Thursday, 23 March 2017

Hong Kong's New Inspiration

Kudos to runner Cheung Suet-ling, a gold medal winner at the age of 93
Hong Kong seems like it's a city for young people, but the older folks are the cool cats today.

In particular 93-year-old Cheung Suet-ling, who won gold yesterday in the World Masters Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

She competed in the 60-metre-event -- in the under-90 category.

Although she finished third in a time of 25.73 seconds, she was awarded gold because she was the only competitor in her age group.

Cheung with her medal from South Korea
Christa Bortignon of Canada, 80, won the race in 10.56 seconds.

Cheung thought she could have done better.

"I did 25.73 seconds in Daegu which is far from ideal since I clocked 37.29 seconds in the 100 metres in 2016," she said.

"It's partly because I had problems with my back before coming to South Korea and I'm not used to the weather in Daegu. In fact I almost fell down during the competition which was a worry for my teammates.

"Many young runners have said they wanted to learn from me since I can still run at such an age. I have an open mind when it comes to taking part in running competition.

"I also want to encourage more old runners to come out of their world and enjoy sports."

Hong Kong Amateur Athletics Association senior vice-chairman Simon Yeung Sai-mo said it was the first time the city won gold in an indoor masters world event, even though Hong Kong has won gold before in an outdoor masters world event.

Cheung is a retired nurse and took up the sport because her daughter, Lai Yin-mei, is a runner as well.

Ed Whitlock was an inspiration to many marathoners
She reminds me of Ed Whitlock, who broke three hours in the marathon in his 70s and was the oldest person to run 42 kilometres in under four hours. Sadly he just died over a week ago at 86.

What's amusing about the Canadian is that he had no particular regime or diet, and ran more for attention than for his health.

Nevertheless, both he and Cheung show us that elderly people are capable of being really fit at their age, and why not?

I hope to keep going too in my old age. I don't know if I'll be running in my 80s if I get there, but definitely swimming!

Add oil! 加油!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Beware the QR Code

You can buy supermarket items just by scanning the QR codes on your phone
China seemed to be far ahead of Hong Kong in terms of using QR codes for mobile transactions. Even food stalls have QR codes to make it easier to make payments via smartphones to buy something as simple as a roasted sweet potato.

But now there are concerns some QR codes, which stands for quick response codes, are easy faked with a different code with malevolent software to make it easy for fraudsters to get access to your bank account.

Consumers can also buy street food by scanning the QR code
There has been a spate of scams regarding QR codes on the mainland, which has led to calls for the government do more to protect consumers.

The problem is that the QR codes are so hard to tell if they are fake by the human eye, which makes it easier for cybercriminals to take advantage of the situation -- and legitimate businesses lose money because the payments never reach them.

Liu Qingfeng, a senior Chinese official and technology expert, says almost one-quarter of Trojans -- malicious programs disguised as benign software -- and other viruses are transmitted through QR codes.

"Currently over 23 percent of Trojans and viruses are transmitted via QR codes," he said at the recent National People's Congress in Beijing. "The [difficulty] threshold to make QR codes is so low that fraudsters could implant Trojans and viruses into a QR code very easily," Liu said.

"On the other hand, consumers cannot verify the authenticity of QR codes by eye and are therefore prone to be deceived if criminals paste their fake code over the original one."

A woman rents a bike by paying through the QR code
Liu is calling for regulators to tighten their oversight of QR codes by bringing them under the National Security Law.

He added that although QR codes have helped increase consumption, the possibility of fake codes has deterred others from using this otherwise payment method.

With an almost 25 percent chance of this happening on a daily basis, surely this has put off some people from scanning QR codes. Hopefully it doesn't make too much of an impact on small vendors, as this kind of payment system has definitely helped them generate revenue in a convenient high-tech way.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

A Big Dose of Art

Tang Jie's Stone Story at Art Central this year
The two biggest art fairs are back in Hong Kong again -- Art Central and Art Basel.

I got a quick peek of both and will give a few highlights here.

Art Central located at Central Harbourfront is a neat venue, featuring over 100 galleries, 75 percent of which are from Asia Pacific, though ironically, not many Hong Kong artists are featured.

