Tuesday, September 23, 2014

walk this way

Now, this is something that China has gotten right:

Special pedestrian lanes for people using their mobile devices.

Source: Wall Street Journal, China

I especially enjoy the disclaimer to walk in this lane at your own risk.

I have lost count of how many times I have been trapped walking behind a couple of slow moving individuals who are watching movies or playing games. I even ran into one on a jogging path at the Happy Valley Recreation Ground last Saturday. He was not jogging.

If Hong Kong were to adopt such lanes, they should also include couples who hold hands and form impenetrable barriers while stumbling along in the thralls of their young love, and tourists with wheeled luggage. The tourists are a unique hazard because aside from bobbing along slowly in their caravan formations, they are also known to change direction without warning and then become indignant when their designer baggage risks damage from collision with your knee. Their special lane should be combined with the bus only lane.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

lunar letdown

We humans have evolved greatly, but the primordial connection to our environment has not changed much. What child is not fascinated by fire, water, wonders of nature, and the stars at night? As an architect and engineer, I have great enthusiasm for the built wonders of the world: the pyramids of Giza, Brunellschi's dome, the Empire State Building, London Bridge...the list goes on and on. But nothing can compare to the vast wonder of the universe above us, the ocean below us, or the landscape the that rises around us. I had a friend who vehemently stated that she hated nature; show her to Champs Elysee for the spring fashion clearances and she was in heaven. I questioned where her humanity went. We barely talk anymore. What's there to talk about when she shudders at the thought of the world beyond luxuries and I judge her for being materialistic.

SB has barely grown up from the boy that he once was so on a recent trip to Macau, he was delighted when I suggested that we stop by the Exhibition of China’s Lunar Exploration Programme. What is there not to love about machines engineered for extreme conditions and outer space? Well, as it turns out, there is a lot not to love. I've been to Cape Canaveral when the shuttle launch wass imminent and many of the visitor areas were restricted, but could still find plenty of wow to be experienced. I've been to Johnson Space Center when the lunar rover exhibit was shut down for renovations but the Gemini capsules provided plenty of consolation. I have been disappointed and recovered, but I have never been bored like I was at this exhibit.

In comparison to the materials that have been invented since the first moon missions when everything was hand sewn or welded and riveted, I am aware that our generation has come to expect a level of precision that wasn't achievable back then. I recall staring in shock at that humans actually volunteered to be placed in some of those early Gemini capsules and rocketed into space. However, there ain't no damn way that the Chinese lunar modules really looked like that, is there?

SB: less than impressed

I can only surmise that the person doing the reproductions of the Chinese lunar vehicles was given a very low budget...and spent half of it on liquor. Some of those explorer reproductions looked like they were fashioned out of baking foil and bicycle parts. I could have forgiven the shoddy craftsmanship at least a little bit if not for the utter lack of imagination of the exhibit. The exhibit went in chronological order, and read like an itemized checklist: once upon a time there was a moon and then we used an interferometer spectrometer imager and CCD stereo camera to take pictures of it, and then we used this lunar probe to go probing, and then zzzzzzzzz.

This stylized calligraphy poster was probably the highlight of the exhibit.

Since China landed on the moon in 2013, I have been waiting for a press release showing the updated map of China's strangely bloated territorial borders. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

very idiotic position

Having been nominated, unbeknownst to myself, for a chairman’s position in one of my industry related clubs, and voted in by a gaggle of gleeful committee members (after all, this will look good on my CV), I attended my first meeting in the larger organization. The meeting began on a Monday night at 6:30, which I had to send apologies for missing the beginning of since I had a meeting that would not end for another hour. By the time I was able to arrive, most of the important business had been covered and the rest of the scheduled meeting went on for an hour more. Then we got to the part of AOB and it all fell apart. The majority of chairmen from the other organizations felt the need to say something, or in a lot of cases, lots of somethings. Two more hours went by as issues were brought up, noted for future resolution, and then brought up again by another chairman. I was reminded of the story regarding blind men feeling up an elephant. In the end, I went home hungry and feeling vaguely violated.

I was assured by the previous chairman of our club that this meeting was probably abnormal, being the first of the season. So, you didn’t have this experience, I asked. *insert the sound of crickets chirping*

At meeting two, we were informed that various bodies representing various bodies wanted to make presentations to us as part of our going forward plans. I looked around and counted six unfamiliar faces. Six! Sure enough, each man had something important to say, illustrated by his PowerPoint, or in two cases, multiple PowerPoint presentations. Two and a half hours ticked by. At some point I felt a silent scream building. It became an audible moan when my foot tapping caused my toes to go numb, followed by the pain of tiny, stabbing pin pricks when feeling returned to them. My forward leaning posture as I attempted to regain feeling in my feet caused my butt to fall asleep next. At some point my folding chair started to resemble an iron maiden and it was all I could do to not writhe and flop like a dying fish. Not that anyone would have noticed, as most of the chairmen were sporting glazed, unseeing eyes. The man next to me seemed to be focused on the light fixture above our heads as though it would give divine inspiration. Or at least advice on how to end the torture.

Finally, the last important body had finished his illustrated speech and it was time to…get down to the meeting. Whaaaaat?! There was more?! And that, my friends, is where the story ends. Because I faked a Very Important phone call and ran off into the night. And the only thing that I’m ashamed of is that it took me so long to think up my escape plan.

