Posts tagged ‘history’


Battle

12.08.2022

There was a Tweet recently along the lines of, ‘Dear media, stop characterizing a death from cancer as a “battle”.’ If I deciphered their Tweet correctly, their rationale was that it can’t be won, so using such a term is somehow (politically?) incorrect.

I call BS.

My mother characterized her fight as a battle. And my father and I were the enlisted troops to support her.

So f*** anyone who wants to lecture me on how this should be stated. You have your viewpoint, and I have mine. Don’t get on your high horse about it, thanks.

And coming from a family where we have “won” against the big C a few times, all I can say is: fight it if you choose.

If you want to believe it’ll take you and you want to give up, that is your choice.

If you want to characterize it as a battle and have some hope, that is your choice.

This isn’t clear-cut, like so many other things.

My mother fought it very bravely. She wasn’t given that long and she beat every prediction. If she had given up from the start, to meet some prediction, who knows if things would be different? The day she died the X-rays showed no cancer in her lungs and her blood tests were normal. It appeared that we had beaten the primary.

But sadly, it had spread elsewhere, to places where medicine couldn’t reach.

In fact, she only knew about it because of back pain—like Olivia Newton-John’s third diagnosis.

About six weeks before it took her, Mum said to me, ‘I don’t think I’m going to make it.’

I was a dumb kid in denial so I said, ‘Nonsense, I think you can do it.’ (As this was in Cantonese, I would have started with ‘大吉利是.’)

With hindsight, I envy some of those families who have managed to say their farewells, but you can’t turn the clock back.

On the morning about an hour and a half before she died, I said—to God, to my inner voice, to my spirit guide, to whatever you want to call it—‘Screw this, no one should have to go through this sort of pain.’

Maybe that was letting go or accepting it. And not long after she was gone with Dad and me at her bedside.

So may I say in all sincerity, win or lose, fuck cancer.

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Posted in New Zealand, Wellington | No Comments »


A new video for the home page

23.07.2022

Earlier today, Amanda and I had a wonderful time at Te Papa to celebrate the Chinese Languages in Aotearoa programme. My contribution was appearing in a video, that was on this blog last October.

It dawned on me that despite being on YouTube, this really needs to be on the home page of this website, replacing the below.
 

 

It just never occurred to me any earlier how ideal the Te Papa video was, and how much it speaks to my whakapapa and my identity. But the penny has dropped now.

I know I still need to update the 2018 intro. It needs to be more profound than what appears in these blog posts.

It should also reduce confusion for visitors trying to find out more about my Toronto mayoral candidate namesake, who I note still does not have a declared website or email address on the that city’s official list.

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Posted in China, culture, Hong Kong, media, New Zealand, Wellington | No Comments »


If corporate America says it, it’s probably untrue

16.07.2022


Le dernier.
 
I see the Le Snak range has now left us, after its US owner PepsiCo cited a lack of demand. I call bullshit, since during 2021 it was becoming increasingly difficult to find them on the shelves. Throttling distribution is not the same as a lack of demand, something you see time and time again with corporate claptrap.

It’s like the myth that New Zealanders all prefer automatic transmissions. No, not supplying manuals will inevitably force people to change. Has the industry done a survey as I have? Last time I conducted one, in the 2010s, we were still running 50–50, with a lot of people saying, ‘I prefer a manual, but I had no choice but to buy an automatic.’

Ford is a useful example of US companies citing reduced demand but doing things behind the scenes to ensure it. The line that no one was buying big cars saw to the end of the road for the Australian Falcon and the closure of its Broadmeadows plant. Did any of you see any advertising for the Falcon leading up to that? Or see many Falcons on dealer lots? It seems to me that a corporate decision had been made, and steps taken to guarantee an outcome. Throttle the distribution (‘We’re out of stock’) and of course demand falls.

