Putting up prizes for raffles at charity balls seems to tempt fate in a way nothing else can. Standard Chartered Bank officials must be reflecting on this sad reality after events at the weekend. The British Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai hosted its annual ball at Pudong's Holiday Inn hotel on Saturday night. The theme was 'A day at the races at Royal Ascot', giving the assembled business types plenty of opportunities to wear silly hats. But most of the action was in the big ball raffle at the end of the night. One of the main prizes was US$1,000 in traveller's cheques put up by Standard Chartered Bank. You can probably guess who hooked this catch: none other than a representative of Standard Chartered's biggest rival, HSBC Holdings. Much guffawing broke out in the Holiday Inn's ballroom when HSBC's man carried off the prize. Standard Chartered officials present put a brave face on the vagaries of destiny - smiling through gritted teeth and even shaking hands afterwards with the victorious HSBC banker. Some fly boys from the local aviation industry were intrigued by the timing of the mainland's revelation last weekend that its leading airlines had lost more than HK$1.5 billion in the first quarter. Is it more than coincidence that the announcement came just before US President Bill Clinton's visit, when Beijing was due to dole out the cash for lots of Boeing aircraft? You never know: but it is funny that news of the losses coincided with reports the mainland wants to buy less than half of the 50 aircraft many had tipped it to buy. Sounds like mainland aviation authorities are working themselves into a good position to negotiate low altitude pricing and blue-sky terms on Boeings they buy from the visiting Americans. At a time when financial shrinkage is the order of the day, it's nice to know one business grouping is keeping the inflationary flag flying. Taxi drivers have been getting the hang of coyly pulling out their new increased fare schedules when it's time for passengers to cough up. Most seem to have little problem with the principle of charging higher fares when many Hong Kongers are feeling the pinch. However, we should point to one noble exception to the general rule. A taxi driver encountered this weekend confessed to feeling awkward about charging more in the present climate, and insisted your correspondent pay only the amount on the meter. In very uncabbie-like fashion, he even refused a tip! We'll be interested to observe how many of his counterparts around town follow this shining example. As the woes of the Japanese financial scene continue to intensify, wags on the Internet have been making light of the whole situation. Reader Michael Brown came across a mock bulletin on the state of Japan's banks. 'Following last week's news that Origami Bank had folded, we hear Sumo Bank has gone belly up and Bonsai Bank plans to cut back some of its branches. Karaoke Bank is up for sale and, as expected, is going for a song.' It goes on: 'Meanwhile, shares in Kamikaze Bank have nose-dived and 500 back-office staff at Karate Bank got the chop. Analysts report there is something fishy going on at Sushi Bank - and employees there fear they may get a raw deal.' Our Netherlands spy tells us Amsterdam boasts its own little piece of Hong Kong: a replica of the Jumbo floating restaurant in Aberdeen. Apparently, the project ran into a small logistical problem when it was built. What some of those involved in the construction of the restaurant didn't allow for is the fact that with the closure of Amsterdam harbour from the North Sea, it is now a freshwater basin. Believe it or not, this makes a big difference. Freshwater has significantly less density than sea water and hence gives less buoyancy. It was planned that the restaurant seat about 1,200 diners - but there is sometimes a big difference between planning and reality. Because of the freshwater factor, the maximum amount of diners the establishment can take is said to be around the 800 mark. Amazing the difference a pinch of salt can make. As the World Cup approaches, TVB Pearl is continuing to enhance its reputation for muddled promotion of sporting events. As its coverage of the French Open men's tennis final was about to begin late on Sunday night, the station announcer told viewers to get ready for the 'delayed live coverage' of the match. Delayed and live? A case of suspended animation, perhaps?