Category Archives: Other stuffs

Sony Embarrases America

Share

So in case you’re one of the three people on the planet who don’t know about this yet ….

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg directed a little film called The Interview, starring Rogen and James Franco. In the film Franco is a TV news guy, Rogen his producer, and they get a call to go to North Korea to interview Kim Jong-Un. The CIA then convinces them that during the interview, they should assassinate Kim. And, as we now know, in the film, they’re successful. The film was to be distributed by Sony Pictures.

When word of the film got out, North Korea called this film an act of war. As the release date got closer, Sony Pictures got hacked – big time. The first sign of this hack was when perfect quality DVD screeners of 5 other Sony films, some not yet released in theaters, appeared online. These included Fury with Brad Pitt, the new remake of Annie, and the very well reviewed new bio-pic Mr. Turner.

That was quickly followed by massive releases of internal Sony information – including salary information on Sony executives as well as huge numbers of internal emails containing all sorts of embarrasing information.

A group called the GOP – the Guardians of Peace – took credit for the massive hack and public release.

As the release date for the film got closer, the GOP started threatening violence. They announced that any theater screening the film would be the victim of an attack reminiscent of 9/11. Following this threat, 5 major theater chains in the US that had previously booked the film announced that they would no longer show it. And following that, Sony announced that they were canceling the film altogether – no release to theatrical, home video, cable, nothing. Sony would be writing off somewhere in the neighborhood of US$100 million.

Here’s the red band trailer for the film.

In the wake of all of this, Sony declared that North Korea was the source of the hack. The United States goverment has gone along with this, and now the FBI has said they believe it was North Korea. There have been newspaper headlines about the U.S. government considering what new sanctions they might apply against North Korea in retaliation.

Some theaters were going to substitute screenings of 2004′s Team America: World Police, from the South Park guys. And then Paramount got scared and wouldn’t release prints for screening.

So ….

The first thing is: It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of Seth Rogen or not. It doesn’t matter if you were anxiously awaiting this film, if you thought it was going to turn out to be a piece of crap or if you never heard of it or couldn’t care less.

You might ask, why risk the lives of hundreds or even thousands of people over a movie? It’s just a movie.

But what has really happened is that major U.S. corporations have allowed themselves to be blackmailed and controlled by anonymous hackers, who may not even be a government organization, they might just be a bunch of kids. This is a first amendment issue. Even if you feel the theaters were justified, Sony had many, many other ways to release this film and give a big middle finger to North Korea and try to recoup some of their investment. Hell, given that they’re prepared to kiss $100 million goodbye, they could have just torrented the film.

Instead, expect plenty of others to try similar stunts in the future now that the precedent has been set. This year it’s a movie. Next year another movie, or a TV show, or a book, or just some expression of some minor idea that upsets the Grand Poobah of Absurdistan or some 14 year old kid spending too much time in his bedroom because he didn’t eat all his vegetables at dinner.

Marc Rogers, one of the world’s leading hackers and security experts, provides some analysis and comes to the conclusion that the hack was not the work of the North Korean government. He thinks it’s an inside job.

One thing I read that Rogers doesn’t mention in his article. Earlier this year Sony hired PricewaterhouseCooper to conduct an IT security audit. This audit, delivered to Sony in September, identified major security holes. It would have been impossible for a large corporation (or even most small or mid-sized ones) to fill in these holes in such a short period of time.  The hack, just two months later, went after some of these holes.

Meanwhile, everyone from George Clooney to Alan Dershowitz is weighing in on this. (Dershowitz: “This is Pearl Harbor on the First Amendment.”) (Michael Moore: “Dear Sony Hackers: now that u run Hollywood, I’d also like less romantic comedies, fewer Michael Bay movies and no more Transformers.”)(Bill Maher: “Is that all it takes – an anonymous threat and the numbers 911 – to throw free expression under the bus? #PussyNation“)(Neil Gaiman: “So SONY fight back by canceling The Interview, thus proving to the hackers that hacking & threats work very well? That may prove an error.”)

If you’d like to read a very geeky breakdown of the events, along with all sorts of relevant links, then check out this long article at Risk Based Security.

One thing is for sure – this is a big mess that will only get messier.

Share

Minor IT Mishaps and More Fun to Come

Share

I’m turning into Expat@Large (I guess you have to be friends with him IRL/on Facebook to get the context).

I’ve got the iPhone 6, running the “latest and greatest” version of iOS. I flew from Hong Kong to Manila yesterday (closing on our house this week). During the flight, I swapped SIM cards, from my HK SIM to a Philippines SIM. I’ve done this many times before. But this time, as soon as I swapped cards, my phone said, “Activation required” and I was hosed for several hours after that. Swapping cards back to my HK card didn’t clear that. And I’m flying a budget airline (Cebu Pacific) so there’s no WiFi on the plane. All of my music is on my phone (I don’t have any on my iPad), a first world problem to be sure but still quite the annoyance.

