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    The Persuader

    My personal blog, started in 2006.



    23.01.2015

    Geely Vision: as fast as a Citroën 2CV flat out

    I was very interested to see this graphic on the Geely Instagram account today:

       Spot the issue? I commented (and I wonder if they will delete it): ‘I would be a bit worried if the Geely GC7 found 71·5 mph its “flat out” speed. That would make it only as fast as a Citroën 2CV!’
       That reference to the French 2CV (which I note the Germans called the Ente or, even more humorously, the Döschwo), is intentional. Not only is 71·5 mph the top speed of a Citroën 2CV, but here’s an advertisement from over 30 years ago (found here):

       This particular Geely (variously sold, with stylistic differences, as the Geely Vision and Gleagle GC7 and other identities over the years—and it’s related to the Emgrand EC7, Geely New Emgrand and Geely Emgrand Classic) reminds me of the E140 Toyota Corolla. However, as the company is about to embark on launching the wonderful GC9, a car styled under Peter Horbury débuting its new design language, this is the least appropriate time to remind people that some Chinese manufacturers have engaged in cloning vehicles. Geely’s been above board with original designs—unlike BYD, Zotye, Changcheng, Chery and others—and this is the last thing they want to be associated with.
       Please note this as a humorous tribute, guys—and redo it so that people don’t think the GC7’s top speed is 71·5 mph.


    Filed under: cars, China, humour, internet, marketing, UK—Jack Yan @ 10.25

    14.01.2015

    Time for a rewatch: Reza Aslan interviewed on CNN about Muslim violence

    Found on my wall today. While it’s over three months old, the responses from Prof Reza Aslan of the University of California Riverside address a lot of the comments that have surfaced post-Charlie Hebdo head-on—which shows that we continue to go round and round the same arguments and not making an awful lot of progress.

       In October, he contrasted the coverage between Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the Canadian Muslim who murdered Cpl Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa, and the Norwegian Christian mass murderer Anders Breivik who killed 77 people, in an op–ed for CNN:

    In the case of Bibeau, his violent behavior could have been influenced as much by his religious beliefs as by his documented mental problems, his extensive criminal past or his history of drug addiction. Yet, because Bibeau was a Muslim, it is simply assumed that the sole motivating factor for his abhorrent behavior was his religious beliefs …
       Nevertheless, a great deal of the media coverage surrounding [Breivik’s] actions seemed to take for granted that his crime had nothing to do with his Christian identity—that it was based instead on his right-wing ideology, or his anti-immigrant views, or his neglectful upbringing, or even, as Ayan Hirshi Ali famously argued, because his view that “Europe will be overrun by Islam” was being censored by a politically correct media, leaving him “no other choice but to use violence.”

       Aslan does accept that ‘religious beliefs can often lead to actions that violate basic human rights. It is also true that a great many of those actions are taking place right now among Muslims,’ which will require more than a blog post to analyse, but adds, ‘When we condemn an entire community of faith for sharing certain beliefs with extremists in their community, we end up alienating the very people who are best positioned to counter such extremism in the first place.’
       Aslan probably came to most people’s awareness after his interview on Fox News about his new book Zealot: the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, where he was questioned why, as a Muslim, he would write a book about Jesus Christ.
       As a religion expert who has to defend his position academically—and in the mainstream media—Aslan makes a far more compelling case, backed by research, than some of the anti-Islamic rhetoric that has made a reappearance in social media lately.


    Filed under: culture, general, media, USA—Jack Yan @ 05.00

    10.01.2015

    Modern terrorism and where we are in history

    Thoughts today on social networks, chatting to friends about issues stemming from the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the hostage saga in Paris’s 11th arrondissement.
       In response to an Australian friend of Chinese heritage:

    [Muslims] have been [speaking out against violence] since 9-11 and probably before but no one cared or no one could be bothered translating it into English.
       As to why [certain members of this religion engage in violence], it’s an accident of history.
       Had air travel and the internet been around 100 years ago, I’m sure we would be the ones doing some of this because of the way colonial powers were carving China up.
       Extremists will use whatever they have as a means to unite others behind their cause. If plain old sympathy does not work, then they will make it religious, or at least, about ideology. It’s why there are even Buddhist terrorists in history. Yes, this is being done in the name of Islam, just like the Troubles were in the name of Christ. There’s plenty of killing going on in the Old Testament of the Bible.
       Without social media it certainly seemed that mainstream Protestant and Catholic voices were silent in that conflict, and by this logic, endorsing the violence.
       And not everyone has the privilege to make these statements. We can in a free society but some of these people live in fear.
       But we in the west have played directly into their hands anyway with the changes in our laws and clamping down on free speech, when we should have held firm with our own traditions and beliefs, and told these folks to get with the programme in a globalized society.
       The more confused the occident becomes and the greater the economic chasms in our own society, the more the disaffected youths might think: you do not have the answer and maybe these nut jobs do. Hence you see them come from poor areas where religion is one of the things they feel some fellowship with.
       And with the negative sides of western civilization, as there are some, no doubt they will seize on that to get recruits. For politicians who do not believe that inequality (real or actual) is a problem, then they had better wake up fast, as no amount of legislation about stripping foreign fighters of citizenship is going to stem the tide.
       Like I said in an earlier thread, no Muslim I know would engage in or endorse this stuff, but I’m in a privileged position as are the Muslims I have met. Not so these guys, and they have a wonderful target—us, living in comfort—to sell others on.
       Muslims are the stereotyped bogeymen for now, and then in another age the mainstream will have chosen another minority to pick on, telling us how their beliefs are evil.

