I Read the News Today Oh Boy

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I don’t pretend to be a news outlet and I can’t imagine anyone comes to this site looking for the latest news. That being said, I’ve tried to avoid posting anything in the last few days (here, Facebook or Twitter) that wasn’t relevant to the ongoing situation in Hong Kong. I’ll admit I’m watching everything at a distance – I was in Manila until Monday night, Tuesday I had to work, today … well, I’m where I am.

Anyway, a few news items that have caught my eye.

Chai Yan Leung is the daughter of HK’s fearless leader CY Leung. I don’t know if this is real or not, but this screenshot of her Facebook page was posted at Coconuts.

screenshots_2014-10-01_at_5.18.17_pm

You tell me if it’s the real mccoy. Also posted to that page yesterday:

Pls keep up with the trying-to-get-into-my-account/ hacking (but failing like the loser you are), sending ‘”friend” requests”‘ (as if I’ll accept), meticulously scrolling through my public fb content and commenting on every single pic or status or note- IT’S SO FCKING ENTERTAINING and I’m laughing my ass off with my friends. Should I be flattered that you’re all so obsessed with me??#SoFunny #PlsKeepItComing #MyEverydayEntertainment

And a bit earlier, something about how she thinks Lindsay Lohan is the most talented actress of her generation.

Also from Coconuts, a photo she supposedly posted to Facebook last June:

chai_yan_wrist_0

 

(And please, no jokes in comments about how if you were related to CY, you’d try to kill yourself too. Yes, she slashed them the wrong way, but either way it’s sad.)

The SCMP reports that the Philippine consulate has warned Philippine workers in Hong Kong to stay away from the demonstrations as it might be unsafe or possibly illegal to attend, with fines of up to HK$5,000 (which is greater than one month’s salary for a domestic helper here).  Further, “Ferdinand Ramos, a 38-year-old musician who has lived in Hong Kong all his life but goes back to the Philippines periodically, said media reports in his country had warned nationals not to join the protest because they could be deported.”

Domestic helpers in Hong Kong received a salary raise this week. The minimum monthly salary has been raised from HK$4,010 to HK$4,110. It’s a raise of US$13 per month or approximately 2.5%.

This one here is a bit of a head-scratcher. Apparently early on Tuesday some idiot in a Mercedes literally sped through a street crowded with protesters.

Protesters scrambled for cover just seconds before a grey Mercedes-Benz, allegedly driven by a 59-year-old man surnamed Cheung, could hit them when it speeded through a section of Argyle Street near the junction with Nathan Road at around 2am.

The driver was later arrested at his Kowloon City home for suspected dangerous driving after reporters revealed his identity on social media. Police said there was no report of injury.

The driver said he had done nothing wrong.

I didn’t break any law. I was only exercising my citizen’s rights to use the road,” he told Cable TV.

“I didn’t see anything at all. All I remember is that I would not hit any people or objects. I used the road safely. I went through. That’s OK,” the driver said as he raised his right thumb.

Police senior inspector Wong Siu-leung, from the Kowloon West accident investigation unit, said the suspect’s driving manner was “problematic”.

“He rang his horn, and slowed down, but his vehicle was too close to the crowd,” Wong said.

Wong added that the driver was on his way to a friend’s home. He passed a breathalyser test.

The incident sparked anger and panic among the protesters. Some screamed as the car came close to hitting the crowd while others chased after the vehicle trying to catch the driver or rushed to reinforce the road block.

In Causeway Bay today, someone threw a plastic bag filled with water and bits of watermelon rind out of a window. One woman was taken to the hospital.

While most of Hong Kong’s entertainment industry stars have kept their mouths shut about all of this, and the HK gossip sites continue to post their usual nonsense, Chow Yun-Fat has spoken out.

Veteran actor Chow Yun-fat also spoke up. He told the media that the government made a serious mistake by using tear gas on students on day one. He criticised the government for being evasive when it should be facing the public.

“The students are very smart and rational. This is a peaceful protest. Why did [the government] have to resort to the violent tear gas?” Chow said.