Once we landed, I didn’t have enough load on the Philippines card to connect to the internet for activation. My phone settings are “no data when roaming internationally” so putting the HK card back in didn’t help – not that I would have wanted to because I can only guess what the data charges would have been with three hours worth of emails and other notifications streaming in.

So it had to wait until we reached the hotel, until the room was ready for check-in, until I could get my laptop unpacked and on the net. I couldn’t use the WiFi in the hotel for this purpose because the hotel uses an antiquated WiFi system that allows you to connect but then requires you to bring up your browser to actually login and use it.

Speaking of which, here’s my internet at the hotel:

Speedtest_net_by_Ookla_-_The_Global_Broadband_Speed_Test

I mean, what year is this, anyway?

To add insult to injury, the hotel WiFi only allows you to connect one device per room to their WiFi. Try to connect with a second device and the first one gets knocked off the network. This is in an era where most people are traveling with more than one internet-capable device (laptop, tablet, phone, etc.) and multiply that by the number of people in the room. You can “buy” additional connections for 200 pesos (HK$35) per day but even that price is too high considering the shitty speed you get.

This morning, I’m unable to get on their WiFi with even one device. “Unable to join network” over and over. Call the front desk. “I’m sorry sir. Our IT person arrives at 10 AM and we’ll check it then. Sorry for the inconvenience sir.”

Using my iPhone as a hotspot gets me moderately better speeds.

Speedtest_net_by_Ookla_-_The_Global_Broadband_Speed_Test

And this is not some remote out-of-the-way location, I’m in the middle of Ortigas, one of the major business centers in Manila.  (An iOS/Android app called Open Signal is showing that Smart gives the strongest signal here, Globe is a close second and Sun is barely in the game.) With Smart you get unlimited internet for 50 pesos a day or 999  (HK$173) a month.

This led me to checking on what kind of internet speeds I can expect to get in my new home. I’m told that I can get Sky – they provide cable TV and also cable broadband. (That’s assuming they reach my house – it’s a new house in one of the newer phases of this development. I’m having nightmares thinking that it could be a year or 5 until they run whatever wires they need to run to get to me.)

“Sir, you can get Sky internet,” every agent said to me during my search. “You can get 3 Mbps! Will that be sufficient sir?” No it fucking will not but it is certainly better than nothing, if I can get it.

Sky charges 999 pesos per month for 3 Mbps. Their web site shows higher speeds available but no information on if those speeds are available at every location or just select areas. If you want 5 Mbps, that doubles the price (but not the speed, obviously) from the 3 Mbps service, P1,999.  10 Mbps doubles the price again to P3,999 (HK$696 per month); 16 Mbps takes you to P4,999 (HK$870 a month), and so on, up to 55 Mbps for P9,499 (HK$1,650) per month. 112 Mbps is P19,999 (HK$3,480 per month) and 200 Mbps will run you P34,999 (HK$6,090) per month. Certainly this is a better situation than it was just a few years ago, when home internet speeds were measured in Kbps, but keep in mind that if you live in HK, in some areas you can get 1 gigabit per second for HK$199 a month.

I’m guessing this will be a lot of fun for me in the months to come.

 

Share

Louis C.K. Does Not Like ISIS

Share

From The Atlantic today:

In the newest issue of Dabiq, the English-language magazine published by ISIS, the extremist group for the first time confirmed and justified the capturing, enslaving and selling of Yazidi women and children.

“The Islamic State’s litany of horrific crimes against the Yezidis in Iraq only keeps growing,” said Fred Abrahams, special adviser at Human Rights Watch. “We heard shocking stories of forced religious conversions, forced marriage, and even sexual assault and slavery—and some of the victims were children.”

In the article, “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour,” the magazine stated that “the enslaved Yazidi families are now sold by the Islamic State soldiers,” adding that, “the Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations.”

Referring to the Yazidis as “pagans” and “infidels,” the article said, “Their creed is so deviant from the truth that even cross-worshipping Christians for ages considered them devil worshippers and Satanists, as is recorded in accounts of Westerners and Orientalists who encountered them or studied them.”

ISIS is also boasting about what they see as the revival of important institutions, such as slavery. “Before Shaytan reveals his doubts to the weak-minded and weak hearted, one would remember that enslaving the families of the [infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of Shariah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Quran and the narrations of the Prophet, and thereby apostatizing from Islam,” the article says. “… May Allah bless this Islamic State with the revival of further aspects of the religion occurring at its hands.”