       And to an American friend and colleague, who points out MEMRI has been translating, in some ways a postscript:

    I’m definitely not denying that there are plenty of nut jobs in that part of the world who push their crazy on to others. You only need to get a sense of what gets broadcast on al-Jazeera (as opposed to al-Jazeera English) where they get a ready platform.
       But, once again, it is where we are technologically as a people, with many disunited and hypocritical.

       When you’re a minority, you can see how majority thought can work against you. I’ve heard, depending on where I am, that Muslims (or even all Arabs) are terrorists, whites are undisciplined, or Jews are stingey, and at some point you just have to say no to stereotypes when you realize that you could be the next group to be singled out and targeted. Remember when Chinese were Triads, a popular one that was within the lifetimes of most New Zealanders reading this blog? That was the mid-1990s, when a few years before I was denied service at Woolworths because of the logic that trade was not supplied and all Chinese must be greengrocers.
       It beats being called a Triad or a terrorist.


    Filed under: culture, interests, politics, technology—Jack Yan @ 04.47

    09.01.2015

    Je suis Charlie

    I was watching France 24 about half an hour after the Charlie Hebdo attack and made the above graphic a few hours later, in support of press freedoms and the victims’ families, and showing solidarity with other members of the media. One friend has made it his Facebook profile photo and I followed suit about a day later.
       We have come across the usual, and expected, ‘Everyday Muslims should say something and be openly against extremists. Silence means they endorse these actions.’
       Some have, of course, but no more than Christians came out to condemn the actions of Protestants and Catholics groups during the Troubles (although at least the IRA told you to get out of a building), or white American Christians came out against the KKK prior to the Civil Rights Movement.
       I wonder if there are double standards here.
       Perhaps this Muslim writer put it best in a Facebook comment: ‘I was just making a larger point about how easy it is to make the assertion and equate “silence” to passive aggression. Most Muslims are from non-English speaking countries. Just because they don’t tweet in support and aren’t given enough media coverage, doesn’t mean they directly/indirectly propagate the oppression conduced by radical Islamists.
       ‘I’m a Muslim who vehemently opposes attacks such as the one in Paris. I can only say this to you because I’m equipped with the privileged circumstances to do so. Most people on this planet (let alone Muslims), do not. Claiming that I have a stake in these attacks, however, is blatantly unfair too.’
       I’m not denying that those engaged in acts of terror do so in the name of Islam, just as the Klan proclaims itself a Christian organization. They have been able to spread their hate more readily because of where we are in history, namely in an age of easy movement across borders and the internet. But had the same technology been ready 100 years ago, it isn’t hard to imagine Chinese terrorists taking it to the west for what western colonial powers were doing inside China. Would the PLA have been more widespread for the same reasons? Probably. It’s hard for me to have it in for any one faith since we’re not that far away from doing the same, and the fact we aren’t is down to winning the lottery of where, when, and to whom we were born.
       I definitely have it in for those who are committing atrocities, and they need to be identified and dealt with. We can debate on whether we have a suitable legal framework to do this, and that is another topic.
       Simon Jenkins should have the last word on this topic:

    [The terrorists] sought to terrify others and thus to deter continued criticism, and they now seek to reduce the French state to a condition of paranoia. They want to goad otherwise liberal people to illiberal actions …
       Osama bin Laden’s attacks on the United States, culminating in New York in 2001, were exceptional. Since he could not hope for an American capitulation, the intention must have been to scare the US into a hysterical reaction … [Y]ears of war ensued, years that realised al-Qaida’s wildest dreams. Western nations plunged into battle, at a cost of some $3tn. Thousands of lives were lost and regimes were destabilised across the region. Democratic governments lurched towards authoritarianism. Almost willingly, it seemed, governments tore up many of the central tenets of their liberties. In the more belligerent states – the US and Britain – habeas corpus, private communication, legal process and even freedom of speech were curtailed or jeopardised. The forces of state repression suddenly found themselves singing the best tunes.
       Bin Laden was handed his triumph. For a decade he was able to rally supporters to his cause. He boasted at the vulnerability of this supposedly superior society. He taunted democracies that claimed immunity from the devious tactics of militant Islam …
       Terrorism is no ordinary crime. It depends on consequence. It can kill people and damage property. It can impose cost. But it cannot occupy territory or topple governments. Even to instil fear it requires human enhancement, from the media and politicians.
       That is why the most effective response is to meet terrorism on its own terms. It is to refuse to be terrified. It is not to show fear, not to overreact, not to over-publicise the aftermath. It is to treat each event as a passing accident of horror, and leave the perpetrator devoid of further satisfaction. That is the only way to defeat terrorism.