“CY Leung cannot run away from this,” Chow said.

I have a co-worker who is from the mainland. This person has been posting stuff relevant to the protests on Weibo. The posts have all been deleted of course. The co-worker says they were told this is actually safer – if the posts were not deleted, it could be more troublesome for them in the long term.

Anyway, where things stand at the moment, in case you didn’t already know, is that the student protesters have changed their demands somewhat. Rather than saying they will occupy Hong Kong until China grants full democracy, they’re now saying they will go home once C.Y. Leung resigns or is forced from his post.

This is more achievable. After all, it was a mass demonstration in 2003 that forced the “resignation” of Hong Kong’s first chief exec, Tung Chee-Hwa.

But worryingly, they’ve said that if Leung doesn’t resign by Thursday, they will attempt to occupy government buildings. This could have disastrous consequences. I hope this will not be the case.

UPDATE: What I meant to add above was that it’s the devil you know vs. the devil you don’t. If Leung does step down or is forced out, who will replace him? Tung was inept, Tsang was corrupt and Leung is like the weird uncle you wouldn’t let babysit your kids. Beijing is clueless so don’t think that whoever follows in Leung’s footsteps is going to be an improvement.

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Lenny Bruce on Authority and the Origin of Law

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Something about what’s been going on the past few days reminded me of this classic Lenny Bruce routine:

I figure, when it started, they said, “Well, we’re gonna have to have some rules” — that’s how the law starts, out of that fact. 

“Let’s see. I tell you what we’ll do. We’ll have a vote. We’ll sleep in Area A. Is that cool?”

“OK, good.”

“We’ll eat in Area B. Good?”

“Good.”

“We’ll throw a crap in area C. Good?”

“Good.” 

Simple rules. So, everything went along pretty cool, you know, everybody’s very happy. One night everybody was sleeping, one guy woke up, Pow! He got a faceful of crap, and he said:

“Hey, what’s the deal here, I thought we had a rule: Eat, Sleep, and Crap, and I was sleeping and I got a faceful of crap.”

So they said,

“Well, ah, the rule was substantive –” 

See, that’s what the Fourteenth Amendment is. It regulates the rights but it doesn’t do anuthing about it. It just says, That’s where it’s at.

“We’ll have to do something to enforce the provisions, to give it some teeth. Here’s the deal: If everybody throws any crap on us while we’re sleeping, they get thrown in the craphouse. Agreed?”

“Well, everybody?”

“Yeah.”

“But what if it’s my mother?”

“You don’t understand. Your mother would be the fact. That doesn’t have anything to do with it. It’s just the rule, Eat, Sleep and Crap. Anybody throws any crap on us they get thrown in the craphouse. Your mother doesn’t enter into it at all. Everybody gets thrown in the craphouse — priests, rabbis, they’ll all go. Agreed?”

“OK, agreed.” 

OK. Now, it’s going along very cool, guy’s sleeping. Pow! Gets a faceful of crap. Now he wakes up and sees he’s all alone, and he looks, and everyone’s giving a big party. He says,

“Hey, what’s the deal? I thought we had a rule, Eat, Sleep, and Crap, and you just threw a faceful of crap on me.”

They said,

“Oh, this is a religious holiday, and we told you many times that if you’re going to live your indecent life and sleep all day, you deserve to have crap thrown on you while you’re sleeping.”

And the guy says,

“Bullshit, the rule’s the rule.”

And this guy started to separate the church and the state, right down the middle, Pow! Here’s the church rule, and here’s the federal rule. OK, everything’s going along cool, one guy says,

“Hey, wait a minute. Though we made the rule, how’re we going to get somebody to throw somebody in the craphouse? We need somebody to enforce it — law enforcement.”

Now they put up this sign on the wall, “WANTED, LAW ENFORCEMENT.” Guys applied for the job:

“Look. Here’s our problem, see, we’re trying to get some sleep and people keep throwing crap on us. Now we want somebody to throw them right in the craphouse. And I’m delegated to do the hiring here, and, ah, here’s what the job is.