That may have something to do with why Louis C.K. went on this Twitter rant (courtesy of Pajiba):

Oh, fuck you, ISIS. Sincerely please fuck each other in the mouth with forks. You’re 7 year old boys. You’re stupid. You suck.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 13, 2014

I’m 47. seen a lot of assholes. But these ISIS fuckfaces Are the worst. ISIS please drink Sunoco gas and then have a smoke.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 13, 2014

Whether or not ISIS is really a bunch of Halliburton employees

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 13, 2014

Or just homegrown raping marauding cunts they appear to be. Just really. Fuck them already. They stink.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 13, 2014

Fuck ISIS doesn’t mean yay America. I’m not saying this as an American. I don’t believe they’re coming here. I’m a Martian.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 13, 2014

a Martian just like every displaced killed raped Iraqi Syrian by Assad bush saddam Cheney ISIS. The separation is an illusion.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 13, 2014

But right now. As a cranky guy reading the paper, Fuck ISIS in all 3 holes and make a fifth and fuck them there too.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 13, 2014

I mean a fourth hole. Sorry. Seriously sorry.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 13, 2014

 

He may have a point. But he’s been a bit weird on Twitter lately. This series from a few days earlier (again via Pajiba)

It really feels like Mars used to be a here that got globally warmed by some very us-y people-things.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

I’m not saying I can prove it. I’m saying it feels like it.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

It feels like they left mars on a moon that they pushed out of orbit and rode over here to try to orbit what was earth

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

That’s the only way you could move billions of people-y types. But their moon crashed into pre-earth and everyone died.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

What was left turned into here and our moon and got seeded by marsian corpse DNA. And later we’ll use our moon to go back.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

That’s what it feels like anyway.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

And it feels like we are gonna keep bopping around on moons til we realize the whole solar system is actually a spaceship.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

The sun is the engine and if you wait til it all lines up just right and you push “go” you can ride it to a bigger far place.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

I would really like to emphasize that these are not opinions or theories. It’s just a feeling I have.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

Also I feel like I know the origin of the basic despair that we all feel in the pit of our being, that one thing we all share.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

We used to be one single thing that was nowhere. The Big Bang happened, sending us, which used to be a “me” hurtling outward.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

And that basic sad despair inside is us going “aaaaaaaaaaaaah!!” Through space. We’re like on the 20′th “a”

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

If you go “aaaaa!” For a jiblion years you stop even hearing yourself say it. Anyway that’s just how it feels sometimes.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

I’m not high.

— Louis C.K. (@louisck) October 8, 2014

Share

Lenny Bruce on Authority and the Origin of Law

Share

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.

Share

(UPDATED) 2nd International Hong Kong Tattoo Convention 2014

Share

I was traveling last year when Hong Kong’s first tattoo convention was held. Fortunately I was home this year for the 2nd International Hong Kong Tattoo Convention 2014 and wasn’t going to miss it. Here’s some shots from the show, a whole lot more can be found over at Spike’s Photos.

Even though I’ve got 8 tattoos myself, I’d never been to a tattoo convention before. This one was everything I would have expected, and I mean that in a good sense. There must have been at least 100 booths representing tattoo studios – mostly from Hong Kong and China, but I also saw a selection from Korea and of course Japan. Given the vogue for Asian style tattoos, I think any American or European tattoo lover would have killed to be here. One Japanese studio had a guy doing tattoos using the traditional stick method. (I’ve got two tatts done by monks in temples in Thailand using stainless steel rods and yes, it’s true, you feel this a hell of a lot more, but you also feel connected to a more ancient tradition.)

Each studio and artist had their portfolios on display and of course lots of people were getting new ink during the convention. Some booths had their prices posted, mostly HK$1,500 per hour. Some studios were also selling t-shirts, posters, stickers, books and even a few small toys.

I talked with several of the artists and grabbed the business cards for all the HK studios. I had to work really hard to not give in to temptation to get something new there and then.

Other rooms had displays from companies that manufacture and distribute tattoo supplies – needles, ink, after-tattoo skin care products, magazines and so on.

Food was represented by Boomshack, from the terrific Austin Fry (he started Brickhouse in Lan Kwai Fong; I know he’s moved on but can’t recall the name of his latest place). He was doing some gourmet burgers but the real deal here was his fried chicken and waffles, so good I brought some home and my wife, who usually says she doesn’t like waffles, scarfed hers down in a matter of seconds.

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay as long as I liked, which meant that I missed the nightly awards ceremonies and, more important to me, the bands. There was a stage sponsored by VANS with more than half a dozen bands appearing daily (different bands each day).

And, yeah, I confess, so many beautiful women I quickly lost count.

The convention was held August 23rd to 25th at Innocentre in Kowloon Tong. I went on Saturday; I really wanted to get back there again on Sunday but it just wasn’t possible.