    Autocade hit 3,000 models before December 31 was out. The 3,000th: the Renault Espace V.
       There are still some big omissions (for instance, all the full-size Japanese sedans, all the Toyota Celicas, and it needs more Corvettes, Ferraris and Maseratis) but a lot of the mainstream model lines are there (all current Geelys, all the Volkswagen Golfs, and more and more current model lines). For a site made primarily out of personal interest, it’s doing reasonably well, with a few thousand page views daily.
       A quick summary then, based on the stats grabbed in early December:

    March 2008: launch
    July 2008: 500 (four months for first 500)
    December 2009: 1,000 (17 months for second 500)
    May 2011: 1,500 (17 months for third 500)
    December 2012: 2,000 (19 months for fourth 500)
    June 2014: 2,500 (18 months for fifth 500)
    December 2014: 3,000 (six months for sixth 500)

    March 2008: launch
    April 2011: 1,000,000 page views
    March 2012: 2,000,000 page views
    May 2013: 3,000,000 page views
    January 2014: 4,000,000 page views
    September 2014: 5,000,000 page views

    Currently, it’s on 5,473,963, so the rate is increasing slightly, probably helped by a new Facebook fan page (with a mere 60 members).
       We have been chatting about some radical changes to Autocade in 2015. Should this happen, I’ll blog about it when I am able.

    Finally, the resolution to my problems around Linux was putting Linux Mint 17.1 on to a bootable USB stick using Rufus, which happily (and unlike a lot of programs) does what it says on the tin. (The allotted hard drive space for Ubuntu 13, which was determined when I installed 10, became insufficient for 14, hence the Christmas project of trying to upgrade.) Neither Ubuntu 14 nor Mint 17 allowed itself to be installed without hard drive partitioning—it is not poor memory when I say that Ubuntu 10 presented no such hassles in 2011—and that is too risky based on my computing knowledge while I have data on every hard drive that I need to keep. (Again, this is down to experience: an earlier attempt following instructions—that old bugbear—cost all the data on one hard drive and having to Dial a Geek and pay NZ$100.) I could not put either on to the hard drive I wanted, despite selecting the ‘Something else’ option. Putting either into a VM Ware virtual machine made little sense, though I tried it at the suggestion of a good friend, only to find that the only screen resolution that was possible was a tiny 640 by 480. (Going into display settings did nothing: it was the only option available; trying to force different ones through the Terminal also failed, while downloading new drivers for the screen did not make any difference.) After hours—possibly even days wasted if you totalled up those hours—none of the usually helpful forums like Ask Ubuntu had answers that matched my circumstances.
       The USB set-up is good for me for now, since I do not get that much work done in Linux, but I cannot believe how complicated things had become. As with the browsers I have, there is very little on my computers that is so customized that they would be considered extraordinary—I do not have those computing skills to make changes at that level—so it makes me wonder why there is such a gulf between the claims and the reality when it comes to software, constantly. Yosemite taking 12 hours to upgrade, browsers that stopped displaying text, and now Linux requiring a computing degree to install, aren’t good signs for the computing industry.
       Unless you are in the support business, then they are wonderful signs for the computing industry.


    Filed under: media, politics, publishing, technology, UK, USA—Jack Yan @ 01.24

    30.12.2014

    The greatest political speech, by Jim Hacker, MP

    You’ve run for office, Jack. What is your favourite political speech? Something from MLK? JFK in Berlin?
       No, it was a completely fictional one, from the minds of Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn:

    I’m a good European. I believe in Europe. I believe in the European ideal! Never again shall we repeat the bloodshed of two world wars. Europe is here to stay.
       But this does not mean that we have to bow the knee to every directive from every bureaucratic Bonaparte in Brussels. We are a sovereign nation still and proud of it.
       We have made enough concessions to the European commissar for agriculture. And when I say commissar, I use the word advisedly. We have swallowed the wine lake, we have swallowed the butter mountain, we have watched our French friends beating up British lorry drivers carrying good British lamb to the French public. We have bowed and scraped, doffed our caps, tugged our forelocks and turned the other cheek. But I say enough is enough!
       The Europeans have gone too far. They are now threatening the British sausage. They want to standardize it, by which they mean they’ll force the British people to eat salami and bratwurst and other garlic-ridden greasy foods that are totally alien to the British way of life.
       Do you want to eat salami for breakfast with your egg and bacon? I don’t. And I won’t!
       They’ve turned our pints into litres and our yards into metres, we gave up the tanner and the threepenny bit, the two bob and the half-crown. But they cannot and will not destroy the British sausage! Not while I’m here.
       In the words of Martin Luther: Here I stand, I can do no other.

