Tuesday, January 10, 2017

let's talk about mental health

On the MTR, two men got into a huff because they were crammed into a packed train car and kept bumping into each other. There was a lot of yelling and gesturing but that was all. Outside of my neighborhood local, a drunk man tried to pick a fight with another drunk man and their friends stepped in to calm them down. I think about this a lot - that we experience annoyance and offense as frequently in Hong Kong as we do in the US, but somehow we manage to avoid going lethal with our conflicts. All too often, we hear about arguments escalating into physical confrontations or worse. We have police forces that arm themselves like Rambo but are so terrified of certain stereotypical people that they fall into shooting sprees at the slightest hint of discomfort. We have "stand your ground" laws that protect hair trigger gun owners for shooting anyone who they might possibly feel scared of, even unarmed, teenage boys that they chased down and tackled. Every day is another story on the news of another panicked or enraged American using their gun instead of their head. Couldn't you have stepped away? No, I must stand my ground.

I think that this very American attitude is troubling to the point where I wonder if it is a mental health issue. Surely we can't call people healthy if they have no ability to cope with conflict and are so indifferent to other humans as thinking, sentient beings that it is easy to dismiss their right to life? When did we become a society of sociopaths?

I'm not going deep into the gun ownership debate because I don't think it is really the problem though it is very much a symptom. I think that our failure to treat mental health is the bigger problem, however I don't think that we should be making it so easy to access guns if we aren't taking on mental health issues. I don't know how many more mass shootings we need before we start to take steps to provide better services to vulnerable and disturbed people. Almost everyone will need some help at some time in their lives. Everyone becomes sad, angry, stressed, etc. and we need ways to relieve pressure and work through it. We shouldn't stigmatize people who need help and I think that we have plenty of reasons why ignoring troubled people is a very bad idea.


My friend Stephen was all over the news this weekend. He was a very fortunate man whose Macbook and backpack absorbed a bullet at the Fort Lauderdale airport. He gave several interviews discussing his concerns regarding mental health awareness and treatment in the US. In the end, he was a five second sound bite. He is understandably disappointed about this, so I will use my little blog to tell the story for him. Below are his words.

"What has disappointed me the most:
After that Friday of Fridays, I agree to a Saturday 5:30am pick-up at my hotel to chat with Good Morning America and ABC News. While no compensation too place, the handler/booker insists on my story's exclusivity (which seemed to have indicated a comprehensive story to my naive self) -- and we drive around the airport aimlessly in circles, with the driver pretending not to know where to park (Bueller, maybe where the 50 media trucks are lined up?), clearly eating-up time so that the competitors have less of a window to talk to me after the sun comes up. Then we arrive after the fourth loop at the obvious media lot. I then sit in the car to wait my turn on camera for way too long -- the engine running and car beeping because the driver was outside talking with a co-worker. (Do you know what that kind of beeping might do to a nervous mind who didn't sleep the night previously? Edgar Allan Poe Tell-Tale Heart kinda head games. I had to turn the car off myself from the passenger side.) I tell my expected story, including how I want both justice for the victims and their families AND more attention for our country's mental health care protocol. Total air time for GMA: 5 seconds. All that stress, mental energy at dawn, and expectations of exclusivity for that? I was told that a lot of content needed to be included, so sorry. Didn't you know that before you asked me for 10 minutes of story-telling? Lesson learned. This is how the game is played. The cutting-room floor is gigantic.
So in advance of any additional media requests:
(1) Yes, you need me to talk about the laptop. I get it... And we MUST lean-in and talk about our country's mental health needs for 60% or more of the interview. I am 17-year counselor yet will always be the son of a Chief Master Sergeant. In this and many ways, I know how to hold a set of opposites in each hand.
- OR -
(2) Please leave me alone. My uncompensated and wasted time in your ratings pursuit is time that I'm not on the phone with my mom, boyfriend, coworkers, friends -- or trying to sleep."

