Friday, December 31, 2010

in the new year..

I am going to have a list of new year resolutions.  I don't know what they will be yet, but I am working on them.  I don't think that I have made any resolutions since I was thirteen.  How I wish that I had that list to crib from.  I bet that the list from the viewpoint of a thirteen year old is probably more interesting.

I wanted to make some resolutions this year because there are things in my life that I need to get done.  Oh, I will probably still continue to fly by the seat of my pants for most aspects of my life- I have had too many good adventures not to- but I have some goals now.  That's right, goals.  I need to figure out what I am saving money for, other than old age.  Do I want a home?  Do I want a dog?  Things?  I want to know what I should start working on this year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

one book at a time

I have not hope of bringing my actual library here from Ithaca.  There isn't enough room for all my books in our larger-than-the-old-shoebox-home.  I brought a few favorite architectural books but the rest are out of reach.  Or they were until the Kindle entered into my life.  I am bringing out my books one purchase at a time. 

I am a big fan of the Kindle.  Once you accept its limitations (architectural books and other designed paper works of art) it more than compensates with its own special features. It is easier to hold than a hardcover or even a paperback and also much smaller and lighter.  Since November I have amassed close to 100 books as well as PDFs that I have been sending to myself.

I would say that the Kindle is near perfect except for this one problem I just noticed: even with bookmarks it is difficult for nonlinear reading.  Five words shall explain what I mean:  The Sound and the Fury. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

the sun also rises

For the first time in my life I stumbled out of a bar in Wanchai to full sunlight.  It was also the first time for me to enter the fabled establishments of the Bridge and Old China Hand.  What have I become?

I will blame SB for this even though he is on the other side of the planet.  It was his phone call that sent me over the edge. I worked over most of the holiday for the grinch while he was drinking eggnog in flannel pants with his niece and nephews and watching snow fall all around him.  I was going to miss the festivities altogether knowing that they would be rather blue over here in overtime-land but something inside of me just snapped and I decided that I needed a good cheering up.

By 10pm I was outside of Carnage with my dear co-conspirator, T and a lively band of rugby players.  From there the evening took a turn into another dimension.  Aided by the warm glow of cider our merry band began to grow.  People came and went.  T disappeared with a holiday present that had presented herself to us but was replaced by J, who I had really not talked to until that evening.  J turned out to have good humor because I more than once exclaimed to him that I was shocked at his intelligence.  I am cringing right now just thinking of what an ass I was.  "Yes, I'm an intelligent c*nt," he kept assuring me.  Turns out that this hulking, professional rugby player is also a Jazz musician.  Such a cultured c*nt to boot! (More cringing by me)

Then we were joined by A, who used to date J, and instead of fireworks they were very pleasant to each other.  Even as he left with a woman who looked straight out of one of those devil-metal rock videos.  I practically expected her to have a forked tongue.  Fascinating, was all I could keep repeating as this woman who had met all of us just five minutes previously revealed where three of her piercings and two tattoos were located.  She stopped traffic.  A probably wasn't too upset at this because she was now wrapped around a total stranger, except that he wasn't.  He was B, a fellow ice hockey player of SB who had come over to say hello to me and ended up against the side of the wall with a woman almost as tall as him.  Sorry for all the initials but I have to maintain some privacy for these individuals.

Somewhere along the way we ended up at Dusk til Dawn having added an actor and two other women to the group.  This is the only bad part of the night.  I paid for a beer with $500 and the change never came back.  I asked my waitress for it and she said she would be right back and then that was the last I saw of her for the rest of the time we were there.  I guess she was hoping that I was too drunk to remember.  As we left the bar I found her and told her to enjoy her Christmas present.  I will not be spending any money at Dusk til Dawn again.  This is the first time it has happened to me but some of the other rugby boys have told me that the waitresses there steal, but only after 2am.

But back to the story.  I figured that it was sufficiently late so that I could see what the Bridge was all about. It was...sketchy.  Nice waitstaff, friendly people, but all the patrons looked like desperate, single people trying desperately to find other desperate, single people to grab a hold of before the night ended.  I figured a few drinks would make this spectacle go away but they did not so on to Old China Hand we went.  I think there were only five other people in the whole bar so our group more than double their numbers.  We ordered several rounds of shots and the waitress/bartender was very accommodating to our large group.  At this point I was feeling no pain.  I was also feeling very benevolent because she absolutely could have taken advantage of me but didn't so she got a tip to match the one that the other girl stole.  And then I threw open the doors to bright sunlight, gasped in horror, and scampered home.

A very merry Christmas to you all!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

You know you are in Cornell when...

Taken from the comments section in an Ithacan newspaper:

There are two tragedies here, although not of equal magnitude. The big tragedy is that someone lost their life through violence. Another tragedy is this sentence:

"Upon police officers arrival, a male subject was located in a parking lot deceased."

I'm sure the Ithaca Journal reporter took this from the police report, but that's no excuse. Police officers aren't paid to write coherent sentences, reporters are.  Besides, if it's a direct quote, where is the attribution?

Ah Ithaca, how I miss your heady mix of elitism and social retardation.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Really happy? Really?

I took this time off from blogging to really, really think about things.  What things?  Well, stuff.  Sometimes other stuff that happens seeps into my bouncy castle of a life and deflates it.  I have been unhappy with the world lately- not in that angsty, teenage goth kind of way but in a similar fashion. 

I am unhappy with America; I am specifically unhappy with the United States.  I am a patriot.  I believe in imaginary things like nationalism.  I have t-shirts with the American flag.  I get teary on memorial day when I am reminded that freedom isn't free.  And lately as an American I am furious.