       ‘Party Games’ is one of the most instructive Yes, Minister episodes ever. Thanks to this incident on Fox News for inspiring this post.


    Filed under: humour, politics, TV, UK—Jack Yan @ 01.44

    29.12.2014

    A year of random thoughts: 2014 in review

    For the last few years, I’ve looked back at the events of the year in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. (In fact, in 2009, I looked back at the decade.) Tumblr’s the place I look at these days for these summaries, since it tends to have my random thoughts, ones complemented by very little critical thinking. They tell me what piqued my interest over the year.
       These days, I’ve been posting more about the TV show I watch the most regularly, the German Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei. A good part of my Tumblr, at least, and of Danielle Carey’s, whom I first connected with via this blog, features screen shots and other photographs from it. But Cobra 11 aside—and for those “cultured” Germans who tell me it’s the worst show on their telly, may I remind you that you still make Das Traumschiff?—I still will be influenced by everyday events.
       So what do I spy?
       Sadly, despite my intent in wanting to blog humorously, it turns out that 2014 doesn’t necessarily give us a lot to laugh about. And we’ve had over a year after that Mayan calendar gag, and 13 years after Y2K. It’s still not time to laugh yet.

    January
    I made a spoof English Hustle poster given all the hype about American Hustle, which seems to have, prima facie, the same idea. It meets with Adrian Lester’s approval (well, he said, ‘Ha,’ which I gather is positive).

       I post about Idris Elba giving a response about the James Bond character. (Slightly ahead of my time, as it turns out.)
       Robert Catto wrote of Justin Bieber’s arrest: ‘So, J. Biebs is arrested for racing a rented Lamborghini in a residential neighbourhood while under the influence (of drugs and alcohol) while on an expired license, resisting arrest, and a bunch of previous stuff including egging a neighbour’s house. With that many accusations being thrown at him, this can only mean one thing.
       ‘The race for Mayor of Toronto just got interesting.’
       I wrote to a friend, ‘If there was a Facebook New Zealand Ltd. registered here then it might make more sense ensuring that there were fewer loopholes for that company to minimize its tax obligations, but the fact is there isn’t. Either major party would be better off encouraging New Zealand to be the head office for global corporations, or encourage good New Zealand businesses to become global players, if this was an issue (and I believe that it is). There is this thing called the internet that they may have heard of, but both parties have seen it as the enemy (e.g. the whole furore over s. 92A, first proposed by Labour, enacted by National).
       ‘Right now, we have some policy and procedural problems preventing us from becoming more effective exporters.
       ‘It’s no coincidence that I took an innovation tack in my two mayoral campaigns. If central government was too slow in acting to capture or create these players, then I was going to do it at a local level.’
       And there are $700 trillion (I imagine that means $700 billion, if you used the old definitions—12 zeroes after the 700) worth of derivatives yet to implode, according to I Acknowledge. Global GDP is $69·4 (American) trillion a year. ‘This means that (primarily) Wall Street and the City of London have run up phantom paper debts of more than ten times of the annual earnings of the entire planet.’

    February
    The Sochi Olympics: in Soviet Russia, Olympics watch you! Dmitry Kozak, the deputy PM, says that westerners are deliberately sabotaging things there. How does he know? ‘We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day.’
       Sports Illustrated does an Air New Zealand safety video.
       This was the month I first saw the graphic containing a version of these words: ‘Jesus was a guy who was a peaceful, radical, nonviolent revolutionary, who hung around with lepers, hookers, and criminals, who never spoke English, was not an American citizen, a man who was anti-capitalism, anti-wealth, anti-public prayer (yes he was Matthew 6:5), anti-death penalty but never once remotely anti-gay, didn’t mention abortion, didn’t mention premarital sex, a man who never justified torture, who never called the poor “lazy”, who never asked a leper for a co-pay, who never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes, who was a long haired, brown skinned (that’s in revelations), homeless, middle eastern Jew? Of course, that’s only if you believe what’s actually in the Bible’ (sic). For those who want a response, this blog post answers the points from a Catholic point of view, but the original quote’s not completely off-base.

