of salt.  How much?  According to this, nearly 1,550 grams PER DAY to get the equivilent of one 130mg KI tablet. That would kill you.

Or, to be more visual, take a look at this little picture I made.


Nonetheless, reports are coming in from all over Hong Kong and China of runs on salt.  I couldn’t really believe it so I ran down to my local grocery and…viola.

Guess which shelf was the salt shelf?


Space Battleship Yamato opens in Hong Kong

On Feburary 24, which is still a few days away.

Americans may remember this show by the American-ized title of “Star Blazers” where the battleship “Argo” went up to battle the Gamilons. Back in the day the very word “Yamato” still had too many WWII memories I guess.

Anyway, will probably go. My neighbors from Japan remember watching it as kids as well, and I think his wife has a crush on the lead character so she’ll want to stare at him for a few hours.

UPDATE: MOFOS! Released here but only in Japanese with Chinese subtitles. No English subtitles. Screw them. I’ll get it off the torrent sites instead of giving them my money.

College does not begin in Kindergarten

As I sit here going through my son’s kindergarten applications to various international schools here in Hong Kong I keep harking back to this TED speech by Sir Ken Robinson. In this speech he mocks and derides the process, extremely prevalent in Hong Kong, of “interviewing” 3 and 4 year olds for kindergarten. “College does not begin in Kindergarten” he points out. “Kindergarten begins in Kindergarten”.

But as we just heard in this last session, there’s such competition now to get to kindergarten, to get to the right kindergarten, that people are being interviewed for it at three. Kids sitting in front of unimpressed panels, you know, with their resumes, (Laughter) flipping through and saying, “Well, this is it?” (Laughter) (Applause) “You’ve been around for 36 months, and this is it?” (Laughter) “You’ve achieved nothing, commit. Spent the first six months breastfeeding, the way I can see it.” (Laughter) See, it’s outrageous as a conception, but it attracts people.

Absolutely right. The international schools here are a business. They are looking for kids who will stay with them for the rest of their academic career, ensuring that each class is full and more importantly, funded. It’s hard to walk away from the interview process without a bad taste in your mouth–this school really doesn’t care if my kid is different or special. They care only that my kid fits in their machine as cog of certain abilities and skills.

Unfortunately I live in a ridiculous place right now filled with insane parents, cramming dozens of classes into their toddler’s schedules and primping and priming them for the interview process. So it’s off to yet another interview tomorrow where I generally just tell my son “be yourself” while muttering under my breath “and tell them to go fuck themselves”.

Our oldest got into his kindergarten “safety school” so we’ve got a backup plan if the international schools don’t come through. The very fact I have a “safety school” for kindergarten just shows how the whole process is now absurd has become.

Chalk this up on the list of “why I don’t like living in Hong Kong” (yes, there are positive and negative lists we all have in our heads).

The Politics of Dancing by Re-flex

Was at Fat Angelo’s this weekend having some pizza and listening to a pretty good mix of 80’s new romantics bands on the speakers. Kind of a throwback to sitting in Garcia’s Pizza back at the University of Illinois in the 80s and listening to the same music. It’s kind of funny but there are times when you are focusing on just what is front of you, like your kids or a pizza on the table and music in the air and you really start to lose track of where you are. Yes, I’m in Hong Kong, 6,000 miles from home, but at that moment, I didn’t even notice.

Anyway, now this song is stuck in my head.

Smallest USB drive, that I own

USB drives to me are kind of silly. I have been living in the cloud when it comes to data for a number of years now and regard USB keys as sort of a throwback to the era of ‘physical media’ when you had to burn something to a disk to transfer it from one party to another. However, due to some business demands, I’ve recently had to go USB drive shopping to pass along about 10 gb of data (that could and should be done server-to-server but that’s another story).

So I went down to Wanchai today to look at drives. I managed to find this little 16gb TDK drive buried in the depths of the computer center. I originally wanted a 32gb drive but then priced out two of these 16gb drives at less than the cost of one 32gb drive. The guys I bought from, who have cut me 10-15% discounts on other items before were able to offer me a wopping $3HK discount per each drive (which is about $0.36 US). Oh well.

Anyway, take a look at this next to some random items on my desk. The drive is currently being loaded with a number of database files and other documents for a pending transfer in the next 48 hours (provided my contact meets up on time). Too bad it’s not shaped like a button or a cufflink–that would give the whole transfer a modicum of coolness a la James Bond.

Not sold in the US just yet but available throughout Hong Kong and Japan.

Buying a Chumby or Sony Dash in Hong Kong = No Joy

You would think that a place like Hong Kong, which is only miles from the gadget factories in Shenzhen and benefiting greatly from a massive demand for consumer appliances and essentially no customs duties on imports, would have the latest and greatest devices from around the world easily available at the various Computer (grey) markets around town. But yesterday I plodded through one of them with stares of disbelief and wonder, and not just because I was speaking English and showing them pictures on my iPad.

The Chumby and the Sony Dash (which has the guts of a Chumby inside) are two Internet appliances that I couldn’t find in Hong Kong.  Both are in heavy use in the US, with the Chumby being out for several YEARS now.  Chumby is now expanding into multiple devices.   But try as I might, I couldn’t find one in Hong Kong.

Part of the reason might be usage–most people in Hong Kong are on mobile devices and the thought of a stand alone, sit at home (in your small house) Internet appliance isn’t that appealing.  I’ll confess that after having my iPhone next to my bed for a few weeks, I rarely used my Chumby for anything besides an alarm clock.

But now that I’m stuck with no iPhone pending the release of the iPhone 4 and no FM radio since we left all of those back in the States, I’m in the market for another Internet device to help soothe my younger son to sleep every night with classical music from Venice, Italy (a station we use because they have no annoying commercials).  Unfortunately, these were two gadgets I just couldn’t find anywhere despite looking pretty hard.

Perhaps there’s a business opportunity here…hmmm…