Get your tape measures out, and you’ll find the Falcon was smaller than the Mondeo (which at that point was still selling) on key measures other than overall length and, presumably, boot volume. The two-litre Ecoboost Falcon with its rear-wheel drive was promoted with all the energy of a damp squid, but it had all the ingredients for success as a decent-handling sedan. But Broadmeadows was an inefficient plant, from what I understand (from hearsay), and bringing it up to speed would have cost more than a bunch of Pinto lawsuits. ‘But there’s no demand for what it builds anyway!’ they cry. Then they can justify the closure.

Go back to the 1990s and the same thing happened with Ford’s Contour and Mystique twins in the US. People were buying BMW 3-series in droves, cars the same size as the Contour. But Ford claimed there was no demand, leading to its US cancellation after the 2000 model year. Reality: I say the Dearborn fiefdom didn’t like the fact the Contour was part of a world-car project (which gave us the original Mondeo) led by Ford’s Köln fiefdom. Not-invented-here killed the Contour, and a relative lack of promotion also guaranteed its fate. (Ford would wind up contesting the segment again later in the 2000s with the Fusion and Milan, but put far more effort into promoting them since they were US-led programmes. I actually saw advertising for them in US magazines! I saw a Milan in Manhattan with Mercury encouraging us to try it out!)

If you take the line that anything a big US firm utters is an utter lie, it keeps you in good stead. Use that approach with Facebook, for instance, and you’ll find things make sense more often than not. And of course we all knew what Elon Musk meant when he said he wanted to buy Twitter.

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The missing second verse

16.06.2022

The second of three verses of the Scots College school song appears to be missing from the web. I posted them once on Facebook, back when people used Facebook, so of course it doesn’t appear in Google.

We sang it, but I understand that the generation before, and the one after, didn’t sing it. We seem to have been the anomaly.

In the interests of having them somewhere searchable on the web, and as the Secretary of Scots Collegians:
 
We’ll keep our tryst from day to day
And pledge our honour bright,
To follow truth’s unerring way
And march into the light.
Let God and right and the watchword be,
Let Scots have honoured name,
For joy be ours to know that we
Were heroes of its fame.
 

Corrections are welcome; these are to the best of my recollection.

The move to co-education at Scots several years ago means the song has had to change with the times, though I imagine that enough of us remember the lyrics to the other verses as they once were, and the old choruses, for me not to need to record them.

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Lucire’s holding page prior to launch

01.06.2022

Of course I remember there was a holding page prior to Lucire launching on October 20, 1997 at 7 a.m. EST, or midnight NZDT on October 21, 1997. I just didn’t remember what it exactly looked like, till I discovered it at the Internet Archive:
 

 

There was no semicolon in JY&A Media, not even then; this must be some Internet Archive bug since I didn’t use & for the HTML entity in those days. Most browsers interpreted a lone ampersand correctly back then. We also tried to save bytes where we could, with the limited bandwidth we had to play with.

Pity the other captures from the 1990s aren’t as good, with the main images missing. I still have them offline, so one of these days …

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Posted in design, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


Here’s the latest book I worked on: Panos: My Life, My Odyssey out May 26

17.05.2022


 
[Originally posted in Lucire] Toward the end of next week, Panos Papadopoulos’s autobiography, Panos: My Life, My Odyssey, comes out in London, with an event in Stockholm following. This is an intimate memoir about Panos’s rise, from childhood poverty in Greece to the ‘king of swimwear’ in Scandinavia. Not only do I have an advance copy, I collaborated with Panos on it.

I’m fascinated by autobiographies. When I was a teenager, I read Lee Iacocca’s one, written with William Novak. I presume Novak interviewed Iacocca, or he worked with some additional notes, and ghosted for him. Whatever the case, it remains an engaging read, and I replaced my well worn paperback with a hardcover one a few years ago, when I spotted it at a charity fair. More recently I bought Don Black’s autobiography, The Sanest Guy in the Room, and enjoyed that thoroughly.

Panos and I probably had a similar arrangement to Iacocca and Novak, whereby I interviewed and prompted him for some stories, and I wrote from copious notes that he gave me. There’s an entire chapter in there that’s based on his reflections about the time he bought into a football team in Sweden, that he wrote in great detail himself soon after the events took place. Somehow over 10 months of 2021—though the idea has been floating around for many years before—Panos and I created this eminently readable tale, the sort of autobiography I would like to read.

