Wednesday, February 3, 2016

more frightening

With the Zika virus afflicting Catholic nations, I wonder how long the church will put off weighing in. Before, the church's unflinching position regarding no abortion no matter the circumstances may have been disturbing to some but overall very few  people have been personally impacted by untenable pregnancies. Now, with an alarming number of women afflicted or in danger of becoming afflicted by the Zika virus, I wonder what Pope Francis will allow.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

frosted flakes

With the cold front coming into Hong Kong and blizzards affecting much of Eastern United States, there has been a resurgence in gloom and doom, apocalyptic predictions.

It has been suggested by my friend Hila, who is an amateur tribal healer and certified RN, that we should smear the fresh blood of a lamb across our doorposts so that the wave of low pressure passes over our household.

However, the best place to procure lamb's blood would be the Haiphong Street market in Kowloon, on the dark side. Treachery abounds. We are caught between Scylla and Charbydis.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

a francophile called Wanda

Last night SB and I joined a quiz night at Cafe Scientifique as last minute replacements for a couple of friends who had enjoyed their holiday party a bit too much the night before. The quiz questions were challenging but we managed to pull off third place with our motley assortment of non-scientists. It was the journalist in our group who blew me away with his breadth and depth of knowledge on almost every scientific category from geology to astronomy. After nine rounds of questions, our team was only six points behind the winning table of incumbent science professors. I surprised myself with my knowledge of plants and animals, which won our team a bottle of wine in the bonus round of Hong Kong flowers and fauna, sponsored by the Bauhinia Genome Project. You can read about them here.

Apparently some of the contestants at last year's quiz night complained that the questions did not include enough French information so the hosts bent over backward accommodating them and it didn't take us long to realize that if there was any doubt on an answer, to choose a French one. It was amusing that the French team finished thirty points behind us. Someone said that they missed the question about Jacques Cousteau. Merde!

One of the announcers, an Englishman of distinction, began by sprinkling his French knowledge into his questions, but hours later, likely aided by several glasses of wine, he lost all of his inhibitions and revealed himself to be a raging francophile, waxing on in increasingly flowery language about each minute detail of the quiz's Gallic questions. At some point as he was booming passionately about Fermat's last theorem, I suddenly was reminded a scene from A Fish Called Wanda, where Archie orated in Italian, then Russian, while Wanda writhed on the floor in ecstasy.

Due to veering well off course by the quiz master imparting bits of trivia on top of the actual trivia (fascinating as it was), as well as the ill fated decision by the hosts to allow a room full of know-it-alls the ability to challenge the answers for the price of a small charitable donation, the quiz lasted for almost four hours. SB and I had cereal for dinner at midnight and went to bed too tired to revel in our success. This evening I imagine that we will relive the agony and ecstasy of last night, and of course plot to join again next year. If nothing else, the events of last night have inspired me to resolve to actually read a science journal or two in the next year. After National Geographic became embarrassingly shallow, I lost that feeling of wonder and excitement but now it's back.

Monday, December 14, 2015

3245 years

While scrolling through the internet, I came across this one.

(Source: ViralFHD)

It gave me chills.

Taken in 1922, it is the seal to the door of King Tutankamon's tomb. It remained unbroken for 3245 years.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

if wishes were stampeding horses

There is a manager on another team that is, in my professional opinion, unhinged. The team that I am contracted to behaves well, even if they are not always well coordinated. A little bit of respect goes a long way, and I am often willing to go the extra mile for them. Every day we negotiate land mines, and I appreciate that we can work together to disarm the mines rather than pushing each other into them and running for cover. The manager on the other team has sacrificed so many of his team members that there is no one left to help him solve his problems, or at least take the hit for delays. Last week, one of his two remaining underlings submitted his notice. 

On Monday my manager informed me that the unhinged manager complained about me at the project meeting with the senior administration. Despite the fact that my team is on schedule, the other manager made the rather ridiculous claim that since he hadn't viewed any correspondence from me, I therefore must not be doing any work. Um, I don't work for him so why should I copy him on my work? 

The other manager calls his consultant into hours long meetings where he rants and raves. I have heard him making personal threats to the consultant, who is the third consultant hired this year. The consultant isn't concerned because the manager can't fire him without drawing attention to himself and his team's turnover rate. So now unhinged manager wants to target me, a consultant on a different team and overseen by another manager.

My manager is non-confrontational, to my dismay. He never takes on the other manager but maybe he has the right approach because the other manager can't engage him and is left to froth and foam by himself. Except now he is frothing and foaming too close to me. 