“You see, they won’t go in the craphouse by themselves. And we all agreed on the rule, now, and we firmed it up, so there’s nobody gets out of it, everybody’s vulnerable, we’re gonna throw them right in the craphouse.

“But ya see, I can’t do it cause I do business with these assholes, and it looks bad for me, you know, ah . . . so I want somebody to do it for me, you know? So I tell you what: Here’s a stick and a gun and you do it — but wait till I’m out of the room. And, wherever it happens, see, I’ll wait back here and I’ll watch, you know, and you make sure you kick ‘em in the ass and throw ‘em in there.

“Now you’ll hear me say alotta times that it takes a certain kind of mentality to do that work, you know, and all that bullshit, you know, but you understand, it’s all horseshit and you just kick em in the ass and make sure it’s done.”

So what happens? Now comes the riot, or the marches — everybody’s wailing, screaming. And you got a guy there, who’s standing with a short-sleeved shirt on and a stick in his hand, and the people are yelling, “Gestapo! Gestapo!” at him:

“Gestapo? You asshole, I’m the mailman!”

That’s another big problem. People can’t separate the authority and the people who have the authority vested in them. I think you see that a lot in the demonstrations. Cause actually the people are demonstrating not against Vietnam — they’re demonstrating against the police department. Actually, against policemen. Because they have that concept — that the law and the law enforcement are one.

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No Idea

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Here’s the home page of KMB, one of the two major bus companies here.

kmb1

Clicking there leads to this:

kmb2

Meanwhile, MTR’s home page looks like this:

mtr

Not terribly useful at the moment. (MTR’s iPhone app delivers near-real-time service updates. I can’t find any place on their web site for similar information.)

Driving from the airport to home tonight, signs over the roadways declared that there was congestion in Central, Admiralty, Causeway Bay, etc. due to a “public meeting.”

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Whither Hong Kong / Wither Hong Kong

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yellowrib

Just some brief-ish thoughts. I’m tired and perhaps I should be waiting to write something but things are happening too fast and I feel I have to speak up now rather than remain silent in the face of the most extraordinarily horrendous events in Hong Kong since the riots in the 1960s.

I was in Manila when all hell literally broke loose in Hong Kong.  I returned home tonight (Monday). I know that my office (in Wanchai) was closed on Monday but we’re open on Tuesday.

Based on my meager understanding of the current situation, I see no winners. I see only losers. Why?

The protesters have to realize that China is not going to grant full democracy to Hong Kong by 2017, no matter what “promises” were made in the past or how previous statements were interpreted.  If that is indeed the case, then how long will the protests continue and what are they willing to accept? Who really believed that one country, two systems would last for 50 years? It didn’t die this week; it’s been dead for years, but perhaps never as obviously so as now.

The use of tear gas and pepper spray against peaceful protesters is more than likely the result of some upper echelon idiot who panicked. Who that idiot was, we will probably never know.

If Hong Kong had a government that represented its citizens and was answerable to them, then perhaps someone might have stepped up and tried to negotiate some sort of compromise solution – though I have no idea what such a compromise might consist of.

But Hong Kong has had 17 years of inept leaders whose only qualifications for their jobs has been their loyalty to Beijing and their willingness to follow the lead of the real estate cartels that really own and run Hong Kong.

To my way of thinking, there is no truth to the old maxim “you will reap what you sow.” 25 years after Tiananmen, China still hasn’t paid any price for slaughtering thousands of their own citizens who were peacefully protesting. China doesn’t give a crap what the world thinks because China knows there were no consequences in the past and there would not be any consequences this time either, should things go even further astray.

As Great Britain has recently shown, no country in the world will stand up to China – and even if one did, China would ignore them. They will do what they want to do, which is hold on to power by any means necessary. And they will get away with it because money speaks with the loudest voice of all.

So how will this all end? I don’t have a clue. The protesters haven’t left. The government won’t allow them to stay – at least not beyond a certain point. I hope that someone with a brain or at least some degree of pragmatism will find a middle ground.

