Wednesday, October 1, 2014

cancel everything

SB and I had nice plans for the long holiday but we've canceled them. There are more important matters to attend to, such as supporting our friends. We discussed what we felt comfortable doing. During the protest marches earlier in the year we were careful to be observers and not join the marches because we wanted it to be clear that these protests were by Hong Kong citizens. We were able to show our support by standing at the sidelines and bearing witness.

This time we are joining our friends to support them. SB and others have taken turns sitting with and delivering  nourishment to several friends. The weather is not ideal, ranging from sweltering heat to thunderstorms. A little moral support goes a long way.

I try not to think of the end and my own pessimism and feelings of futility. I am no longer young and idealistic, which is a sad thing. I wish for that young woman who thought that she could change the world. On the other hand, ten years ago I was advocating for another futile cause and today three of my former teammates are legally wed and raising families. In the words of Chuck Berry, you never can tell.

Monday, September 29, 2014

and it might be ironic

Reporters prevented from entering China to report bad news were stuck waiting for visas in Hong Kong. Bad news was reported.

Does anyone else have a contribution to share regarding the law of unintended consequences in action?

more things that make you go hmmm

After watching public reaction around the world to police forces using tear gas on peaceful protesters, even someone as admittedly politically ignorant as myself can manage to draw an obvious conclusion.

Don't deploy tear gas on peaceful protesters.

But someone even more politically idiotic than me did not arrive at the same conclusion. This person may have said to himself, "But this situation is completely different than what happened in (insert any of the multiple examples of what happened when police tear gassed students), because reasons."

And so the police fired off tear gas at the protesters to rather obvious results. Other people heard about it and became offended. Offended people poured into the city to join the protesters. More police were deployed. More people became offended.

Really, why did anyone think that the results would be any different?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Occupy Central

Unless you are here, it is difficult to imagine what thousands of protesters look like, and we are nowhere near the epicenter. That area has been blocked off for a while. People trying to join the protests were queued up peacefully at side streets, highway crossings, and backed up on the stairs of Admiralty station.

This is one of our less impressive pictures but we didn't want to upload any that showed faces. At this point in the day people started entering the highway in attempts to reach the protest. They want choice. They want the freedoms that were promised.  They want to be heard.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


A few years ago I listened to a discussion regarding the exciting and sweeping changes to history textbooks that were being put into practice by the Texas Board of Education. It was exciting as in got my blood pressure to rise to literally dizzying heights. The new curriculum presented a revisionist version of the founding of the United States that purported her to be created as a distinctly Christian nation "chosen by God as a beacon to the world." As Thomas Jefferson's historical papers clearly showed him to strongly advocate for clear separation between church and state, the Texas Board of Education sidelined him in the history books. Ditto Ben Franklin (in fact, he's a bad man and burning in hell with Plato). I can't quite form a well structured response right now because dozens, literally dozens, of thoughts are banging around my brain, scrambling over each other to be heard over the clamor of other thoughts. So this is what a teeming brain feels like.

The school board that oversees Denver made the news today after teachers staged a sick in and shut down two high schools, followed by students walking out and protesting the board's plans ensure that materials "promote citizenship, patriotism...benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority..." and don't "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law." And now I will take a deep breath before one of the louder thoughts slips out of my brain and I lose my argument through Godwin's Law.

Back when I was a bubbly, young student, I wrote an essay, probably the only good essay I ever wrote, which was why my professor subsequently stole it and published it under his own name. This is why you don't sleep with your professors, people. Anyway, that's another story. The essay came about after much introspection in the wake of 9/11. In almost all of the conversations that I had with fellow students, professors and friends, I noticed that Americans held some very out of date positions which contributed to our shock and disbelief. We believed in black and white, good and bad. Life was easy in the days of the Soviet Union because the world was comfortably divided into them and us. We struggled with the emerging multinational, poly-ethnic world where there was no good or bad, but gray tones everywhere. We still struggle with political complexity.

The Bible is the good book so we want it to always be true. The Constitution is part of the foundation of our great nation. These two are not allowed to be exceptional in our purview so the Texas and Denver school boards are attempting to reconcile the difference by making some tweaks to the history books. There will be a lot of bending and tweaking to frame the Bible as the driver behind principles of free will and self government but in the long run it will make us more comfortable to have God and the United States comfortably on the good side rather than our heads exploding over any dichotomies. I look forward to discovering how these issues are resolved.

Similarly, there is too much critical thinking involved in understanding how one can be a patriot and also criticize perceived injustices by our great nation so criticism is to be removed. We can't have our young and easily influenced children hearing anything negative about our country because it will lead to civil disobedience and next thing you know they will be writing a Declaration of Independence and speaking in the tongues of the beast.  

We should take exception to all these bad things being taught in our American history books and I am happy to support efforts to suppress bad thoughts about our good country. I, for one, will be relived to finally open up a history book the justifies my country in all ways, under God. I look forward to hearing about how the Vietnam war was a bad dream, how the trail of tears was really happy tears, and how Martin Luther King lived to the age of 90 and anyone who says otherwise hates America. USA! USA!

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.