All in all, this was really a terrific event, everything that I think one of these things ought to be. It’s great to see this as an annual event in Hong Kong and I can’t wait for next year’s convention.

SHS_2322

SHS_2333

SHS_2336

SHS_2348

SHS_2370

SHS_2398

SHS_2452

SHS_2472

SHS_2500

Share

Review – Think Tank Photo My 2nd Brain Briefcase 13

Share

Photographers suffer from what we jokingly refer to as GAS – Gear Acquisition Syndrome. We get GAS not only for cameras and lenses, we also get GAS for bags. I don’t know any photographer who only has one camera bag. We buy them in all different sizes for all different purposes.

There are plenty of companies making photo bags and I’ve tried lots of them and after several years, the one company that I “follow” is an American company called Think Tank Photo. Their bags are intelligently designed and durable and have stood the test of time for me.

Here’s my “family” of Think Tank Photo bags:

SHS_2264

As you can see, I’ve got six of them, ranging from a small shoulder bag that will hold just my Nikon D800 with a zoom lens all the way up to the rolling Airport Security bag – which I use not just for travel but also for local shoots when I’m taking everything with me.

Think Tank decided to branch out into a new line that they called My 2nd Brain. This is a line of bags that they say are specifically sized for Apple products – MacBooks, iPads, iPhones – though of course they should work for just about any notebook, tablet and phone.

The first series of bags that they introduced left me cold. These were ultra-slim shoulder bags that could fit a laptop or a tablet computer and maybe a few sheets of paper but very little else. They couldn’t begin to accommodate what I carry on a normal work day. I looked at them and wondered if their designers all had 20/20 vision or wore contacts. There wasn’t even space for a couple of regular-sized eyeglass cases, let alone all the stuff I’m liable to carry on an average work day.

So, you ask, what do I carry on a normal day?

SHS_2281

 

  • 13 inch MacBook Pro
  • iPad Air
  • two pairs of glasses – reading and sun glasses
  • Fiio headphone amplifier
  • Over the ears headphones – most often B&W P5s, sometimes I go for the Bluetooth Parrot Zik headphones, which are also fabulous.
  • a “regular” pen and an Adonit Jot Script pen for writing on my iPad
  • The power adapter for my MacBook
  • a battery-powered electric fan, for all the times I’m waiting for the damned 307 bus in 35 degree heat
  • some sugar-free mints
  • 3 different business cards (day job, photo studio, photo/writing)
  • Keys
  • Battery charger and cables
  • Umbrella
  • Water bottle

And that’s not everything. Not shown in the photo above are:

  • Two mobile phones (one for business, one for “life”)
  • Cigarettes and a lighter
  • Sony RX100 III camera
  • And, occasionally, a paperback book for when I feel like reading on paper vs. on my iPad

Now, take all of that stuff and add on that I’m somewhat obsessive compulsive (as if that wasn’t already evident) and that I don’t want to spend time digging through my bag looking for things. I want each thing to have its own pocket or compartment; first so that it won’t be banging into anything else, and second so that I can put my hands on anything in an instant without digging around.

I have a slim vertical shoulder bag from Skooba that can’t really handle too much stuff. An iPad and two pairs of glasses and the Sony camera leave it bursting at the seams. I have a messenger bag from Crumpler that holds all of the above and more, but it’s just too big – when I’m sitting on the bus it’s really difficult to keep the bag from spilling over onto the laps of the people sitting next to me.

I decided that I wanted some kind of briefcase, to look more professional (okay, granted, I go to work wearing jeans and t-shirts and sneakers, but once in a rare while I have to do “business casual” or even a suit and a messenger bag just doesn’t go with that).

There’s probably a zillion briefcases one can find in Hong Kong, everything from cheap knock-offs to fancy leather cases costing thousands of dollars. I figured I could spend years looking at all of them, trying to find one that would fit my particular mania. But when TTP expanded their My 2nd Brain line to include briefcases, I knew that was the answer I was looking for. The price was right, the size was right and I also knew that this would have all of the pockets and compartments I wanted. So I got the My 2nd Brain Briefcase 13 in black (it also comes in “Harbor Blue” and “Mist Green”).

(Full disclosure – after not being able to locate the bag in Hong Kong through the local TTP distributors, I approached the company directly asking for a bag in exchange for a review and I was quite surprised when they agreed.)

Let’s start by examining the outside of the bag, starting with the front:

SHS_2291

It’s a very clean, classic design, made from 420D high density nylon with a water-repellant coating. The bag measures 14.2″ wide by 11.8″ high by 4.5″ deep. As you can see, the handle at the top of the bag is well padded. The detachable strap is also sufficiently padded, with those little shiny maybe-silicone bits that keep it from slipping off one’s shoulder.