In the meantime, perhaps levity isn’t really called for here, but I’m me, and the only bright side I can find to all of this is that perhaps for the first time in more than a decade, when Golden Week arrives tomorrow, we won’t be flooded with Mainland tourists on a mission to empty out all of the shops in town.

This, from the BBC:

  • Police said they used tear gas 87 times in clashes with protesters on Sunday
  • More than 200 bus routes have been cancelled or diverted; some subway exits in protest areas have been blocked
  • Several banks have suspended operations in affected areas
  • Police said they arrested 78 people on Sunday, after 70 arrests on Saturday.
  • In the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, protesters gathered outside the Hong Kong cultural office in a show of support
  • President Ma Ying-jeou said Taiwan was closely watching the situation in Hong Kong
  • In mainland China, reports say Instagram has been blocked, it is thought due to the protests

 

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Now I Feel Dumb(er than usual)

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iphone

So I got my iPhone 6 on Wednesday. On Friday morning, I dropped it. It dropped onto the pavement, screen side down. The above is the result.

Well, okay, people drop stuff every day. Just my bad luck that I dropped an iPhone that was only three days old. Made somewhat worse by the fact that I managed to lose my iPhone 5s less than two months ago (though I never spent any money to replace it, knowing the iPhone 6 would be coming soon).

Here’s the painful part. When I bought the phone, I bought one of those oversized Otter cases (the Otter Commuter). It’s a case that has one case within another case and edges that extend higher than the phone screen for maximum protection.

Then on Thursday I decided that case was too chunky in my pocket and got a cheapo slim plastic case. If I’d still been using that Otter case on Friday, probably the phone would have survived the drop just fine. (And no, I don’t mean this to be an advertisement.)

No, I didn’t want to go to Mong Kok and get some cheapie repair job done. Not for the screen, which is so important. And who knows if those shops even have spare parts (original or otherwise) for the iPhone 6 yet?

So I called Apple support. I was told that I couldn’t just walk into a store with the broken phone, I needed an appointment. Then the guy on the phone couldn’t locate the Hong Kong Apple stores (because the call center isn’t in HK, naturally). He asked me for my postal code. So I told him where the stores were. And all 3 Apple stores in HK are fully booked for the next 6 days (no big surprise really), which is as far in advance as that system can show.

Apple has third party authorized service centers, so the support guy gave me the details on those. I called them first to get the story. They’re not doing replacement parts, they’re just issuing new phones. And I would have to pay HK$2,920. And wait 3 business days. Well, either that or junking the thing, so of course I’m going to go for it. (And, when you think about it, it’s a decent enough deal that I can pay roughly 40% of the original price to get a new one when I’m the one who messed up the original.)

I get to the repair place. I go to the counter and show the girl the back of my phone first. “iPhone 6!” Then I turn it around and point at the screen. Her mouth drops open. I ask, “Am I the first?” And they all laugh.

Then the girl panics. I’m guessing she’s used to dealing with yelling foreigners and has already anticipated my response when she tells me what I have to pay. So I look at her and say, “I already know.” She lets out a huge sigh of relief.

So now … waiting for the call to get the replacement. And not going to cheap out on the case for the next one.

Sigh.

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Leonard Cohen Speaks the Truth

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leonardcohen

 

Leonard Cohen has a new album out. Popular Problems. I’ve listened to it twice and it lives up to the tremendous expectations I have of every new Cohen album.  Coming just two years after his last album, he also claims that the next album is already half-written. He’s 80 years old now and seemingly not wasting any time.

Anyway, I was reading the review on Pitchfork (7.6 out of 10, which seems about right) and there’s this quote from Cohen in which he’s talking about a lesson he learned from his Zen master (who died in 2014 at the age of 107) and which struck me as seriously fucking true:

“Roshi said something nice to me one time,” he started. “He said that the older you get, the lonelier you become, and the deeper the love you need. Which means that this hero that you’re trying to maintain as the central figure in the drama of your life—this hero is not enjoying the life of a hero. You’re exerting a tremendous maintenance to keep this heroic stance available to you, and the hero is suffering defeat after defeat. And they’re not heroic defeats; they’re ignoble defeats. Finally, one day you say, ‘Let him die—I can’t invest any more in this heroic position.’”