My manager just told me to give the other manager what he wants. Since he is complaining that I am not reporting to him (because I don't work for him!) then I should go ahead and copy the other guy on my tasks to show that I am working. At first I was upset that my manager was capitulating and throwing me into the line of fire but then I realized the brilliance of his capitulation. What unhinged manager wants, he gets. Every day I receive a dozen submissions, queries and proposals. My own manager isn't copied on my replies because it's my job to take care of these issues, but now I am copying everything to unhinged manager. Today he was copied on several discussions debating a dry battery sensor versus DC powered for the urinals. He also received a couple emails discussing why I think that the Highways Department's specifications for friction resistance on tiling is superior to the Housing Department's. By the end of today, he will know everything that I am doing. Everything. I am going to bury him in trivial data until his inbox explodes. And it will be no less than what he demanded.

Monday, November 23, 2015

domestic animal

This weekend marked the final nail in the coffin of our slow march into domesticity. We sold our couch, a gorgeously simple chrome framed piece with fine, herringbone wool fabric in warm brown and grey tones, to make room for a boxy Ikea model with a chaise type end piece that is very popular these days. We did so because of the change of lifestyle that we have experienced since becoming dog owners, which is akin to becoming parents. Our previous living room setup was carefully chosen by me to be stylish yet functional. The main feature was a beautiful Kazak Rug. All of the other furniture was simply designed but with complex textures such as the herringbone couch in neutral shades and the modern end tables of glass, teak and chrome.  I also had plants overflowing from every corner of the room.

Then we got dogs.

Dogs are curious creatures, so the plants were relocated to higher ground.
Dogs track in dirt, no matter how thoroughly you wipe down their paws at the front door. I wasn’t interested in joining those weird neighbors whose dogs wear shoes outdoors, so I bought a nice (though not comparable to Kazak), washable rug to lay in the living room.
Dogs shed. I got a slipcover for the couch.
Dogs are fun to be around so we stopped going out so often. After months of weeknights on the couch with the dogs, I realized that our comfortable couch was kind of small when piled with two adults and two medium sized canines. It also wasn’t so comfortable when you sat there with a dog on your lap for several hours. In fact, my butt fell asleep on more than one occasion.

The couch was the last holdout. I loved that couch. But I love my dogs more, so I finally sucked it up and posted an ad online. I received several replies within the hour (it was a nice couch) and it was gone by the time that I arrived home from work the next day, carted off by a not-so-young hipster. Two days later, a beige, boxy sofa was delivered. The dogs love the couch. We all watched football together on it. SB is happy and none of my body parts fell asleep. I looked out over our sofa kingdom last night, taking in the sea of beige, from the beige and brown rug littered with various sized chew toys, to the striped beige and green dog bed in the corner, to SB drinking his coffee with a beige and black hound at his feet on the chaise portion, and I realized that I was happy, also. And oh so beige.

Friday, November 20, 2015

I dreamed a dream

My alarm woke me up from my dream at the most inconvenient time, as I was about to feast on a delicious prime rib dinner, having consumed a salad that was very similar to an actual side salad that I ate at Stones in Tai Hang. Shortly before being rudely awakened (or at least shortly if dream time is similar to real time) I had a moment of clarity in my dream where I recognized it for what it was and thought to myself, please let me not wake up until after I eat this prime rib. Sigh.

I tried to fall back asleep but instead of returning to my dinner, my dream took me in an absurd direction. I was back at the company headquarters but thankfully I did not spend my dream time doing work as I have regularly before. I wish there was some sort of a brain filter to remove work related events from dreams because nothing is more depressing than waking up after a long day of work, only to realize that you haven't actually been to work yet. It's like working twice as much with no reward.

Anyway, there I was in the office when a former colleague strolled in with the new iPad Pro, only the one in the dream was bigger than any of the office monitors. I have yet to see the iPad Pro, but in the dream it was fantastic and had all sorts of meaningful features, none of which I can remember at this time or otherwise I would create the apps and become fantastically wealthy, because they were just that good in the dream. After oohing and ahhing at the massive tablet, we all broke into song and dance.

I have never seen an episode of Glee, but I don't live under a rock so I have heard of it. Two weeks ago SB and I attended a trivia night and ran into some friends with the Welsh Male Voice Choir, who had booked the venue after us. No one broke into song there, either. But in the dream, there was a lot of singing, and for once I was in tune. So it clearly was a dream.