SHS_2293

There’s even a small buckle on the strap to let you hang a pair of headphones or some other small item with a strap.

Feature-My-2nd-Brain-Briefcase-13-Black-9

(The above photo is the only one taken from the company web site. Wish I had a nice set-up at home for doing this kind of shooting!)

All of the hardware is durable nickel-coated metal.

SHS_2294

The front flap has two zippers that open to reveal the type of sectioned divider that’s found in almost every TTP bag.

SHS_2303

Note that there’s a deep pocket there good for papers, a small notebook, or perhaps a passport and tickets. (That’s where I put my electric fan.) There’s also a small blue strap with a hook at the end meant for attaching a key ring.

Viewing this same compartment from the other side, there’s another flap that’s the right size for a full-size iPad – in my case an iPad Air in a slim case from Odoyo.

SHS_2305

Just behind that compartment is a zipper that opens to reveal a small compartment meant for a mobile phone.

SHS_2306

There’s also a small webbed pocket in there that will fit business cards nicely. Me, I prefer to keep my phone in my jeans.  I tried putting my Sony camera here but the weight of the camera made this section get all bulgy.  So I’m using this pocket for my smokes. They fit perfectly there and they’re instantly accessible.

Looking inside the main compartment, theres one divider that features 5 expandable pockets:

SHS_2307

And there’s plenty of room to fit some papers or a magazine back there. Still in the main compartment but facing the other direction, there’s another divider that features two clear zippered pockets.

SHS_2308

And again, room behind that for more papers.

What you might also note in the above photos is that there are pieces of fabric along both sides attaching the front of the case to the rear. This is great because it means when the bag is on your shoulder and you open it up on the street, there’s no possibility of the front flipping over and all of the contents spilling out. You also have probably noticed the light grey interior, meaning it’s easy to see every item that you’ve got in there.

TTP include rain covers will almost all of their bags, and the My 2nd Brain Briefcase 13 is no exception.

SHS_2309

The blue bag contains a black plastic cover. The strap ends with a bit of velcro that wraps around a red elastic hook inside, meaning that you can take the bag out.

SHS_2310

As you can see, the rain cover bag actually takes up quite a bit of space.

Looking at the back of the bag, there’s the zippered compartment for your laptop.

SHS_2302

I don’t know that I needed that bit of cutesy text there. Both sides of the compartment are lightly padded.

Then there’s a slim space that you can drop a newspaper or magazine into.

SHS_2301

There’s also a tight flap that will allow you to put this securely onto the handle of a larger piece of luggage, as shown below with my TTP Airport Security rolling bag.

SHS_2276

 

Finally, both sides of the bag have zippered, expandable pockets that can hold a water bottle, a folding umbrella, a large eyeglass case or perhaps a kebab from Ebeneezer’s.

SHS_2299

So, yes, this bag holds everything I might possibly want to take with me on a day out, each item in its own place and easily accessible. It’s small enough to fit on my lap and it’s flat which makes it a great “desktop” for holding my iPad while I’m watching my TV shows during my commute.

I’ve been using this bag now every day for about 3 weeks and on the whole, I’m really loving it. It’s the same Think Tank Photo quality that I love in the other 6 TTP bags that I own. It seems strong and durable. It feels as if it will last a lifetime, or at least for several years.

What this bag positively screams is that Think Tank Photo have put the same amount of thought into the organization, construction and details that they put into their camera bags. That’s what I was hoping for in a briefcase from this company and they didn’t let me down.

The size is both a positive and a negative for me. Everything feels as if it has been engineered to military-like precision. The bag is small enough and light enough for me to take it with me every day without feeling as if the bag alone has added 5 or 10 extra pounds to the stuff I carry with me. (The actual weight of the bag is 2.1 pounds.)

It’s also small enough that I can pack it in my luggage when I travel. I know that sounds odd, but generally when flying I want a larger carry on bag (for reasons that I won’t go into here). But once I arrive, I want the smaller bag for my every day walking around stuff. I’ll be able to do that with this bag.

On the other hand, this compactness means that once I fill up the bag, and all of the little inside pockets, there’s not a lot of room left over. This becomes an issue with the power adapter for my MacBook. I’m not sure that the Think Tank designers ever saw this power pack with the huge British plug as opposed to the slim American one – it’s a tight fit and I can’t really use the compartment for this as shown on their web site. I suspect that the bag is strong enough that I could really stuff it beyond the point of sanity and manage to get it closed, but it might get really bulky and uncomfortable to carry at that point. I actually find myself wondering if I shouldn’t go for the 15 inch laptop size – not because I want a larger laptop but because of the couple of extra inches of interior storage space I’d get as a result.

