Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hong Kong at dusk

Go to this link and scroll your mouse over the picture without clicking it. Very cool view of sunset in Hong Kong.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Football and Gender

Diane Robert is a Seminole fan, and she admits it contradicts her feminism, but she loves football anyway.

She begins:

I know. I know. The game reinforces the most retrograde gender roles. The men are front and center hitting each other. The women stay on the sidelines encouraging the men to hit each other.

Look at the clothes for god sake. The cheerleaders wear short skirts and eyeliner. The players wear tight britches and huge shoulder pads. The game is a feast of hyper masculinity with a side order of phallic metaphor: penetration, scoring. It's stylized warfare, fighting over 100 yards worth of symbolic turf. The object being to march deeper and deeper into enemy territory.

The very language of the game is combative: the bomb, the shotgun, the sack. The only time the game gets in touch with its feminine side is when, say, you're on your own, 25, down by six with seven seconds to go in the fourth, then you throw the Hail Mary. As usual, the men get themselves into trouble and expect a women to bail them out.

See the rest or listen to her read her essay here.

American hubris

This is one of the better articles discussing a disturbing American tendency towards bombast and boasting. Most Americans have no idea how absurd and arrogant it sounds outside the USA. It is a failure of global perspective that keeps Americans saying how the US is the best country in the world without any self-consciousness of how it sounds to outsiders, especially when, as the article only begins to note, there are plenty of areas that the US could improve upon (highest proportion of population in prison being a major one, for example). See the whole article here:

One nation, under illusion

THE HOARIEST and most oft-repeated cliche in American politics may be that America is the greatest country in the world. Every politician, Democrat and Republican, seems duty bound to pander to this idea of American exceptionalism, and woe unto him who hints otherwise. This country is “the last, best hope of mankind,’’ or the “shining city on the hill,’’ or the “great social experiment.’’ As if this weren’t enough, Jimmy Carter upped the fawning ante 30 years ago by uttering arguably the most damning words in modern American politics. He called for a “government as good as the American people,’’ thus taking national greatness and investing it in each and every one of us.

(Rest of the article) [The article was published in the International Herald Tribune of 14 Oct. 2009, but was not put online for some reason.]

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gillian Tett, anthropologist and journalist

Gillian Tett is assistant editor at the Financial Times, and this article in The Guardian should be read by all anthropologists. It notes how her anthropology helps her in her work, and how anthropology, along with experience in Tajikistan's civil war and in Japan, has prepared her to see the world as culturally created and frail at that. When struggling because of her lack of financial knowledge when she needed to write about foreign exchange, "I thought, you knownwhat, this is just like being in Tajikistan. All I have to do is learn a new language. This is a bunch of people who have dressed up this activity with a whole bunch of rituals and cultural patterns, and if I can lern Tajik, I can jolly well learn how the FX market works!" Well said.

See "On The Money" by Laura Barton in The Guardian (31 October 2008)

Monday, July 27, 2009

"We'll Charge Whatever We Can Get Away With"

PCCW (our telephone company) has told me they cannot tell me what it costs to call Korea because "it depends."  I can't tell if they want to know my phone number or  the number I'm trying to call in Korea, but either way, it is surprising that there is not a simple answer to my request.  Here is my message to them:
I am amazed that you do not seem to have any information online on what the cost per minute is for calling on 0060. I'm trying to find the cost to call Korea, and get to the following "dead end". Perhaps I've missed the webpage, but I've been looking for it for 5 minutes unsuccessfully. Please let me know where the page of charges is, and I hope you can make it easier to find.
And here is their reply:
Dear Mr. Bosco,

Thank you for emailing PCCW.

>From your message, we understand that you would like to obtain the calling rates from Hong Kong to Korea for our IDD 0060 service.

As there are many ongoing IDD 0060 promotions offering to different customers from time to time. Therefore, in order to retrieve the most accurate calling rate information for our customer, please be invited to contact directly our 24 hours IDD Customer Service hotline at 10013, whereby our representatives will be most happy to provide your requested information after checking with your account record.

Alternatively, you may provide us with the following information in coming email, so that we may further check with our record and reply you shortly:

- Concerned Telephone Number
- Account Registered Full Name

Should you have any further enquiries, please feel free to e-mail us again.

Yours sincerely,

[NAME] Wong
Customer Service Executive
PCCW Email Team
I especially like the extra ">" at the start of the message, suggesting they are not much better than I am at using email. The part I've highlighted in red means that they are charging different customers different prices, and so they need to check "who I am" to see how much I have to pay. No wonder there is no webpage providing the information (though with bit of programming, they could do that, but it would make their practice of charging different prices for different customers more obvious.) Since we do not have different long distance "packages" like in the US, I have to wonder how they decide how much to charge me. Dealing with monopolies is like tilting at windmills.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The fear of H1N1

Among the inflated fears people have of H1N1 is the fear that it might mutate. I have never understood why people fear that the new H1N1 will mutate and do not focus on our annual flu viruses of various Ns and Hs. The New York Times today has an article that confirms what I had believed, that the risk of the current virus mutating into something more lethal is very unlikely and hard to predict.

I can just hear the reply: "But there is still a chance!"