Sunday, January 1, 2017

back in the saddle

I didn't post much of anything regarding the Brexit, Trump, etc., here or on social media, but the same couldn't be said for most everyone else and as a result, I spiraled into deep fatigue at the close of this year. I've had to self impose a media blackout. Even now as I'm typing, I'm out of anything substantive to say. Looking back on this year, there were many things to be joyful about. However, at this moment I feel the shadow of losing first SB's beloved aunt D, then her sister A. And then there is a lawsuit that is about to take place which will be fought to the bitter end, being more about carrying out the last wishes of both sisters than caring about any monetary success. How happy I am to have seen the last of 2016.

So Happy New Year, everyone. May 2017 bring gladder tidings than 2016.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


I haven't felt this miserable since SB and I broke up in 2008.

I spent lunch staring off into space. I feel the need to call up my girlfriends and have an ugly-face cry over some overpriced chocolate martinis that someone fooled us into thinking would be the best of both worlds but are in fact disgusting and will leave you feeling mildly nauseous as well as heartbroken.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday, my favorite things 02

(source: HKDR)
Peak to Fong
Hong Kong Dog Rescue's largest fund raiser of the year, the P2F walk is a long meander from the Peak to Lan Kwai Fong, where entertainment for two and four legged animals is set up for the day. Our furbabies were rescued by HKDR and did some time at the Tai Po kennels where the staff and volunteers cared for them while they waited for their forever homes. I wish that we could adopt all of the hundreds of dogs but SB would have me committed. So the next best thing is to support HKDR's fundraising events so that they can care for and hopefully re-home all of their furry residents.

Super Moons 
In October, November and December the full moons will be closer to the earth than any other time of the year. October's Super Moon, the Hunter's Moon, rose on the 16th. November's Beaver Moon on the 14th will be the largest full moon since the 20th century. December's Cold Moon on 14 December will be the last of the Super Moons. Plan your night hikes accordingly.

(Source: Reuters/Bobby Yip via IBTimes)
Typhoon Days
While an estimated HK$5 billion loss in business is not something to laugh at, I will admit to delight at waking up to a storm signal 8 on my Hong Kong Observatory phone app. My work site was already flooded earlier in the week and both pairs of work boots are probably still drying out. I was more than happy to not have to slosh around with wet feet for the day. I took full advantage of the unplanned day off by... soaking a pair of trainers while spending time outside with the dogs. There is a difference between wet feet at work and wet feet at play, I swear! There were very few people about so we sneaked into a playground for a run around, and then pranced to Tai Tam Reservoir to have a look at the water. SB and a friend went up Jardine's Lookout to experience the wind and get pelted by raindrops traveling at gale force; the only other people on the trail were a couple of shirtless Australian men who kept waving their arms and cheering. Having not made any preparations whatsoever, we were forced to make do with a dinner of frozen Thai entrees found in the 7-11 freezer. I laugh thinking of my previous life in Florida, where a hurricane warning would clear out the shelves of a supermarket. Here in Hong Kong, 7-11 will remain open to any event up to a nuclear holocaust.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Super Moon, Hunter's Moon

Last night the moon was a Super Moon, at its closest distance from Earth. It was also the Hunter's Moon, or blood moon. The Hunter’s Moon is named so from the North American First Nations and follows the Harvest Moon in October usually. You can find out more about it here and here.

SB and I thought, what could be more romantic than a night hike under the Hunter's Moon with our beloved furbabies, who happen to be extremely prey driven? We could watch the moon rise while cuddling on top of a peak while Tippy and Elsie plunged down the cliff face after wild animals, yipping and yelping and trampling about.

We had a lovely hike over Violet Hill from Parkview, and enjoyed the sunset as we sat on the steps on the other side of Violet Hill, where the wind rushes through a small valley. The valley has an abundance of tall grass that Tippy enjoys sliding down; she will flop onto her belly at the top of the hill and propel herself forward with her front paws until gravity takes over. Elsie likes to stand in front of us, facing the wind with her tongue lolling while globs of drool are carried by the breeze into SB and my faces.