    March
    My friend Dmitry protests in Moskva against Russia’s actions in the Crimea. This was posted on this blog at the time. He reports things aren’t all rosy in Russia when it comes to free speech.
       Another friend, Carolyn Enting, gets her mug in the Upper Hutt Leader after writing her first fictional book, The Medallion of Auratus.
       MH370 goes missing.
       And this great cartoon, called ‘If Breaking Bad Had Been Set in the UK’:

    April
    I call Lupita Nyong’o ‘Woman of the Year 2014’.
       A post featuring Robin Williams (before that horrible moment in August), where he talks about the influence of Peter Sellers and Dr Strangelove on him. I seem to have posted a lot of Robin that month, from his CBS TV show, The Crazy Ones.
       A Lancastrian reader, Gerald Vinestock, writes to The Times: ‘Sir, Wednesday’s paper did not have a photograph of the Duchess of Cambridge. I do hope she is all right.’
       A first post on those CBS TV attempts to create a show about Sherlock Holmes set in the modern day in the US, partnered with a woman: on 1987’s The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

       The fiftieth anniversary of the on-sale date of the Ford Mustang (April 17).
       The death of Bob Hoskins. Of course I had to post his last speech in The Long Good Friday, as well as the clip from Top Gear where Richard Hammond mistook Ray Winstone for Hoskins. They all look the same to me.

    May
    Judith Collins’ story about what she was doing in China with Oravida collapses.
       Someone points out there is a resemblance between Benedict Cumberbatch and Butthead from Beavis and Butthead.

       Jean Pisani Ferry’s view on the origins of the euro crisis in The Economist: ‘Suppose that the crisis had begun, as it might easily have done, in Ireland? It would then have been obvious that fiscal irresponsibility was not the culprit: Ireland had a budget surplus and very low debt. More to blame were economic imbalances, inflated property prices and dodgy bank loans. The priority should not have been tax rises and spending cuts, but reforms to improve competitiveness and a swift resolution of troubled banks, including German and French ones, that lent so irresponsibly.’

    June
    British-born Tony Abbott says he doesn’t like immigration, or some such.
       This humorous graphic, made before the launch of the five-door Mini, on how the company could extend its range:

       Sir Ian McKellen says, ‘Did I want to go and live in New Zealand for a year? As it turns out, I was very happy that I did. I can’t recommend New Zealand strongly enough. It’s a wonderful, wonderful place, quite unlike [the] western world. It’s in the southern hemisphere and it’s far, far away and although they speak English, don’t be fooled. They’re not like us. They’re something better than us.’
       Lots of Alarm für Cobra 11 posts.

    July
    Sopheak Seng’s first Lucire cover, photographed by Dave Richards, and with a fantastic crew: hair by Michael Beel, make-up by Hil Cook, modelled by Chloé Graham, and with some layout and graphic design by Tanya Sooksombatisatian and typography by me.

       Liam Fitzpatrick writes of Hong Kong, before the Occupy protests, ‘Hong Kongers—sober, decent, pragmatic and hardworking—are mostly not the sort of people who gravitate to the barricades and the streets. Neither do they need to be made aware of the political realities of having China as a sovereign power, for the simple fact that postwar Hong Kong has only ever existed with China’s permission. In the 1960s, the local joke was that Mao Zedong could send the British packing with a mere phone call.
       ‘With that vast, brooding power lying just over the Kowloon hills, tiny Hong Kong’s style has always been to play China cleverly—to push where it can (in matters such as education and national-security legislation, where it has won important battles) and to back off where it cannot.’
       It didn’t seem completely prescient.

    August
    The General Election campaign: National billboards are edited.
       Doctor Who goes on tour prior to Peter Capaldi’s first season in the lead role.
       The suicide of Robin Williams.
       Michael Brown is killed. Greg Howard writes, ‘There was Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., and Oscar Grant in Oakland, Calif., and so many more. Michael Brown’s death wasn’t shocking at all. All over the country, unarmed black men are being killed by the very people who have sworn to protect them, as has been going on for a very long time now …
       ‘There are reasons why white gun’s rights activists can walk into a Chipotle restaurant with assault rifles and be seen as gauche nuisances while unarmed black men are killed for reaching for their wallets or cell phones, or carrying children’s toys.’
       Like so many things, such a statement of fact became politicized in months to come.
       Darren Watson releases ‘Up Here on Planet Key’, only to have it banned by the Electoral Commission. With his permission, I did a spoken-word version.
       Journalist Nicky Hager, who those of us old enough will remember was a right-wing conspiracy theorist, is branded a left-wing conspiracy theorist by the PM because this time, he wrote about National and not Labour. The Deputy PM, Bill English, who commended Hager’s work 12 years ago over Seeds of Distrust, and even quoted from it, remained fairly quiet.
       It wasn’t atypical. I wrote in one post, ‘In 2011, Warren Tucker said three times in one letter that he told PM John Key about the SIS release. Now he says he only told his office but not the PM personally—after an investigation was announced (when the correct protocol would be to let the investigation proceed) …
       ‘Key did not know about GCSB director Ian Fletcher’s appointment (week one of that saga) before he knew about it (week two).
       ‘Key cannot remember how many TranzRail shares he owned.
       ‘Key cannot remember if and when he was briefed by the GCSB over Kim Dotcom.
       ‘Key did not know about Kim Dotcom’s name before he did not know about Kim Dotcom at all.
       ‘Key cannot remember if he was for or against the 1981 Springbok tour.’
       Some folks on YouTube did a wonderful series of satirical videos lampooning the PM. Kiwi satire was back. This was the first:

       Matt Crawford recalled, ‘At this point in the last election campaign, the police were threatening to order search warrants for TV3, The Herald on Sunday, RadioNZ et al—over a complaint by the Prime Minister. Over a digital recording inadvertently made in a public space literally during a media stunt put on for the press—a figurative media circus.’
       Quoting Robert Muldoon in 1977’s Muldoon by Muldoon: ‘New Zealand does not have a colour bar, it has a behaviour bar, and throughout the length and breadth of this country we have always been prepared to accept each other on the basis of behaviour and regardless of colour, creed, origin or wealth. That is the most valuable feature of New Zealand society and the reason why I have time and again stuck my neck out to challenge those who would try to destroy this harmony and set people against people inside our country.’
       And my reaction to the Conservative Party’s latest publicity, which was recorded on this blog, and repeated for good measure on Tumblr: ‘Essentially what they are saying is: our policy is that race doesn’t matter. Except when it comes to vilifying a group, it does. Let’s ignore the real culprits, because: “The Chinese”.’

    September
    The passing of Richard ‘Jaws’ Kiel.
       John Barnett of South Pacific Pictures sums up Nicky Hager: ‘Hager is a gadfly who often causes us to examine our society. He has attacked both the right and the left before. It’s too easy to dismiss it as a left wing loony conspiracy. We tend to shoot the messengers rather than examine the messages.’
       New Zealanders begin vilifying Kim Dotcom: I respond.
       I blog about Occupy Central in Hong Kong—which led to a television appearance on Breakfast in early October.

    October
    I’m not sure where this quotation comes from, but I reposted it: ‘A white man is promoted: He does good work, he deserved it.
       ‘A white woman is promoted: Whose dick did she suck?
       ‘A man of color is promoted: Oh, great, I guess we have to “fill quotas” now.
       ‘A woman of color is promoted: j/k. That never happens.’
       Facebook gets overrun by bots: I manage to encounter 277 in a single day. (I eventually reach someone at Facebook New Zealand, who is trying to solicit business for one of the fan pages we have, and point this out. I never hear back from him.) The trouble is Facebook limits you to reporting 40 a day, effectively tolerating the bots. It definitely tolerates the click farms: I know of dozens of accounts that the company has left untouched, despite reports.
       Kim Dotcom’s lawyers file a motion to dismiss in Virginia in United States v. Dotcom and others, and summarize the case so far: ‘Nearly three years ago, the United States Government effectively wiped out Megaupload Limited, a cloud storage provider, along with related businesses, based on novel theories of criminal copyright infringement that were offered by the Government ex parte and have yet to be subjected to adversarial testing. Thus, the Government has already seized the criminal defendants’ websites, destroyed their business, and frozen their assets around the world—all without benefit of an evidentiary hearing or any semblance of due process.
       ‘Without even attempting to serve the corporate defendants per the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Government has exercised all its might in a concerted, calculated effort to foreclose any opportunity for the defendants to challenge the allegations against them and also to deprive them of the funds and other tools (including exculpatory evidence residing on servers, counsel of choice, and ability to appear) that would equip robust defense in the criminal proceedings.
       ‘But all that, for the Government, was not enough. Now it seeks to pile on against ostensibly defenseless targets with a parallel civil action, seeking civil forfeiture, based on the same alleged copyright crimes that, when scrutinized, turn out to be figments of the Government’s boundless imagination. In fact, the crimes for which the Government seeks to punish the Megaupload defendants (now within the civil as well as the criminal realm) do not exist. Although there is no such crime as secondary criminal copyright infringement, that is the crime on which the Government’s Superseding Indictment and instant Complaint are predicated. That is the nonexistent crime for which Megaupload was destroyed and all of its innocent users were denied their rightful property. That is the nonexistent crime for which individual defendants were arrested, in their homes and at gunpoint, back in January 2012. And that is the nonexistent crime for which the Government would now strip the criminal defendants, and their families, of all their assets.’
       Stuart Heritage thinks The Apprentice UK has run its course, and writes in The Guardian: ‘The Apprentice has had its day. It’s running on fumes. It’s time to replace it with something more exciting, such as a 40-part retrospective on the history of the milk carton, or a static shot of someone trying to dislodge some food from between their teeth with the corner of an envelope.’

    November
    Doctor Who takes a selfie and photobombs himself.

