GIVEN that Rupert Murdoch appears to be about to hit Hong Kong to spring-clean the larder at STAR TV, our eyes were attracted to the latest musings on the rise and rise of Richard Li. Li Ka-shing's favourite (perhaps ex-favourite) son made a prominent appearance in the influential Washington Post on Sunday. However, the paper was not doing another of its famous Watergate jobs on the house of Hutchison, but carrying a rather effusive portrait of the Li upstart. ''If only Richard Li would fall flat on his face - how Hong Kong would savour the spectacle,'' the profile began, before going on to insinuate that everyone was jealous of young Dick for having been given a TV company to play with at such a tender age. Li Junior's own words were few and far between, but our eyes nearly popped out of our head when we read what others were (unattributively) telling reporter Paul Blustein. Take this, for starters: ''Pompous little [expletive] - thinks he's God,'' said a ''British executive'' who had dealt with Richard on several occasions. ''A lot of people would like to see him fail.'' Before we could ever begin speculating whether the British executive in question recently resigned from the Li family's corporate fold, our eyes fell upon other notable quotes. ''He's got a massive chip on his shoulder the size of a railroad tie,'' said one STAR TV executive. ''Either he's going to be one of the great successes of 21st-century capitalism, or a colossal crash-and-burn cratering failure.'' Okay, you lot in the STAR TV suites, who was it? It certainly helps to be called only ''an industry veteran'' when you say things like this: ''Other than his father, nobody's told him 'no'. And his father has $8 billion. That creates a certain type of human being.'' Believe or not, young Dick comes out of the article quite well, despite the anonymous mud-slingers. So what was his secret at STAR TV for winning (a few) friends and influencing people? The Washington Post quotes Richard thus: ''Was it a tremendous pressure? Was it a sweatshop? Yes, it was. Absolutely. But that is what it takes to get it done.'' Think or swim WE have been planting moles in major companies around town, waiting for the day when the surrealists of the world revolt (we have nothing to lose but our lobsters). One of the team got in touch with us yesterday to tell us about that China Airlines flight which ended up sitting in Kowloon Bay. Now that the dust has settled, so to speak, we can tell you about the last moments of that ill-fated flight. Most people have heard about the so-called black-box flight recorder, but fewer people know about the GPWS - the Ground Proximity Warning System. A modern GPWS actually talks to the pilot and crew. The machines are not great conversationalists, having only a few stock phrases. They say things like ''too low'' and ''undercarriage is down'' and ''climb'', which they keep repeating until the crew does something about the situation. Our source told us that after the noise and confusion in the cockpit as the plane crashed there was a brief silence. Then the GPWS could be heard again, repeating its message over and over: ''Don't sink. Don't sink. Don't sink. Don't sink.'' Rich-ter scale MEASURING wealth is always a tricky business. In the UK, a huge report called Social Trends covers interesting items such as dishwashers per head, colour televisions per head and video recorders per head. It was demonstrated that video recorders had made the jump from ''luxury'' to ''necessity'' a few years ago, when burglars stopped stealing the machines. The dodgy-video market had become saturated, making it barely worth the effort of humping them down the stairs. In other places, Singapore for instance, trend analysts and economists study breakfast habits, apparently. But across the border in Malaysia, a different technique was once used. Professor Ungku Azis, vice-chancellor of the University of Malaya, calculated changing national individual wealth with the ''sarong index''. He worked out how many sarongs were owned by households. It made the task of working out how well you were doing compared with your neighbours easy. First schoolchild: ''My family had five sarongs on the washing line last week.'' Second schoolchild: ''But none of you went out that day.'' As Malaysia started to develop, a bicycle index was established. By now, they have probably taken a leaf out of Hong Kong's book and started measuring Rolls-Royces per capita. Discredit cards FAR from being a poetry-reading milk sop, Lai See is as likely to be found relaxing in the bar after a hard session on the playing field as the next column (although the only thing we have in common with the rugby teams of the Five Nations championship is the right to trial by jury). So step-Lai See was shattered by the caning that Scotland got at the hands of Wales at the weekend. And while having no wish to be thought a bad loser we have a single observation. There is no secret to the victory of the Welsh team. Any Welshman will be happy to tell you exactlyplease underline 'exactly' how it was done. Crystal balls IT'S head-on-the-block time for the entrail readers and tea-leaf watchers - the technical analysts. These are the guys who foretell the future from the past, using black magic, a ruler and complicated charts. How good are they? This Thursday we'll see, when Hong Kong's Technical Analysts Society meets up at the China Tee Club in Pedder Street to see what the stars foretell. The particular stars this year are: Philip Gray, chairman of the society and executive chairman of James Capel Asia; Chris Roberts of Lippo Securities; Graham Bibby, who writes the Bibby reports and is managing director of Richmond Asset Management; Y. K. Hui, who runs his own investment consultancy; and Stanley Kroll, the commodity guru from New York who is in Hong Kong looking at his version of fung shui. Each one has 15 minutes to give his views on this year's movements, including US dollar-mark, the Dow Jones, gold, the Nikkei 225 and the Hang Seng. They will also be listening to how well their predecessors did at the same event last year - and so will we. Tactical aid WE got given a difficult sum recently involving calculating compound interest. But despite being given the right equation by the Association of Banks, no less, we totally failed to get it right, possibly due to an algebraic failure. So we rang another banker pal who very quickly came back with the right answer. But the myth of bankers' arithmetic skills was exposed. They have a special calculator which punters never get to see. So do bond dealers. They have a special machine just for working out yield to maturity and other bond-dealer stuff. We are devastated. The only way we've been able to keep going on the miserable pittance doled out to us is the thought that it's all we deserve. Clever bankers deserve to be rich, because they studied hard at school instead of skiving off and smoking behind the bike shed, we thought. Still, as our friend demonstrated, at least bankers are honest. He admitted the secret machine straight off. He could easily have said it was mental arithmetic. Hon Ron RON Peeters of Bonham Road reckons he has found the ideal way to avoid US taxes - move to Mid-Levels. A missive reached Ron addressed to Bonham Rd, Hon Kong, Japan. Who was wishing to contact the Honourable Mr Kong, currently resident in Japan? Why, the Illinois Department of Revenue, of course. In that case, asks Ron, should I pay any tax? No, he replies to his own question, they will never be able to find me. But Ron, it looks like they did find you.