Saturday, May 25, 2019

Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi Trade Barbs

Nutcase US President Donald Trump (left) and the feisty Nancy Pelosi traded barbs on Thursday, each questioning the other's mental stability. 

The top Democrat appealed to Trump's family and aides to conduct an intervention with the president "for the good of the country". 

Trump, of course, hit back, saying Pelosi was "crazy", later calling the California congresswoman "a mess". 

The row marks a new low for relations between the White House and Democrats. 

The exchange came a day after Trump walked out of a meeting with Pelosi and her counterpart in the Senate, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. 

Trump, as we all know, enjoys picking fights with everybody and anybody. 

Anyway, the name-calling didn’t end there. 

On that same day, Trump posted a clip from a show from Fox Business which, while not doctored, had been selectively-edited to portray Pelosi (left) as garbling her way through a press conference. The full footage demonstrated that was not the case. 

And there was another instance when hours after Pelosi addressed a conference Wednesday, a deliberately distorted video of her conversation began spreading across the Internet. 

First posted on YouTube, it went viral, more so after being re-posted on Facebook and Twitter, also on Thursday. The manipulated clip, slowed down by 25% made Pelosi sound as if she were slurring her words. 

YouTube promptly deleted all copies of the video on its site after being notified of its existence following a Washington Post report on the video. 

Facebook, where the clip found its largest audience, refused to take it down. One upload of the clip has been viewed more than 2.5 million times – and remains visible. 

A company spokesperson maintained that the video does not violate Facebook’s Community Standards, adding in a statement that “we don't have a policy that stipulates that the information you post on Facebook must be true”. 

You and I know this explanation doesn't make sense at all. The Pelosi clip is clearly a calculated attempt at misinformation as well as being a flagrant misrepresentation. Therefore, it should be expunged, period.

The Pub That is Not a Pub

Pub co-owners Oisin Davis (L) and Vaughan Yates (R) pose outside their Virgin Mary Bar, located @ 54 Capel Street, Dublin, Ireland, May 16, 2019. Image credit: AFP

Just two weeks ago, an Irish pub opened its doors. 

But this drinking haven is boldly different. Started by two enterprising Irishmen, The Virgin Mary is Ireland’s first alcohol-free bar. 

Located in what was once a furniture shop on Capel Street, the stylish bar seats 30 and offers a selection of cocktails, beers, and wines, all of which are non-alcoholic. 

Vaughan Yates and Oisin Davis, both of whom are veterans of the drinks industry, were inspired to go into this business after noticing both a growing appetite for non-alcoholic drinks and a gap in the market for an alcohol-free venue. 

The duo enlisted award-winning Anna Walsh (left) to devise a number of bespoke non-alcoholic cocktails. 

Walsh had made non-alcoholic cocktails before, but this was her first time creating a full menu. Without alcohol at her disposal, she was forced to experiment and play around with different flavours. 

“When you give yourself boundaries, you’re forced to be more creative”, she says. 

If you know your mocktails, you should be familiar that these taste like sugary facsimiles of the real thing. Both Walsh and Yates were keen to avoid clich├ęd mocktails and create drinks that tasted “grown-up”. 

The result is a range of cocktails designed to emulate the taste and mouthfeel of alcoholic drinks. 

The bar’s signature Virgin Mary is a hot and spicy non-alcoholic surrogate for the Bloody Mary. This is a cheeky play on the vodka-infused classic cocktail that is made of tomato juice, muscat, pickle, lime and spice.

And the Cedar’s Spritz (left) is a refreshing alternative to a gin and tonic made with non-alcoholic gin and sparkling wine.

Yates’ own go-to drink is a newly launched non-alcoholic aperitif called Everleaf, which tastes bitter and deceptively boozy.

There are also a selection of non-alcoholic beers with Mikkeller’s Drink in the Sun coming highly recommended.

The bar even serves a dark and creamy “iced nitro coffee” which they call Raven Nitro Coffee (right) that is poured from a beer tap to mimic Guinness, without which no traditional Irish pub would be complete. It mimics both the texture and appearance of Guinness when served chilled in a glass.

In other words, there are drinks to cater to every palate. 

Open from 4 PM to 11 PM each day, the bar aims to recreate the buzz and atmosphere of any other late-night venue with “lighting, music, and conversation”. 