Of course we start in Greece in 1958, and how a young lad, who begins working at age five alongside his mother as she cleaned an office, finds poverty a torment, and vows to get himself out of it. He also cannot tolerate injustice, and attempts to expose pollution, workplace accidents, and corruption—only to find himself and his parents harassed. By his late teens, after taking an interrail journey to northern Europe, he finds an opportunity to study in Sweden.

It’s not “the rest is history”, as Panos works in kitchens, washing dishes and peeling potatoes. He also finds gigs as a prison guard, a parole officer, a rest home carer, and a substitute teacher.

His first taste of fame is for a postgraduate sociology paper, where he examines the importance of clothing in nighttime disco settings, which captures the imagination of major newspapers and TV networks.

Finding dissatisfaction and frustration working in health care for the city of Göteborg, he seized upon an idea one day when spying just how drab the beaches were in Sweden: beautiful bodies covered in monochrome swimwear.

Injecting colour on to the beaches through his Panos Emporio swimwear label wasn’t an overnight success, and Panos elaborates on his story with the sort of passion you would expect from a Greek native, capturing your attention and leaving you wanting more.

He reveals his secrets about how he lifted himself out of poverty, creating a company given a platinum rating in Sweden, an honour reserved only for the top 450, out of half a million limited-liability companies there.

Read about how he managed his first sales despite doubts from the entire industry, how he secured Jannike Björling—then Sweden’s most sought-after woman, photographed constantly by the paparazzi—as Panos Emporio’s model, and how he followed up with securing Victoria Silvstedt, just as she was about to become world-famous posing for Playboy.

By 1996, 10 years into his label’s journey, and with the release of the Paillot (still offered in the Panos Emporio range today), the press dubbed him ‘the king of swimwear’, but he wasn’t done yet.

More high-profile models followed, and there’s even an encounter with Whitney Houston, revealed for the first time in the book. There are royal encounters, with former King Constantine II, and Sweden’s HM King Carl XVI Gustaf and HM Queen Sofia. HSH Princess Stéphanie almost makes it into the book.

There are touching moments, too, such as his heartfelt recollection of his friendship with Jean-Louis Dumas, the chairman of Hermès, and his wife Rena.

We’ve known each other for over 20 years, and from the start he complimented me on my writing, so I have a feeling he wanted me for this task for some time. We’ve both had to start businesses from scratch, and we did them away from our countries of birth. Additionally, he knew I grew up amongst Greeks so I had more than an average insight into his culture. We’ve talked about it numerous times, maybe as far back as 2016, when Panos Emporio celebrated its 30th anniversary. I’m very grateful for that. There were obviously stories I knew, since I interviewed him about them over the years, but plenty I did not, and they form the bulk of this 320 pp. book, published by LID Publishing of London, and released on May 26. A party in Stockholm follows on May 31.
 
Technically, the process was an easy collaboration as Panos and I shared notes and written manuscripts back and forth, and I had the privilege to lay it out and edit the photos as well. The whole book was typed out on WordPerfect, which gave an almost perfect re-creation of how the copyfitting would go in InDesign, unlike Word—for a while others doubted I could fit the contents into the agreed page length, since they couldn’t see it in the same format that I did. Martin Majoor’s FF Nexus Serif is used for the body text. And, while hardly anyone probably cares about such things, I managed to deliver it so the printer could do the book without wasting paper with the right page impositions. I know what it’s like to have printing bills.

My Life, My Odyssey was the working title, but it seems LID liked it enough to retain it for the final product. I wanted to retitle it Panos: Who Designs Wins, but the experts in charge of sales preferred the working title. ‘Who designs wins’ appears on the back cover, so it’s still getting out there!

Caroline Li, LID’s designer, did the cover, and I followed her lead with the headline typeface choice; and Martin Liu, who I’ve known from Stefan Engeseth’s many books, published and coordinated. I’m grateful to the watchful eye and coordination of Aiyana Curtis, who oversaw the production stage and did the first edit; she also engaged the copy editor and proofreader, who turned my stubborn Hart’s Rules-compliant text into LID’s house style.