I just love the way he starts off that story. “Roshi said something nice to me” followed by something that could be taken as astonishingly depressing. But it could also be pure optimism – because if something is wrong, how can you fix it unless you know what it is?

Here’s the lyrics to one of the new songs on the album, Almost Like the Blues. I think the second verse is killer. And then the third verse is even better.

I saw some people starving
There was murder, there was rape
Their villages were burning
They were trying to escape
I couldn’t meet their glances
I was staring at my shoes
It was acid, it was tragic
It was almost like the blues

I have to die a little
Between each murderous thought
And when I’m finished thinking
I have to die a lot
There’s torture and there’s killing
And there’s all my bad reviews
The war, the children missing
Lord, it’s almost like the blues

So I let my heart get frozen
To keep away the rot
My father said I’m chosen
My mother said I’m not
I listened to their story
Of the Gypsies and the Jews
It was good, it wasn’t boring
It was almost like the blues

There is no G-d in Heaven
And there is no Hell below
So says the great professor
Of all there is to know
But I’ve had the invitation
That a sinner can’t refuse
And it’s almost like salvation
It’s almost like the blues

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Hong Kong iPhone Rant

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Well, not really a rant. Just frustration.

If you were to go to the US Apple web site today (as I did just now), you can buy an unsubsidized iPhone 6 and wait 7 to 10 days for shipping.

If you go to the Hong Kong Apple web site today (as I did just now), you cannot buy an iPhone 6. It just says “currently unavailable.”

I tried the system for reserving one for pick-up in a store that day. Woke up at 7:50, got to my computer and just started hitting refresh. Up until 7:59, come back later. At 8 AM, a code. You have to send an SMS with that code to Apple and they send you a reservation code. You then have to input that on the web site. But I was unable to get my SMS delivered until almost 8:20 AM. 20 minutes of “not delivered/try again.” And the result was no phone.

Apple announced that they sold 10 million iPhones on opening day. It’s probably more like, took 10 million orders. Reportedly they are manufacturing 400,000 per day through their various out-sourced suppliers.

Here in Hong Kong, those people who are lucky enough to get through buy as many as they can. (You’re allowed 2 iPhone 6′s and 2 iPhone 6 Plus’s per order.) Mostly they are not buying them for themselves. They’re buying them to sell at a profit.

Word is that all of this reselling is causing Mong Kok prices to drop, but if you consider that the top of the line iPhone 6 plus was selling for up to HK$20,000 in Mong Kok (against a list price of roughly HK$8,000), a 25% drop in price still makes it too damned expensive. And with the drop in prices, there are reports that people are now hoarding them to bring to HuangQiangBei in Shenzhen to sell there. I’ve seen friends posting photos of their purchases on Facebook. Now and then I’ll leave a comment asking if they’d sell one to me and the response is invariably, “No, I want to wait a few days and see how much profit I can make.”

Yesterday the Hong Kong police failed to arrest some smugglers who were loading boxes of iPhones onto a boat in Sai Kung at night. They left behind 15 boxes with 130 phones. Who knows how many they got away with?  We can certainly guess how they managed to get so many.

I’m not going to pay a premium to get one. And I’m not going to order one through a mobile company such as 3 or SmarTone as I don’t want to get stuck into another 2 year contract.

So I just have to wait. It’s just a pain waking up before 8 every morning and sitting in front of the computer only to be disappointed. Frustration grows and my desire to get one grows in proportion to my inability to get one.

Here’s a site that’s tracking availability of iPhones in local shops.  I have no idea of how accurate this information is.  C refers to the shop in Causeway Bay, I to the shop in IFC in Central, F for Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong.

iphoneorder

 

Of course all of this insanity is because the iPhone 6 isn’t available legally in China yet. I almost wonder if Apple has colluded with the Chinese government to make them scarce here to take HKers’ minds off democracy.