Definitely for people who want to drink sans the alcohol – these “drinkers” too want to have a good time in a pub that is not a pub, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, the bar will appeal to those who are looking for more options when it comes to places to socialize with friends.

I hope it doesn't become just a novelty.

Friday, May 24, 2019

The 'Tank Man' Returns

Shake, a Taiwanese artist has created giant inflatables of a tank and "tank man" – the lone protester who stood in front of a convoy of tanks – to mark 30 years since China's bloody crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. 

The balloons are on display in Taiwan’s capital Taipei, by the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, one of Taiwan's most famous landmarks. 

The photo of a man in a white shirt standing in front of a tank in Beijing's Tiananmen Square became one of the most famous photos of the twentieth century. He has never been officially identified – but that simple act made him a symbol of peaceful resistance across the world. 

"As a Taiwanese I hope I can help China to also achieve democracy one day", Shake told Reuters news agency. 

BTW, reporting of the June 04, 1989 incident is heavily censored in China. 

Yesterday, I was at Wisma IEM in Jalan Selangor, PJ in Selangor – again to deliver another Competent Communication speech. This time, it was a CC #10 titled Light a Fire.

This was my third speech this week.

I also participated in Table Topics. 

And I surprised myself by being voted Best Project Speaker as well as Best Table Topics Speaker. 

It's been years since I attended an IEM Toastmasters meeting and it was especially good to catch up with long-time-no-see Toastmaster, Alex Lu.

'Ancient Beer' from Antique Yeast

Israeli researchers from the Antiquities Authority together with Bar-Ilan, Hebrew and Tel Aviv Universities claimed Wednesday that they had successfully managed to extract yeast from the time of yore and produced head-spinning concoctions with it. 

Altogether, six yeasts that were up to 5,000 years were taken from the remains of jars found at archaeological sites, including a Philistine site in Israel linked to the biblical story of Goliath. Other sites were in the Negev desert – the oldest one linked to ancient Egypt – as well as Tel Aviv and in the Jerusalem area. 

The yeasts' genomes were sequenced, and they were put in a liquid medium to grow before being used to brew beer as well as mead. 

The beer had a six-percent alcoholic strength and similar in taste to a wheat ale and the mead was at 14-percent strength. 

Modern beer-making methods were used to produce the tipple – and it is believed to be similar to beverages enjoyed by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. 

Ronen Hazan, a microbiologist at Hebrew University said the scientific importance to the work lay in its insight into how to reconstruct the past and the domestication of microorganisms like yeast. 

Yitzhak Paz of the Antiquities Authority was honest – he admitted he took some extra pleasure from the work. 

Until now, researchers used ancient recipes, but modern materials. 

“This is the first time when we actually used ancient materials to create ancient beer”, maintained Paz. 

"The greatest wonder here is that the yeast colonies survived within the vessel for thousands of years – just waiting to be excavated and grown", Hazan added. 

And of course, the idea of drinking beer from ancient times is simply an opportunity not to be missed.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Some Tips on Non Verbals

I spotted this particular video on Boingboing – it features Joe Navarro, a former FBI agent and body language expert explaining how to read non-verbals. 

In this Wired video, he shares some tips as well as busts some myths:
All of this is really useful to know! It is communication, after all.  

And don't forget, I am a Toastmaster too.

I was at DHL @ Cyberjaya in Jalan Teknokrat 5, Cyberjaya, Selangor today.

Thanks to VP Education Melvin Raj, I was given the opportunity to present my CC #5 speech titled Tipping Point.

This is assignment #750 and this speech is for another Competent Communication manual, round #58:

And guess who I met at the said meeting – the man himself, Barry Ong! Did you know he was one of the few Toastmasters who impressed me when I first started out in Toastmasters more than ten years ago!

China Won't Be No. 1, Vows Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump is no longer hiding the fact that he is begrudging and envious of China’s rising status in the world. 

Therefore, it is not surprising that he has vowed that China will not become the world’s top superpower under his watch (Bloomberg as cited by South China Morning Post, May 20, 2019). 

In an interview with Fox News, Trump said he was “very happy” with the trade war. “We’re taking in billions of dollars,” he said, when asked about the endgame in the trade conflict. “China is obviously not doing well like us” – his economic naivety blatantly showing. 