I see from her résumé that Aiyana had done some work here in Aotearoa, and Caroline and Martin, like me, have Hong Kong roots, so we all probably had some things in common that made the process easier. It was particularly easy to understand Caroline’s design approach, and as someone who had done mock covers while we were trying out potential photos, I will say hers is infinitely superior to mine. Similarly, I understood Martin’s business approach from day one.

The final manuscript was done in October 2021 and we’ve spent the last few months doing production, shooting the cover, and preparing for the launch, where LID’s Teya Ucherdzhieva has ably been working on a marketing plan. Panos himself, never one to do things by halves, has thrown himself into doing the launch, and it promises to be an excellent event.
 
For those who’d like to get their hands on a copy, Amazon UK and Barnes & Noble are retailing Panos: My Life, My Odyssey, and a US launch is slated for October (Amazon and other retailers will have it in their catalogues).

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How to end social media censorship

16.04.2022


Kristina Flour/Unsplash
 
This Twitter thread by Yishan Wong is one of the most interesting I’ve come across. Not because it’s about Elon Musk (who he begins with), but because it’s about the history of the web, censorship, and the reality of running a social platform.

Here are some highlights (emphases in the original):

There is this old culture of the internet, roughly Web 1.0 (late 90s) and early Web 2.0, pre-Facebook (pre-2005), that had a very strong free speech culture.

This free speech idea arose out of a culture of late-90s America where the main people who were interested in censorship were religious conservatives. In practical terms, this meant that they would try to ban porn (or other imagined moral degeneracy) on the internet …

Many of the older tech leaders today … grew up with that internet. To them, the internet represented freedom, a new frontier, a flowering of the human spirit, and a great optimism that technology could birth a new golden age of mankind.

Fast forward to the reality of the 2020s:

The internet is not a “frontier” where people can go “to be free,” it’s where the entire world is now, and every culture war is being fought on it.

It’s the main battlefield for our culture wars.

Yishan points out that left-wingers can point to where right-wingers get more freedom to say their piece, and that right-wingers can point to where left-wingers get more. ‘Both sides think the platform is institutionally biased against them.’

The reality:

They would like you (the users) to stop squabbling over stupid shit and causing drama so that they can spend their time writing more features and not have to adjudicate your stupid little fights.

That’s all.

They don’t care about politics. They really don’t.

He concedes that people can be their worst selves online, and that the platforms struggle to keep things civil.

They have to pretend to enforce fairness. They have to adopt “principles.”

Let me tell you: There are no real principles. They are just trying to be fair because if they weren’t, everyone would yell louder and the problem would be worse …

You really want to avoid censorship on social networks? Here is the solution:

Stop arguing. Play nice. The catch: everyone has to do it at once.

I guarantee you, if you do that, there will be no censorship of any topic on any social network.

Because it is not topics that are censored. It is behavior.

I think Yishan’s right to some degree. There are leanings that the leaders of these social networks have, and I think that can affect the overall decisions. But he’s also right that both left and right feel aggrieved. I warned as much when I wrote about social media and their decision about Donald Trump in the wake of the incidents of January 6, 2021. I’ve seen left- and right-wing accounts get taken down, and often for no discernible reason I can fathom.

Generally, however, civil discourse is a perfectly fine way to go, and for most things that doesn’t invite censorship or account removal. Wouldn’t it be nice if people took him up on this, to see what would happen?

Sadly, that could well be as idealistic as the ‘new frontier’ which many of us who got into the dot com world in the 1990s believed in.

But maybe he’s woken up some folks. And with c. 50,000 followers, he has a darn sight better chance than I have reaching just over a tenth of that on Twitter, and the 1,000 or so of you who will read this blog post.
 
During the writing of this post, Vivaldi crashed again, when I attempted to enter form data—a bug that they believed was fixed a few revisions ago. It appears not. I’ll still send over a bug report, but everything is pointing at my abandoning it in favour of Opera GX. Five years is a very good run for a browser.