Is it too early to resign my position?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

drizzle and fizzle

Last night and this morning's T8 was one of the sorriest storm warnings in memory, not that I am complaining. I was appreciative of my four hour reprieve from the office. I enjoyed answering emails from home with a pup licking my feet while the other was trying to help me type despite knowing that she isn't allowed on the sofa. SB is so mean; even his sister, the dog whisperer, lets her dog onto furniture but at our household I have to crawl onto the floor to get my cuddles. It's not like we're sitting on an original Chippendale, we own a simple Muji design in forgiving and sturdy wool. Anyway, it's a losing battle since the pups stage multiple invasion attempts over the course of a day.

We went for a walk last night when the T8 was hoisted and it was like a ghost town in the valley. The wind was the only thing moving out there. Around the racecourse I could see that the Jockey Club had attempted to batten down the hatches by tying plywood around siding and other finish work that risked being banged up if a tree branch hit. Whoever did the tie down job clearly failed the scout knot tying course and instead of creating a barrier, had created a series of soon to be flying missiles. Sure enough, on our morning walk we stepped over shards of plywood boards that were strewn all over the entrance area and as far as 150 meters away. By 10:00 am there was a disposal crew collecting the evidence.

On our way home I noticed pieces of a Valley rugby kit lying about on the street. From the size of it and the location near a certain second floor balcony, I surmised that B was missing the laundry that he had hung out. I wasn't in a hurry to touch it since I didn't know if it was hung clean or simply left out after training to dry so I didn't object when Elsie sniffed at the shorts and picked them up. I let her drag part of the sopping clothing back inside our building. I had to carry the jersey and socks since Tippy rejected my entreaty for her to help out. Ingrate.


“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”
 - Neil deGrasse Tyson

Thursday, September 11, 2014

beautiful people, skin deep

SB and I were invited to a friend's charity night party at a club in LKF. The theme was white (clothing, not people). When we arrived at the unfashionably early time of 10pm, the club was already packed due to the all you can drink for three hours limit. It's a good business model because the club can gain patronage for the earlier portion of the evening and then open its doors for regular business after midnight when most of the LKF patrons start migrating from cocktail lounges to dance clubs. As for the music, the DJ started out with a fantastic set that very quickly became mediocre. It was a disappointment.

The white party attendees were stunning, at least the female population. 80% of the women were wearing one of two outfits: lace micro-dresses with sky high heels or tiny, tiny shorts with sky high heels. The men in white called to mind fleet week. "Hey, sailors!" I called at the group who had elbowed me out of the way to the bar. Yeah, beautifully dresses people aren't necessary beautiful on the inside, even while drinking for charity.

In fact, at one point in the evening I felt myself being pushed as I made my was through the crowd to the dance floor. I turned around but the gorgeous blonde woman in a pair of white shorts and beaded top didn't seem to notice me so I attributed the push to be accidental. Then a few steps later, I felt it again. And again but this time hard enough for me to stumble in my own sky high heels. I whipped around to find the same blonde woman behind me and still averting her gaze. "Excuse me," I said loudly, "why are you shoving me?" She then looked at me as though she had just noticed that I was there in front of her and said, "Oh," Then she fell back and I was able to continue moving without her hands on my back. Later I pointed her out to SB as we watched her shove a tiny, Chinese woman on her way to the bar.

I hardly ever went to LKF and Wyndham Street anymore; as much as I used to enjoy frequenting beautifully designed bars and partaking in exotic cocktails, I grew to despise the clientele of bitchy, skinny women (I have a theory that their attitude is fueled by hunger pangs) or posturing, vain men. Case in point, I was chatting with a friend when a fellow banker colleague of his interrupted, stepping literally in between us before putting his arm around my friend and trying to walk him away while telling him that he wanted to introduce him to someone. My friend, a master of diplomacy, managed to politely disengage with the colleague and I managed to paste a pleasant smile on my face and hide what I really thought of Mr. Important Banker. My efforts were wasted because Mr. Important Banker didn't appear to notice my presence while standing directly between me and my friend. Despite his lack of stature, he managed to look over me when facing my direction.

Later in the evening SB and I dealt with a situation when a woman tried to climb up on the stage and fell. She sustained a very deep, nasty cut on her leg. No one else moved to assist her, not even the jerk men who had just a minute previously been dancing with her. The two of us escorted her and her wobbly friend to the door and made the friend promise to go straight to the hospital because the woman needed stitches. The woman kept dabbing at the huge cut with a tiny napkin and staring blankly at us. I eventually got her to stop fixating on the cut and she told me in a shaky voice that she was a model. "It's going to be okay," I assured her even though I had no idea what a scar would do to her career,"but you should go straight to the hospital so that they can close the wound as soon as possible." She finally seemed to comprehend what I was telling her and they left in a taxi.

One thing I will concede is that these (pretending to be) fabulous people raised a lot of money for charity. Every few minutes, a waitress was seen carrying a bottle of champagne with a lit sparkler in it to call attention to the big spender who had ordered it. Similarly, special trays of shots were leaving the bar as quickly as the bartender could pour them. In the end, the event was a massive success for the charity and SB and I enjoyed catching up with our friends surrounded by a sea of white lace and champagne bottle sparklers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

believe it

My first email of the morning after the Autumn Moon holiday was a missive to the new drainage engineer, named...Turkey.

"Snarf, cough cough," I said into my coffee mug.

I can only hope that this company next hires a Chicken to complement her, similar to the duo of building services engineers at another company named Dreammi and Liaison. 

By the way, did anyone see this magnificent harvest moon? SB and I saw it on Sunday night in its almost complete glory but our location at a low lying beach for Monday night meant that we mostly saw clouds. I guess it's another 17 years before we get another chance.

The Washington Post has published some lovely images here:
Grand finale: 2014′s third supermoon – the Harvest Moon – shines