       Andrew Little becomes Labour leader, and is quoted in the Fairfax Press (who, according to one caption, says his mother’s name is Cecil): ‘I’m not going to resile from being passionate about working men and women being looked after, having a voice, and being able to go to work safe and earn well. That’s what I stand for.
       ‘The National party have continued to run what I think is a very 1970s prejudice about unions … We have [in New Zealand] accepted a culture that if you are big, bold and brassy you will stand up for yourself. But [this] Government is even stripping away protections [from] those who are bold enough to do so.
       ‘I think New Zealanders are ready for someone who will talk bluntly about those who are being left behind. That’s what I’ll be doing.’
       I’m not a Labour voter but I was impressed.
       I advise my friend Keith Adams in Britain, who laments the driving standards there, that in order to have the road toll we have, they’d need to kill another 2,000 per annum. ‘The British driver is a well honed, precision pilot compared to one’s Kiwi counterpart.’

    December
    Julian Assange on Google, and confirmation that the company has handed over personal data to the US Government. He calls Eric Schmidt ‘Google’s secretary of state, a Henry Kissinger-like figure whose job it is to go out and meet with foreign leaders and their opponents and position Google in the world.’
       The Sydney siege and the tragic deaths of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson.
       The killing of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. The NYPD doesn’t look very white to me, but a murderer used the death of Eric Garner as an excuse to murder a Dad and a newlywed.
       My second post on those CBS TV attempts to create a show about Sherlock Holmes set in the modern day in the US, partnered with a woman: on 1993’s 1994 Baker Street.

       Craig Ferguson hosts his last Late Late Show. And more’s the pity: he’s one of the old school, never bitter, and never jumped on the bandwagon attacking celebrities.


    28.12.2014

    What to do when Firefox for Windows Vista displays no text

    During the six hours wasted with Ubuntu today (13 would no longer upgrade, so I removed it and decided to start afresh with 14—big mistake, since it would not let me use the same hard drive), I had to open up my five-year-old Windows Vista laptop and upgrade my Firefox. After all, what were the odds that Mozilla would cock up its flagship browser on two OSs? After all, it’s fine on Mac OS X and Linux.
       As it turns out, pretty high. Just as in Windows 7, Firefox for Windows Vista displays no text. And unlike Windows 7, which was solved by switching on hardware acceleration, Windows Vista proved a bit of a bugger to fix.
       During the months where I was trouble-shooting, and after my last post, one of the more knowledgeable Mozilla volunteers admitted that there is a fault with the Cairo rendering engine in Firefox: ‘This means that (at least in your case) the issue is most likely specific to the cairo drawing backend. Good to know, thanks.’
       It is still definitely related to the 2011 bug I filed where PostScript Type 1 fonts were incompatible with Firefox due to something breaking that time.
       Firefox for Windows Vista’s bug, as far as I can make out, is down to Type 1 fonts being incompatible with the browser, even though they are compatible with nearly everything else on the OS. This is slightly different from the Windows 7 fault, as I still have PostScript Type 1 fonts on that computer, but Firefox simply ignores those when specified in a stylesheet in favour of what it can load under hardware acceleration (usually the default).
       Despite my updating some of the system fonts that were particular to my Vista set-up to OpenType (which Firefox might have trouble with sometimes, too), that did not fix it. Firefox requires you to delete fonts off your system.
       On some websites, including Facebook, Helvetica is specified before Arial in stylesheets. If your Helvetica (not Neue Helvetica) is PostScript Type 1—and it probably would be on a Windows machine—Firefox will detect it, and return blank spaces.
       This is still a daft state of affairs with Cairo. Here’s how (to my very basic layman’s mind, and obviously to the minds of everyone at Adobe and a bunch of other places) how a program should deal with fonts:

    * Is it installed on the system? Yes.
    * Use it.

    Firefox seems to adopt this approach:

    * Is it installed on the system? Yes.
    * Let’s ignore the ones our programmers dislike in favour of the ones our programmers like, which would only be certain TrueType fonts, and to heck with the people who have licensed other fonts and installed them in good faith. Let’s punish anyone who decided to carry over older software. Let’s also fail selected OpenType fonts such as the italics in Source Sans Pro for no apparent reason. [PS.: If the first font family is incompatible, let’s display nothing. On a stylesheet, if one does not work, we won’t load the second one, but we will try to load the system font even if that is incompatible, too.]