I mean, let’s face it, there is no good news in Hong Kong these days. Here are just a few headlines from today’s paper:

  • Rafael Hui got secret $11m payment from Beijing
  • Scuffles break out as students call on CY Leung to meet for talks on political reform
  • Ex-housing boss to lead arts hub (so it won’t be an “arts hub” much longer, but who ever expected promises to be kept?)
  • Thousands join Hong Kong students’ democracy protest as classroom boycott begins (okay, a grand statement, but it won’t change a thing)
  • Ex-civil servant who poured boiling water on maid avoids jail
  • Beijing to take a more active role in Hong Kong’s affairs (so “one country two systems” didn’t make it 15 years, let alone the promised 50)
  • One in five Hong Kongers “considering emigration” as pessimism hangs over city
  • Beijing shifts from indulgence to hard line on Hong Kong

And lets not forget about how last week Hong Kong’s air pollution hit new record highs as Guangdong factories went full-speed to pump out as much product as they could before the week-long break starting next week.

So yeah, I’d rather think about getting an iPhone 6 because the real news is just too fucking depressing.

UPDATE: Yes, writing this post unjinxed me. This morning I was able to get through the reservation system and have a iPhone 6 reserved for pick up today. Last night while doing some checking around, I found that local Chinese language web sites DCFever and HKGolden have hundreds if not thousands of ads for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. While most people are asking for relatively extreme mark-ups, there are also quite a lot listed at just HK$100 or $200 above the regular list price. One sort of tip for HKGolden – if you’re trying to register there, I’m told they will actually only accept registration from certain email domains. In other words, I was unable to register using my email addresses from Gmail, Yahoo or Netvigator. One friend, who works for the local government, told me he had to use his government email to be able to successfully register there.

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iThoughts on New Apple Stuff

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First off, as most of you know by now, every year Apple announces new iPhones and iPads and every year I write “hmph, not that much, not going to bother” and then get the fever and rush out to buy it as soon as I can. So I’ve given up pretending to resist. I want the new iPhone 6.

The livestream of the Apple event introducing the new model was a total mess for the first 30 minutes. First of all, someone please tell Apple that it serves no one in any positive way to require that you use the Safari browser to view the livestream. It’s just spiteful, short-sighted, stupid.

Some brainiac had the idea that the live video would be on the top half of the web page and the bottom half would be an auto-refreshing live blog. Why they thought this needed to be on the same page, I can’t even begin to guess, let’s just say lazy thinking. But the result of bad Javascript code that wasn’t properly QA’ed was that every time the blog portion at the bottom of the page refreshed, the video also refreshed and went back to the beginning again.

Also there was some sort of error in the control booth so for the first 30 minutes or so, anyone who did manage to watch the livestream heard the Chinese translator, her voice mixed louder than Cook’s. I thought at first it was some geo-checking thing happening only in Hong Kong; it turned out it was global.

It’s really a shame that a company that’s been doing this for so long – and that was introducing what appears to be some really good stuff – should be set back by these avoidable errors.

iPhone

So the deal in Hong Kong was that 3 PM Friday, you’d be able to go to the Apple web site and reserve up to 2 phones for delivery starting on September 19th. But the store was down until almost 3:40 PM. When it did finally open, it wasn’t working properly probably due to a large number of people hitting the site.

For me, it meant that I could reach the site, could choose what I wanted to buy (iPhone 6, space grey, 128 gig)(my wife said the gold color was unlucky for me since I’d never lost a black phone and I think the Plus is too large for my purposes) but then hitting the “select” button would just bring me back to the beginning of the process again. The phone never went into my shopping cart. Note that I was trying to do this on a MacBook and using Safari, with no luck.

Over at Twitter, I saw tweets from a lot of people having the same problem.