Honestly, that’s about as much of a complaint as I can come up with for the bag. It is 100% the bag I was looking to get. It holds pretty much everything I want to take with me during the week – it holds everything safely and securely and everything is instantly accessible whether I’m standing at a bus stop or sitting at my desk. And, bonus, my wife says that the style really suits me.

The Think Tank Photo My 2nd Brain briefcase series comes in 3 sizes – for 11 inch, 13 inch and 15 inch laptops. Each size is available in three colors – black, “Harbor” blue or “Mist” green.

The My 2nd Brain Briefcase 13 that I have retails for US$129.75. You can purchase the bag from Amazon or  B&H Photo.  You can also try contacting Howen International, a great local company that distributes Think Tank products (and other photography accessories) in Hong Kong although at the moment they’re not bringing in the briefcases.

Thanks again to Think Tank Photo for supplying me with this bag in exchange for a review.

Share

Our Chief Weapon – Surprise

Share

In case you didn’t already know it, Monty Python’s five remaining members reunited for 20 shows at London’s O2 arena earlier this month. One show was simulcast to theaters around the world (although I don’t think any theater in Hong Kong had this).

I was in London at the beginning of July and thought about going to see them. I checked online and saw “only single seats available” and thought, “Well, that’s okay, I’m on my own.”

But then I thought about it a little bit more. The remaining tickets cost close to 150 pounds and were all the way in the back of the arena. I realized I’d be so far from the stage that I’d be watching the whole thing on the video projection screens. So I figured, okay, if I’m just gonna watch TV, I might as well save a few bucks and wait for the inevitable home video.

(Plus, I’ve already seen them live. April 1976, City Center in New York. As I recall, I had third row seats for that.)

There was another reason.  Back when Python was new, whether listening to their records (the only way one could experience them in the US until PBS started broadcasting the shows) or watching their TV shows and films, much like a key line in their Spanish Inquisition sketch, amongst their weaponry was surprise. You never knew what was coming. The bits were mostly short, took unexpected left turns, and often ended and segued into other bits sooner than anyone would expect.

I felt it pretty safe to assume that for this reunion show, they wouldn’t be writing any new material. So it would be Python’s Greatest Hits. No surprises. Just the stuff I already know by heart. I figured I could live without that.

And sure enough, the blu-ray and DVD are up for pre-order (in the UK at least, US will follow suit soon I’m sure). Like the live show, it’s being called Monty Python Live (Mostly) – One Down, Five to Go, referring to the fact that Graham Chapman died too young, too many years ago.

Monty-Python-Monty-Python-Live-mostly-One-Down-Five-To-Go-Blu-ray

Actually you can download the entire 2 hour 20 minute show now if you know where to look. I’m guessing that someone got ahold of the digital stream that was beamed to theaters and put it up in the usual places.  I’m told that the last night’s show was broadcast live on UK TV. I haven’t had a chance to watch the entire thing yet, just bits and pieces, and it’s pretty much what you would expect.

Anyway, here’s a preview, a bit of the Spanish Inquisition sketch.

Share

Taking Notes

Share

So I was in London for a few days a couple of weeks ago, and sitting in all these meetings, and I noticed that one of my co-workers was using a pen to take notes on his iPad. I asked him about it and he told me the stylus he was using was the Adonit Jot Script and the software was an iOS app called Noteshelf.

I thought about it after I got home and decided that there could be quite a few advantages to this, not the least of which is that now my notes are spread across 27 different notebooks and pads. My iPad is obviously a lot lighter than my laptop, using a stylus for input might be more intuitive and faster, and using a note-taking program that syncs with Evernote, such as NoteShelf or Penultimate, would mean that wherever I go, no matter what I’m carrying, all of my notes would be with me.

I did a bit of research, as I am prone to do, and saw that everyone pretty much agrees that there are 2 stylii at the top of the heap when it comes to writing text on the iPad – the Adonit model my co-worker was using and and Pencil from FiftyThree.com. Pencil looked a bit thick to me while the Adonit more closely resembles a pen. These both use bluetooth and feature “palm rejection technology,” meaning you could rest your hand on the iPad while writing and it should mostly be ignored.

So Adonit Jot Script it was.

adonit_jot_script_stylus_3

Their web site shows the price as US$75. That should equate to HK$600. So you can imagine my surprise (and dismay) when I went over to the Wanchai Computer Centre and found that the few shops that had it in stock were asking HK$1198 for it – double the price.

Because that’s how things work in Hong Kong. When something is seen as (a) desirable and (b) in short supply, retailers will try to gouge you.