Trump’s comments signalled he is in no rush to get back to the negotiating table after talks to end the trade conflict fell apart. He has since raised tariffs on Chinese goods and in a follow-up move, he went on to restrict Huawei Technologies’ access to the US market. 

He is not only impeding trade but he has opened another battlefront – this time, the focus is on technology. 

Yes, the Trump Executive Order on Huawei can be expected to negatively affect the ability of Chinese companies like Huawei and nearly 70 of their affiliates (and not forgetting ZTE) to remain up to date on US-sourced technologies that are key to full functionality. 

The idea to penalize Huawei is not so much a security concern as to stifle, if not choke back the tech company’s progress made with regard to the 5G network. After all, Huawei is seen as representing China. 

5G is expected to usher in an Internet revolution, since the peak rate of communication speed can be more than 10 times faster than that of a 4G network, making next-generation mobile communication technology fast enough for applications like AR, VR, the Internet of Things and smart driving. Meaning, 5G will be the backbone of the world economy. 

And, indisputably, China is already at the forefront of 5G technology – having taken accelerated steps to gain a lead in the race towards commercialization of this next-generation communication technology. 

In February, Huawei launched their full range of 5G end-to-end product solutions at the 2018 World Mobile World Congress; and two months later, China’s three major telecom operators, i.e. China Unicom, China Mobile and China Telecom, have won government approval to pilot 5G networks in multiple cities across the country. 

On April 23, the first 5G test network was launched in Chongqing, as another step towards 5G commercialization in China. 

Moreover, China is expected to release its first 5G mobile phone during the second half of 2019, said Wen Ku, director of the telecom development department at China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Susan Crawford (left), a professor at Harvard Law School and an expert in tech, public policy, and how they affect our lives, believes China will likely corner the 5G market (Wired, February 20, 2019).

As I see it, it is a massive mistake to push China into a corner. 

China will not be bullied. I can anticipate the country to multiply efforts to produce advanced technologies domestically. Either way, the US will lose out. 

As a negotiating strategy, the Huawei decision makes even less sense. US officials may have claimed it had nothing to do with stalled trade talks – but it certainly looks like Trump wants to use Huawei as leverage, just as he did last year with ZTE Corp. 

I don’t foresee Huawei to capitulate and China too will be more determined to stand firm. Sure, these Trump-initiated moves may slow down China – but believe me, there’s no stopping China. 

After all, economists at HSBC Holdings in 2018 projected China was on course to be the world’s biggest economy by 2030. The nation’s gross domestic product will stand at $26 trillion in 2030, while US GDP will rise to $25.2 trillion, according to the HSBC projection. 

Even the International Monetary Fund last year said China could become the world’s largest economy by 2030. 

China will be the force to be reckoned with, whether Trump likes it or not. There’s no doubt about it. It’s the US of A that must play catch-up.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Make Your Toilet Great Again

Amid the escalating trade war between the US and China, Donald Trump toilet brushes have exploded in popularity. Where else but in China! 

Chinese citizens are understood to be rushing to snap up the 20-yuan (£2) loo scrubbers as a way of showing their support for Beijing. They are popular on Taobao, the Chinese equivalent to eBay. 

One seller on Taobao is even chucking in a free roll of toilet paper with Trump's face on for those who buy the 'Trump' loo brushes. LOL!

Malaysian squash queen Nicol David got off to a good start at the 2019 British Open Tournament (May 20-26) in Hull, UK on Monday when the five-time British Open champion beat HK’s Ho Tze-Lok, 11-7, 11-5 and 13-11 in 32 minutes. 

The following day, world number three, Nour El Tayeb had the upper hand in the second round when she bested David 11-4, 11-7, 11-13 and 11-5 in 41 minutes. 

The 35-year-old showed glimpses of her brilliance and fighting spirit but it wasn’t enough. The British Open is her final outing. 

Likewise, in the first round, former world number five Low Wee Wern did well to dispose Fiona Moverley of England, 11-6, 11-3 and 11-6 – but in the second round, NZ’s Joelle King was simply too good, beating Low 11-6, 11-4 and 11-9. 

Never mind, what’s important is the never-say-die attitude. And both gals have loads of it.

Still, for David (left), her competitive squash-playing days may be over – but for Low (far left), there’s another day and another tournament to look forward to. 

Keep up the good fight!