And yet, each time as I refreshed the page, I’d see the delivery date slipping. September 19th. Then 1 to 2 weeks. Then 3 to 4 weeks. Then “currently unavailable.” The pre-orders sold out within two hours.

One friend of mine told me she finally had success when she switched from trying to order on her PC to ordering via the iPhone Apple Store app. She has multiple iTunes accounts and ordered four phones.

The major reason for this is China. I don’t believe they’ve announced the release date for China yet – probably due to extra time needed to clear some regulatory hurdles there. So that means, once again, that everyone in China is trying to get their iPhone from Hong Kong.

The Chinese language HK newspapers published the prices that the shops in Mong Kok would pay for new iPhone 6s and 6 Pluses. The 64 gig 6 Plus, for example, they’d buy from you for HK$13,000, a hefty profit over the retail price of just over HK$7,000. Presumably they will try to sell it for up to HK$20,000, at least initially.

So not only is everyone in China trying to get one, everyone in Hong Kong is buying as many as they can, figuring if they can sell a couple of them up at Sing Tat in Mong Kok, they can make a nice sum of money.

Apple does not seem to have anticipated any of this. So while the iPhone 6 didn’t immediately sell out in the U.S. (at least insofar as I can tell from the Apple blogs I follow), in Hong Kong pre-orders were exhausted within two hours, with no word as to when the process will resume.

On the 16th, you can start to use the app to reserve phones for in-store pickup. As I recall from last year, ordering starts at 8 AM and each day orders were sold out by around 8:02 AM.

Since I don’t want to extend my mobile phone contract by another two years or pay a premium in Mong Kok, if I’m going to get one then I’ve got to buy it direct from Apple. I find that I really miss my 5s (lost in a taxi in Manila in August). The fingerprint sensor was a huge thing for me. I’m almost tempted to go and buy a used 5s – the market will probably be flooded with them very soon. When I lost the 5s, I knew it was just a month before the 6 announcement, so I was hoping I could have the new one in hand soon after that. I should have known better. I think I’ll be lucky if I can find one before November.

U2

In case you didn’t already know this, U2 has their first new album in 5 years and Apple arranged to give it away for free to everyone who has an iTunes account. That’s roughly half a billion people. Billboard reports that Apple will be spending $100 million on the marketing of this album. No word on how much they paid to U2 for this.

The thing is, everyone who has their iDevice set to automatically download purchases found the entire U2 album installed on their device, essentially without their permission. This has pissed off a lot of people.

And that leaves the question – why U2? Sure, they have a long standing relationship with Apple. They can still sell a fair amount of records but they’re far less consequential or notable than they were 10 years ago or more. With Apple upping their music game with the Beats acquisition, one wonders why they didn’t pick something more current (as Samsung did with their huge Jay Z stunt). My guess is that this was chosen as an album least likely to be found offensive by most people. The album itself? Pretty much of a piece with their last 2 or 3 albums. If you liked those, you’ll like this. I’ve played it once so far. It’s okay only.

Apple Watch

Note that it’s Apple Watch, not iWatch. Looks like Apple is finally moving away from the “i” branding on mobile devices?

Ben Thompson has an interesting take on the introductory presentation.  He notes that when Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Jobs spent a fair amount of time describing the need for this kind of device before revealing the device itself. Tim Cook took a different approach, showing the Watch right away and leaping into the description.

On the one hand, it might be easy to say that this is because Apple can’t speak to what niche this is filling, that they’ve done it simply because they’ve sensed there’s a good potential market for one.

On the other hand, in true Apple fashion they appear to have put a lot more thought into how such a device would function than any of their competitors.

There are three different models at two different sizes each.  Apple only announced a “starting at $349″ price. They also didn’t announce the date it would be available, only that it will be out next year. I’d say they did this to get 3rd party developers working on apps and also because it will probably put a major dent in sales for Jawbone, Fitbit and all the others currently out there. Apple also didn’t say anything about battery life – reports are that it will need to be charged daily.

All of the fitness tracking stuff – well that’s a proven market with lots of players in the space already. Forget sleep tracking if this needs to be charged daily.