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Browser history

11.04.2022


In 2011, I was definitely on Firefox.
 
I believe I started browsing as many did, with Netscape. But not 1.0 (though I had seen copies at university). I was lucky enough to have 1.1 installed first.

I stuck with Netscape till 4.7. Its successor, v. 6, was bloated, and never worked well on my PC.

Around this time, my friend Kat introduced me to Internet Explorer 5, which was largely stable, so I made the leap to Microsoft. IE5 wasn’t new at this point and had been around for a while.

I can’t remember which year, but at some point I went to Maxthon, which used the IE engine, but had more bells and whistles.

By the end of the decade, Firefox 3 was my browser of choice. In 2014, I switched to Waterfox, a Firefox fork, since I was on a 64-bit PC and Firefox was only made for 32-bit back then. A bug with the Firefox browsers saw them stop displaying text at the end of 2014, and I must have switched to Cyberfox (another 64-bit Firefox-based browser) around this time.

I went back to Firefox when development on Cyberfox stopped, and a 64-bit Firefox became available, but by 2017, it ate memory like there was no tomorrow (as Chrome once did, hence my not adopting it). Vivaldi became my new choice.

There are old posts on this blog detailing many of the changes and my reasons for them.

I’ve always had Opera installed somewhere, but it was never my main browser. Maybe this year Opera GX will become that, with Vivaldi’s latest version being quite buggy. We shall see. I tend to be pretty loyal till I get to a point where the software ceases to work as hoped.

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Back, on the new box

28.03.2022

There are a few experiments going on here now that this blog is on the new server. Massive thanks to my friend who has been working tirelessly to get us on to the new box and into the 2020s.

First, there’s a post counter, though as it’s freshly installed, it doesn’t show a true count. There is a way to get the data out of Yuzo Related Posts into the counter—even though that’s not entirely accurate, either, it would be nice to show the record counts I had back in 2016 on the two posts revealing Facebook’s highly questionable “malware scanner”.
 

 

Secondly, we haven’t found a good related post plug-in to replace Yuzo. You’ll see two sets of related posts here. The second is by another company who claims their software will pick up the first image in each post in the event that I have not set up a featured image or thumbnail; as you can see, it doesn’t do what it says on the tin.

Some of you will have seen a bunch of links from this blog sent out via social media as the new installation became live, and I apologize for those.

Please bear with us while we work through it all. The related post plug-in issue has been the big one: there are many, but they either don’t do as they claimed, or they have terrible design. Even Wordpress’s native one cannot do the simple task of taking the first image from a post, which Yuzo does with ease.
 
Recently a friend recommended a Google service to me, and of course I responded that I would never touch anything of theirs, at least not willingly. The following isn’t addressed to him, but the many who have taken exception to my justified concerns about the company, and about Facebook, and their regular privacy breaches and apparent lack of ethics.

In short: I don’t get you.

And I try to have empathy.

When I make my arguments, they aren’t pulled out of the ether. I try to back up what I’ve said. When I make an attack in social media, or even in media, there’s a wealth of reasons, many of which have been detailed on this blog.

Of course there are always opposing viewpoints, so it’s fine if you state your case. And of course it’s fine if you point out faults in my argument.

But to point the “tut tut” finger at me and imply that I either shouldn’t or I’m mistaken, without backing yourselves up?

So where are you coming from?

In the absence of any supporting argument, there are only a handful of potential conclusions.

1. You’re corrupt or you like corruption. You don’t mind that these companies work outside the law, never do as they claim, invade people’s privacy, and place society in jeopardy.

2. You love the establishment and you don’t like people rocking the boat. It doesn’t matter what they do, they’re the establishment. They’re above us, and that’s fine.

3. You don’t accept others’ viewpoints, or you’re unable to grasp them due to your own limitations.

4. You’re blind to what’s been happening or you choose to turn a blind eye.

I’ve heard this bullshit my entire life.

When I did my first case at 22, representing myself, suing someone over an unpaid bill, I heard similar things.

‘Maybe there’s a reason he hasn’t paid you.’

‘They never signed a contract, so no contract exists.’