Next I looked on price.com.hk and saw that the HK price should indeed be $599. They listed several shops in Mong Kok’s Sim City mall has having it at that price, so I went there on a Saturday afternoon when I had nothing else to do. (Note that despite the recent heat wave, Mong Kok was completely jammed with people and the view was a heatwave of a different kind.) None of these shops had it in stock.

So now I could wait until it came back into stock – which would mean walking back over to the Computer Centre every few days or once a week until I spotted it at the normal price (it’s just a 5 minute walk from my office) or I could order it online, where it seemed to be in plentiful supply.

Amazon has it at $75, no discount. If I wanted fast shipping on it, that was going to be an additional HK$250 (roughly US$32.50, almost half the price of the stylus, no thanks).

Then on a whim I went back to Adonit’s web page and tried to order it from them. They do direct sales. So plenty of stock. $75.  How much for shipping?  US$8. And just 2 day delivery? What? Because it turns out that this is not just made in China, as you’d expect, but they would be shipping it to me from China.

So instead of paying $1198 at the computer center or $850 to order it from Amazon, I’m getting it for HK$665 – and it’s certainly worth HK$65 to me to save myself from making 27 more trips trying to find it in local shops.

I also decided that while I was at it I’d add a keyboard to the iPad, for banging out long emails, which I am forced to do too frequently. Logitech’s are the best reviewed. A number of shops tried to push Belkin’s at me, but it was clear after comparing the two side by side that Logitech’s keyboard was the better one. There are three different models and I went for the cheapest, the one that flips over the screen rather than ones that combined a full front and back cover.

logitech-ultrathin-keyboard-cover-ipad-air

 

If I think of it, I’ll post some sort of review on both of these items after I’ve taken a couple of trips with them (Manila visit coming up in a week and I’ll just take my iPad and leave my laptop at home).

I’m not always this lucky when it comes to buying stuff like this. I’m a huge fan of Think Tank Photo’s bags.  I probably have six of them, from a small shoulder bag that holds a small camera plus several odds and ends, all the way up to their rolling bag that can hold my D800 and all of my lenses, accessories and laptop.

Now they’ve got a line of briefcases and shoulder bags designed around iPads and MacBooks that are probably incredibly well built and durable and feature what appear to be thousands of pockets. They call this line My 2nd Brain. Okay, not the greatest name in the world. But the My 2nd Brain Briefcase 13 looks to be perfect for me.

T613_1

 

It will easily hold what I normally carry with me during a normal work day. Reading glasses, sunglasses, over-the-hear headphones, keys, mints, pens, business cards, iPad (and sometimes MacBook), a camera, a battery-powered fan (for those 20+ minutes I’m standing on the street waiting for the goddamn 307 bus) and a book or two – all without taking up too much space on my lap while sitting on tiny, crowded bus and mini-bus seats.

But it’s nowhere to be found in Hong Kong. I checked at DCWave at Sim City and they don’t seem to be carrying the line at all. I called a friend – who is one of Think Tank’s HK distributors – and he told me he probably wasn’t going to carry it since the minimum order is 24 pieces and the line wasn’t selling that well for him.

So the price is US$130, should be HK$1,000. Pretty reasonable, I think. I could order it from B&H Photo or Adorama, but they want an additional US$80 or more for shipping, and that’s just insane. I wrote to TTP and they suggested that I check with their Singapore distributor. I wrote to them – and they never wrote back they wrote back after 3 days saying they don’t have it in stock and in any case they won’t ship to Hong Kong.

Next thought, since I’m going to Manila soon, I wrote to the Manila distributor, who told me that this hasn’t reached the Philippines yet and they didn’t know when to expect it.

So there is always one more option – “do without it.” And I guess that’s what it’s going to have to be.

(Reading all of the above, yeah, I know, it probably gives the impression that I have way too much free time. All I can say to that is that on weekdays I get home from work about 2 hours before my wife does. Plus she works on weekends and I don’t. So this kind of crap is another way to fill up some of the time.)

 

Share

Introducing Jessica, a Weirdo in Hong Kong

Share

And now for something completely different.

I get requests almost daily from people who want to do guest posts or sponsored posts here. I turn them all down. But Jessica caught my eye with an original approach and I thought that some readers might enjoy what she has to say. So instead of just a link to her blog, here’s an “interview” that she wrote, questions and all, that I’m posting here unedited. Feel free to let me know what you think in comments and, if you like what she has to say, check out her blog Best4Geek.  

Can you tell us something about yourself?

To be very honest, I detest this question – it’s the same old one whenever interviews start, and are you supposed to say “no”? No. But anyways, I would really like to thank Spike for giving me the chance to share my weird speech on his own blog, and I sincerely hope that I won’t scare all his readers away.