       When it comes to stylesheets, neither OS makes much sense. Normally a program would go through each font specified, and display in the first one available. I don’t understand the rationale but Firefox will skip the ones in the stylesheet even when installed, even when compatible, and opt for system fonts or those specified as defaults in the program.
       All of this is counter-intuitive, and if it weren’t for what must be my OCD, I’d never have found out, and have given up to use another browser.
       Not that IE11 is much good:

    Loading up the next ASCII character makes little sense, either.
       Firefox isn’t unique in mucking up type on Windows. Back in the days of versions 1 and 2, I avoided it because it was incapable of displaying ASCII characters above 128 in the same font. This still afflicted Opera, the last time I saw it in 2010. Chrome wasn’t much better: it will pick one character and display that in a different font or fail on the font-face spec in HTML. For years, Internet Explorer would only let you use TrueType.
       I don’t fully understand why Windows browsers must behave differently—no doubt it’s to do with Flash or HTML 5 or something connected with rendering—but it is very annoying when every other program I have gets this right.


    Filed under: internet, technology, typography—Jack Yan @ 08.02

    27.12.2014

    National and Labour in the General Election, summarized for non-Kiwis

    Would this be the easiest way to explain how the two major parties were during the General Election this year to those overseas? First, National; second, Labour.


    Filed under: humour, New Zealand, politics—Jack Yan @ 01.12

    26.12.2014

    Vladimir Putin’s end-of-year conference: not as ‘crazy’ as The Independent makes out

    I’m one of the few living in the occident who watched President Putin’s end-of-year press conference (all right, I listened to a good part of it while working). While the live translations coming through were distracting, it was better than not knowing what he was saying. It was a rare thing, to see a president front up to a roomful of journalists, some from western countries who weren’t going to make life easy for him—especially over the Crimea—and give his point of view. The three-hour event, which you can watch on YouTube, showed a world leader prepared to give answers face to face, and it wasn’t even for an election campaign. I don’t agree with everything he said—I have friends there who tell me of the pressures they face over free speech and the right to express a dissenting political viewpoint. While a lot of what he gave were stock politicians’ answers, I’d still give the guy some credit.
       Which makes it all the more amazing that at least one medium turned the thing into a joke. Here’s The Independent’s take on it, entitled, ‘What you missed at Vladimir Putin’s quite crazy press conference’. I’m not saying the report is false, but cherry-picking a few anomalies does not make it a fair summary. I know the ‘I100’ section is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but these days when people might come across reports via Google News, that mightn’t be obvious. You’d have better luck going to a website like this. The Washington Post, meanwhile, did a reasonably good job and its report gels with what I recall.
       It’s a bit of shame about the lack of prominence this item got, not just from the point of view of learning more about world affairs, but reminding us that many political leaders wouldn’t, or couldn’t, front up for a prolonged Question Time in front of international media. I don’t know if President Putin gives regular press conferences, but assuming he does, this lengthy end-of-year appearance is a decent bonus and not unlike a shareholders’ AGM in business. Of course, he is a politician, and you have to treat a lot of what he says as spin, but better to appear to give a perspective than allowing the dialogue to build against you.


    Filed under: media, politics, publishing, UK, USA—Jack Yan @ 08.06

    24.12.2014

    Firefox, Waterfox, Cyberfox displaying no text? Do the opposite of what you are told

    After months of avoiding the latest Mozilla Firefox because it would display no text, installing, removing, and reinstalling an older version of Waterfox just so I could do some work, and experimenting over the last day with Cyberfox, which included editing fonts, looking at GFX settings, editing the registry, and doing an awful lot of research, I have now fixed the problem of having no text in these browsers.
       As I discovered years ago, the trick is to do the exact opposite of what the experts suggest.
       When trying to set up the office network in the mid-2000s, the only way I could get it going was to do the exact opposite of expert advice, by making sure the speed on every device did not match.
       Tonight, the solution was as simple as pie. Almost every piece of advice I had received when reporting this issue was: turn off hardware acceleration. It was already turned off, so, logically, I kept looking at other things. It got to the point where I was advised by Loic, one of the helpful guys on the Mozilla forums who had hitherto walked me through possible solutions, ‘As you are able to reproduce it, could you use the tool mozregression to find a possible regression range, it will help to narrow the underlying regression.’
       Software people think I am a lot smarter than I really am, and I had to admit to the writer that I am a layman and I had no idea what he was talking about.
       The correct solution, if you want Firefox, Waterfox and Cyberfox to display text where there was none, is to turn on hardware acceleration.
       You can imagine my feeling right now: a sense of satisfaction knowing that I am running the latest, most secure browser and that I overcame this rather serious bug, with the usual disappointment in realizing that I trusted again in expert advice that wasted time for a lot of people, including those kind developers on the Mozilla forums, and Alex, the guy behind Waterfox, who were trying to find a solution for me. I simply do not know enough about computers and software beyond what I have to do to make a living.
       The concluding remark from one of the guys, Nicolas, on the Mozilla thread was, ‘This means that (at least in your case) the issue is most likely specific to the cairo drawing backend. Good to know, thanks.’
       I hope documenting this bug has helped someone out there. Merry Christmas!


    Filed under: internet, technology, typography—Jack Yan @ 14.04

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