The stuff with doodles and emojis, I think that’s clearly meant to be pitched at a generation that has abandoned wrist watches. Give “the kids” something cool to play with and they’ll start wearing watches again.

My initial take on the watch is why would I spend $350 or $500 for a device to wear on my wrist that in large part is only replicating the functionality of the phone that’s already in my pocket? Also, these days, you buy a watch and you know it’s going to last for 2 or 5 or 20 years. Just put it on, change the battery once a year, you’re done. You know that Apple will announce new models of this every year – do you want to upgrade your watch annually just as you do your phone?

Derek Thompson over at The Atlantic has written the most interesting piece I’ve come across so far on why the Apple watch could be a huge success. He reminds us that many analysts predicted the iPhone would be a failure. And that the Watch may be a new category of technology rather than just something that extends the current category.

Our projections of a piece of technology that’s just been invented don’t matter compared to the factors that actually drive adoption, like widely read reviews and the user experience of your colleagues, friends, and family. 

Me? I’m not going to say that I won’t get one. I’m going to wait until it comes out. I want to read the reviews, I want to see how the apps are functioning and extending its usefulness.

 

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Hong Kong Prices for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

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Apple starts taking orders for the new iPhone on September 12th. You can order online starting at 3 PM that day for home/office delivery, which starts on September 19th.  Or from 3 PM September 16th you can use the Apple store app to reserve a phone for in-store pick-up starting on the 19th.

Here’s the prices for an unlocked, unsubsidized iPhone.

iPhone 6:

  • 16 gig – $5,588
  • 64 gig – $6,388
  • 128 gig – $7,188

iPhone 6 Plus

  • 16 gig – $6,388
  • 64 gig – $7,188
  • 128 gig – $8,088

I know I’m buying one of these since I lost my iPhone 5S last month. I think I will go with the “regular size” iPhone 6 – undecided if I will go for 64 or 128 gig but I suspect that 64 will be enough.

I might post some thoughts about the Apple Watch later. My initial thought is why buy something that replicates most of the functions (aside from the fitness tracking) already available from the costly device in my pocket?

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Orange Peel

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Orange Peel is a new music bar located at 38-44 D’Aguilar Street (2nd floor) in Lan Kwai Fong. A good friend is one of the co-owners, so I was invited to their soft opening last night. A lot of the people from Peel Fresco in Soho are involved with this bar, so if you’ve been to PF, you have some idea of what to expect from OP. They’re going for a more adult crowd with a line-up of mostly jazz and they’ve got a sommelier on staff so expect a good choice of wines to go with the music. There’s a kitchen there but I don’t know what kind of food is planned.

Since I was in “party mode” last night, I wasn’t going to drag a lot of heavy equipment with me, just my Sony RX100 Mark III. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time behind the camera, but I did manage to grab a couple of quick shots here and there.

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They’ve clearly spent a lot on having proper acoustics for the music, and as you can see the place is large enough to fit a grand piano – not something you’ll often see in Lan Kwai Fong bars.

I don’t know when the official opening will be, but it looks as if they’ve got live music planned for every night this week. If you’re in the area, check them out. I see they’ve got some jazz, some blues and a bit of r ‘n b on the schedule and there’s been some discussion about nights featuring bands from HK’s indie rock scene.

I think it has probably been a year or longer since I last went to Lan Kwai Fong at night, especially a Saturday night. The first thing I noticed is how many old spots have been replaced with new ones. Maybe this is old news to you but I was really surprised to see some old favorites apparently long gone.

The second thing, no surprise, is that on a Saturday night at 11 PM, the streets are packed, and the quantity of gorgeous women to be seen remains mind-boggling. On the other hand, aside from myself, I’m not sure that I saw anyone else in the street who was over 30! Either the crowd is getting younger, or I’m getting older.

At one point I grabbed a quick kebab from a new (to me, anyway) spot called TavaQuick.

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I guess that guy is quite used to drunk people whipping out a camera while waiting for kebabs to be ready.

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