As far as I can tell, they were a variant of those four, since one of the defendants was the president of a political party.

I won the case since I was in the right, and a bunch of con artists didn’t get away with their grift.

The tightwad paid on the last possible day. I was at the District Court with a warrant of arrest for the registrar to sign when he advised me that the money had been paid in that morning.

I did this case in the wake of my mother’s passing.

It amazed me that there were people who assumed I was in the wrong in the setting of a law student versus an establishment white guy.

Their defence was full of contradictions because they never had any truth backing it up.

I also learned just because Simpson Grierson represented them that no one should be scared of big-name law firms. Later on, as I served as an expert witness in many cases, that belief became more cemented.

Equally, no one should put any weight on what Mark Zuckerberg says since history keeps showing that he never means it; and we should believe Google will try one on, trying to snoop wherever they can, because history shows that they will.
 
Ancient history with Google? Here’s what its CEO said, as quoted in CNBC, in February. People lap this up without question (apart from the likes of Bob Hoffman, who has his eyes open, and a few others). How many people on this planet again? It wasn’t even this populated in Soylent Green (which supposedly takes place in 2022, if you’re looking at the cinematic version).
 

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The erosion of standards

10.01.2022

For homeowners and buyers, there’s a great guide from Moisture Detection Co. Ltd. called What You Absolutely Must Know About Owning a Plaster-Clad Home, subtitled The Origin of New Zealand’s Leaky Building Crisis and Must-Know Information for Owners to Make Their Homes Weathertight, and Regain Lost Value.
   My intent isn’t to repeat someone’s copyrighted information in full, but there are some highlights in there that show how the erosion of standards has got us where we are today. It’s frightening because the decline in standards has been continual over decades, and the authorities don’t seem to know what they are doing—with perhaps the exception of the bidding of major corporations who want to sell cheap crap.
   The document begins with the 1950s, when all was well, and houses rarely rotted. Houses had to have treated timber, be ventilated, and have flashings.
   They note:

By the time 1998 rolled around, NZ Standards, the Building Industry Association, and BRANZ had systematically downgraded the ‘Belts and Braces’ and were allowing houses to be built with untreated framing, with no ventilation, and poorly designed or non-existent flashings and weatherproofing.
   Councils accepted these changes at ‘face value’ without historical review. They issued building consents, inspected the houses, and gave Code of Compliance Certificates. Owners believed they had compliant, well-constructed buildings, but they did not.

   Shockingly, by 1992, the treatment level for framing timber could be with ‘permethrins (the same ingredient as fly spray)’, while one method used methanol as a solvent and increased decay. By 1998 ‘Untreated Kiln Dried Timber (UTKD) was allowed for framing’. The standards improved slightly by 2005 but it’s still well off what was accepted in 1952 and 1972.
   We recently checked out a 2009 build using plaster cladding and researching the methods of construction, including the types with cavities, we are far from convinced the problems are gone.
   Talking to some building inspectors, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence on how shaky things still look.
   Since we moved to Tawa and made some home improvements, we realize a lot of people in the trade do not know what they are talking about, or try to sell you on a product totally unsuited to your needs. This post is not the place for a discussion on that topic, but one day I might deal with it.
   However, I am surprised that so many of the tried-and-trusted rules continue to be ignored.
   Sometimes people like me go on about “the good old days” not because we don rose-coloured glasses, but we take from them the stuff that worked.
   It’s not unlike what Bob Hoffman included in his newsletter today.
   As I’ve also no desire to take the most interesting part—a diagram showing that for every dollar spent on programmatic online advertising, a buyer only gets 3¢ of value ‘of real display ads viewed by real human people’—I ask you to click through.
   Again, it’s about basic principles. If so many people in the online advertising space are fudging their figures—and there’s plenty of evidence about that—then why should we spend money with them? To learn that you get 3¢ of value for every dollar spent, surely that’s a big wake-up call?
   It won’t be, which is why Facebook and Google will still make a ton of money off people this year.
   The connected theme: rich buggers conning everyday people and too few having the bollocks to deal with them, including officials who are meant to be working for us.

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