I have been in Hong Kong since 2 years old as my New Zealand family wanted to experience “a different lifestyle” and reunite with the relatives on my mother’s side. We have never left since then, and now here I am, a 26-year-old girl geek, an anonymous project executive by day, a weirdo by night. Since I owned my first computer at 12, my TV has been gathering dust as I would rather watch everything online. I have played numerous PC games, from famous series like Diablo, Guild Wars and Assassin’s Creed, to indie darlings like To the Moon and Gone Home. I’m also a hopelessly addictive collector of cards who’s into card games of any sort, especially when the characters are aesthetically appealing. Look at Jace, look at Jaqen – they’re the sweetest guys on earth, I mean, on cards!

 What makes Hong Kong a good place for geeks?

Despite the depressing fact that more and more local shops are forced to close due to insane rents, a few geeky gems are still lucky enough to stay around, such as the Sino Centre in Mong Kok, small shops hidden in Kwai Fong and Tai Po, etc. Not to mention there’s the annual event of ACGHK, which is definitely not to be missed for fans of video games, animation, manga and all other sorts of geeky stuff. And if you’re into cosplay, the Rainbow Gala which takes place in April and December every year would be a fantastic party to meet fellow cosplayers!

 Where do you shop when your geek appetite strikes?

As a total geek, I do most of my shopping online when other girls would spend 8 hours in local shopping malls. Not many people in Hong Kong share this habit, but it’s totally addictive once you’ve given it a try. Amazon, Steam and Kickstarter are just a few websites that I visit on a daily basis. And speaking about Kickstarter, I’m backing the notorious Potato Salad as the guy claims that he would say everyone’s name out aloud when making the dish.

 What about dating? Does being a girl geek make it better, or worse?

Dating for me is simply non-existent at the moment. It doesn’t mean that I have never dated before; in the contrary, I have had 3 dates in my life. I know it’s just me, for I would prefer joining guild events in online games instead of going outside with my date, and prefer chatting on the net rather than picking up the phone. These weird habits are relationship killers, I must admit. Others have accused me of being selfish and inconsiderate, but I guess that’s just a part of me, and a geek just can’t help but be geeky. I’m not in a hurry to get married at all as I really enjoy my single geek life.

Here’s an interesting side note about dating. As I cross the “boundary of innocence” of 25 years old, a huge incoming of “words of wisdom” starts to surround me in family gatherings and parties. Suddenly your relatives are extremely interested in you – your marital status, to be accurate – and they would offer you lots of “clever tips” and “useful links” for getting a boyfriend and hopefully a husband. From dinner parties, speed dating luncheons to the most unbelievable solution of an online chatroulette (I mean, seriously, can you believe this would be a “clever tip” suggested by your relatives?), they just wouldn’t stop until you agree to try one of those prescriptions, as if you were a patient who needs immediate medical attention. If things persist, I guess I have to be absent from those gatherings to escape from the annoyance. Yes this is part of the unique culture of Hong Kong, but it’s never funny when you are the subject.

What’s your motto of living a geeky life?

Well the first thing that came to my mind was “stay geeky, stay stylish”, but I guess that sounds rather cliché, no? I don’t live by any particular mottos on a daily basis, but I choose to be genuine and be true to my own style of living. It’s my life after all, and there’s really no reason to follow others’ opinions instead of my own choices.

Here’s a favorite quote from Kristen Stewart:

“If you’re operating from a genuine place, then you can’t really regret anything.”

If I have to describe my belief, this explains it all.

Share

Foot in Mouth Disease

Share

A Chinese newspaper on Hong Kong’s recent “PopVote” exercise:

… an “illegal farce” that was “tinged with mincing ludicrousness”. 

Much more on this later, when I have time.

Gary Oldman defending Mel Gibson in an interview in Playboy magazine:

“Mel Gibson is in a town that’s run by Jews and he said the wrong thing because he’s actually bitten the hand that I guess has fed him. But some Jewish guy in his office somewhere hasn’t turned and said, ‘That f—–g kraut’ or ‘F— those Germans,’ whatever it is?”

John Cleese doesn’t like the most recent James Bond films:

“The big money was coming from Asia, from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, where the audiences go to watch the action sequences, and that’s why in my opinion the action sequences go on for too long, and it’s a fundamental flaw. The audiences in Asia are not going for the subtle British humor or the class jokes.”

UPDATE – Gary Oldman has issued an apology. It’s not entirely convincing but, well, at least he had someone go to the trouble of writing it up for him and emailing it to the world.

“I am deeply remorseful that comments I recently made in the Playboy Interview were offensive to many Jewish people. Upon reading my comments in print — I see how insensitive they may be, and how they may indeed contribute to the furtherance of a false stereotype. I hope you will know that this apology is heartfelt, genuine, and that I have an enormous personal affinity for the Jewish people in general, and those specifically in my life.”

Share