The next couple of full moons will also be Super Moons (November is the Beaver Moon and December is the Cold Moon). November’s Beaver Moon will be the largest full moon since the 20th century, so another night hike is definitely planned.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday, my favorite things 01

Yesterday, while I was raving about the edX online education platform, I thought about other things that I am excited about and decided to share them. In not particular order, other things that I am loving at this moment in time:

Dr. Bronner's Sandalwood & Jasmine Pure Castille Soap
SB and I are regular users of the peppermint Castile soap, because it is safe for use when we are lake bathing in the Adirondack mountains. We had never seen the sandalwood & jasmine soap, and found out that it is only available in the Australia/Asia market. I will probably bring some back to the US on my next trip. The soap leaves a light scent of sandalwood on my skin. I can't really smell the jasmine, though, but that's just fine with me because I am a sandalwood fan. You can still supposedly buy Mysore (Santalum album) sandalwood soaps but Mysore is endangered so I assume this one is made from Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum), which is perfumistas look down on but I can't really tell the difference when smelling it in soap form. Even if I could, I prefer that no one in India is being murdered so that I smell nice. (On a side note, I own both Samsara and Santal 33 and enjoy both the classic Mysore sandalwood scent in Samsara as well as the sharper Australian sandalwood in Santal 33). You can buy Dr. Bronner products in several HK shops, including oGreen. If you purchase more than $500 in products, they will deliver for free. I went ahead and visited the store (Room 501D, 5 / F, Causeway Bay Commercial Building, 1-5 Sugar Street, Causeway Bay) because it is located right in the center of the Causeway Bay Indonesian restaurant cluster.

Cracker Peanuts and Homemade Snacks at Indo Market
The highlight of braving the pedestrian traffic in Causeway Bay is that I can treat myself to tasty snacks at the shops along Sugar Street. I love every single iteration of coconut, rice and banana leaves that has ever been invented. At Indo Mart (G/F, Lok Sing Centre, 19-31 Yee Wo Street) I cannot withstand the Nagasari that is sold near the register. I have a hard time deciding between whether it or Filipino suman (with taro!) is my favorite. I also can't resist buying cracker peanuts. They are an addictive snack, available in many flavors; I like the original and Adobo flavors while SB like the spicy flavor. They are sweet and satisfyingly crunchy.

Kecap Manis
My college roomate's mother always carried a bottle of Cholula hot sauce with her, which she liberally drizzled over just about everything that she ate. The Fijian player for my club's premiership team requested Tabasco sauce with almost every meal. The younger generation of hipsters like to hit up their meals with Sriracha. Then there is the ubiquitous brown sauce found in certain types of British eateries. I never understood how people could become obsessed over a condiment until I discovered kecap manis. It was an accidental purchase, as I was trying to buy sweet soy sauce for dim sum, but I opened the bottle to discover this treacly concoction instead. I use it to bastardize so many dishes from adding it to my hot chili oil wontons to drizzling it over soft boiled eggs to eat with kaya toast. I have also learned to cook new dishes from my searches for recipes that use kecap manis. SB calls me obsessed but I notice that he hasn't stopped eating.

More MTR stations on the way
Just look at the bustling F&B in Kennedy Town and Sai Ying Pun, and you can see the positive externalities that have resulted in the West Island Line Extension. On 23 October, the MTR Kwun Tong Line Extension's Ho Man Tin and Whampoa Stations will be opened, providing access to some older and historic neighborhoods. I hope that the improved access will revitalize the areas without driving the prices to the point that the immigrant community is adversely affected. I also hope that this is just the thing required to finally bring attention to underappreciated gems such as Ko Shan Theatre or Cattle Depot Artist Village down the road in Ma Tau Kok (which will be even more accessible once the Shatin to Central Link Ma Tau Wai station opens).