Performance Art at Art Central
Nevertheless, it's a good place to check out emerging artists from the region. On the whole on a few things grabbed me. One Indonesian artist partnering with a Hong Kong gallery, produced a large canvas of graffiti-like art, very colourful and cartoonish.

But get this -- the work is carved up literally into squares and for HK$300, a person can buy a piece of the art. You can buy more than one square of course, but there's another interesting part -- you can consign the piece(s) that you have bought back to the gallery to resell to another person. And if it's sold you give a 10 percent commission back to the gallery.

That is the commercialism of art at its purest.

Already there were a few squares cut out of the far left hand side of the piece... what would you do with a square piece of art? Is it still art if it's a section of it?

One piece that is particularly impressive is called Stone Story by Tang Jie. It features rocks that are suspended from wires that lightly "fall" onto a large drum below. They fall rhythmically one after the other and then come back up again. It's a combination of old -- the rocks and the traditional Chinese drum, to the new of technology manipulating the rocks.

Does he look like Mao Zedong? Like the body in Beijing?
We also saw a performance artist, Anida Yoeu Ali with The Red Chador: Ban Me! She wore a red sequinned chador, or fabric that is a full-body robe covering her body, and carried the sign "Ban Me".

Over at Art Basel at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, it's overwhelming to try to take in all the art on two floors, but definitely one of the most provocative is Summit by Shen Shaomin.

There are five "corpses" of Communist leaders in history -- Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro. They are all apparently life size, and quite life like. Oh my mistake -- Castro is not encased in a glass coffin, but on his death bed apparently faintly breathing! I missed that clarification.

In any event one must wonder what mainlanders think of their great leader as a piece of art!

Murakami's Tan Tan Bo aka Gerotan... is one of his new works
Another provoking piece is Not a Shield, but a Weapon by Philippine artist Pio Abad. There are 180 handbags that are copies of late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Asprey handbag.

These ones were all made in Marikina in the Philippines, which used to be a thriving area for leather manufacturing. But because of trade liberalization policies introduced by Thatcher, Marikina has been in decline ever since.

There's also a colourful ovid shaped object sitting on a mirrored surface. Entitled Deductive Object by Kimsooja, the piece is inspired by the Indian tradition of Brahmanda stones that are polished into an ovid shape.

Here it's a large one painted in traditional Korean colours called obangsaek.

Deductive Object by Kimsooja
And for those looking for big names, Takashi Murakami is here with a large piece, and we spotted a few Picassos for sale.

So this is a critique of only the fraction of the things that can be seen at Art Central and Art Basel... if I have time I'll go check out Art Basel further...

Monday, 20 March 2017

Crackdown on Toilet Paper Hoarders

That's the only amount of toilet paper you're getting at the Temple of Heaven
On the way to work in the mornings, I usually hit the public washroom in a park nearby before getting on an over one-hour long bus ride to the office. The washroom stalls don't have toilet paper -- you have to get some from a giant roll by the entrance.

It is shocking how much toilet paper Hong Kong elderly women use! Do they really need to use over a metre's worth? What are they doing in there?

But it looks like they are not the only toilet paper hoarders.

The paper dispensing machine uses facial recognition
It's gotten so bad at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, that park officials have installed a toilet paper dispense where the user must stand in front of the wall-mounted machine with a high-definition camera.

The device's software remembers recent faces, and if the same person reappears within a certain period, it refuses to activate the automatic roller.

The current setting per person is 60cm of paper within nine minutes.

It's been a known fact that for years a lot of toilet paper has been nicked by mainland senior citizens, which has resulted in a considerable financial burden on public toilet management.

Sometimes a fresh roll of toilet paper can disappear in minutes, leaving other users paper-less.

An elderly man caught pilfering more than his share of paper
When people use the machine, they have to take off their hat and sunglasses, which prompted concerns about infringing privacy, and the facial recognition function, which is supposed to take three seconds can sometimes take more than a minute, which might be too late for some who are bursting for the loo.

The toilet paper dispensing machine has caused quite a stir on social media, where many agree the practice of pilfering toilet paper has to stop, but there's no point in being anal about it.

One user on WeChat may have spread a rumour when he or she said: "The cheap toilet paper in public toilets contains lots of toxic materials such as florescent agents. Excessive use will only damage their health."

Which is why it's always good practice to carry tissue paper whilst in China...