I telephoned my dear friend, Cousin Ian, because I knew that he could give me hope.  He is a wonderful man.  He works at Cornell by day and by night is a trustee for a credit union that serves those who are under-served by other financial institutions, especially low income, minorities, women, and non-profits. He is a community activist and mentor.  He is a bright light, twinkling in the darkness for me. 

Last week, the light went out.  As I was explaining my frustrations with our country's policies and socioeconomic positions he gently broke it to me that he was not going to tell me how to make it better.  "You know C," he said (he has almost from the beginning of our friendship referred to me by a letter), "maybe you should be happy with where we're going." 

Say what?! 

He was much more eloquent about it but I shall try to paraphrase his point.  Maybe this will be a good thing.  Maybe what I am experiencing is the fall of our civilization.  Cousin Ian wondered what it must have been like for citizens of Rome when it "fell" or when Britain started to lose it's colonial dominance.  He figured that it must have been something like what we are experiencing now- apathy, idiocy, decline.  When we take a hard look at our country we see people like Sarah Palin on every news channel, snidely referring to Obama as "the professor," as though being intelligent was a dirty thing (yes, yes, I can hear the ivory tower argument) or misappropriating the feminist movement so that it is no longer about equality for all but about voting for women no matter what these women actually stand for even if they are handmaidens of hegemony.  I see Sarah Palin waving her rifle on television and making statements that underscore her ignorance of the constitution as well as ignorance of common sense.  I see our politicians approving tax cuts that we will NEVER be able to pay back, which will add $700 billion to the federal deficit, which economists of right and left wing factions have all come out to say is madness.  I see our countrymen making decisions based on emotion and hysteria. 

But Ian says that it is all a good thing.  He is tired of fighting and suggests that the fall of the United States is for the better.  We have been the superpower for too long.  In all these years of policeman to the world and defender of democracy we have destroyed nations, obliterated governments and become reviled by the people who we are claiming to be helping.  Plants and animals disappear to feed us and let's not even begin to talk about what our petroleum lust has done to the world.  In the past few years we have weathered great economic collapses and wars that have become increasingly costly over greater amounts of time.

With Sarah Palin and American hysteria, Ian figures that our demise is imminent.  He thinks that I should relax and let it happen because we aren't any good at being a superpower anyway.  Let someone else take up the mantle.  He is doing his part but not fighting anymore.  He is stepping up his community involvement and tells me that his friends have also stepped back from politics and are focusing their efforts on making their community more sustainable to weather the eventual national level collapse.  And yes, he has read "Atlas Shrugged" and no, he doesn't think it relates.  He isn't going to be waiting on his roof for the end of the world, either, but he has given up trying to stop what he feels is inevitable.  He is more relaxed now that he doesn't care and wants me to feel the freedom from burden of being an American. He looks forward to the time when we will rebuild.  "C," he tells me, "Be happy; it is a good thing."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

things that make you lose your mind

I have been laying low these past few days.  I started a few posts but couldn't finish them because I was about to blow a fuse each time.

SB is going home for three weeks for Christmas but I will not be joining him because I have to work.  I was not aware that I was being placed on the project that is keeping me in Hong Kong for the holidays until I asked for leave.  The person who denied my leave is the same person who denied it last year, who informed me that he was just about to tell me about the new project when I submitted my leave application.  He justified this by stating that he couldn't go on leave either.  But he went on leave last year while I had to work for him.  And that is all that I will say because otherwise I will lose it.

SB and I decided that this vacation would be a good time for him to get to know my family before becoming formally engaged.  Remember fifteen months ago when he told me that he wanted to marry me?  Yeah, I have almost forgotten also.  It kind of fell to the back burner after I lost my uncle and then we got overwhelmed thinking about the logistics of planning a wedding from Hong Kong for very dispersed families who have yet to meet.  He thought that maybe he could tell his family over the holidays but I think our families should find out together..after they finally meet him.

I have also been reading about how the Republicans and Democrats are spatting like a group of spoiled, bratty children.  The Republicans are blocking any and all bills so that the Democrats and Obama will look bad for not getting anything done this year.  This means that Don't Ask Don't Tell will probably not be repealed.  This means that needy children will not be getting more nutritious meals.  This means that tax cuts may not be extended and unemployment payments will end.  I strongly despise all politicians at this moment.

I strongly despise a lot of things right now.  And so rather than sharing any more grinchiness I will just lay low and sulk in the dark corners of my bedroom until SB ruins my sulking by doing something adorable. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

the break

Do you remember the dark ages before the world wide web?   I do.  I remember distinctly the first few times that I tried e-mail.  I used Netscape Navigator and wrote like I was composing a formal letter.  I did not yet grasp the concept of the immediate, cheap connection to anyone at any place.  Now I have a better understanding of how easy it is to reach out and touch someone.  There aren't any doors to formally knock on and introduce yourself- people can just appear into your cyberworld without warning.  I see a lot to gain from inter-connectivity.  Thanks to the web I was able to contact the actual sources of information when I was writing my thesis.  Thanks to the web I made some friends before I moved to Italy.  Thanks to the web our family was able to finally diagnose my father's autoimmune condition. 

I spent a long time living in a happy bubble of anonymous familiarity until I eventually was treated to the other side of internet life.  As easily as I can reach out to someone, it is just as easy for someone to reach out to me.

That familiarity that we have with our internet community can sometimes expose us in ways that we didn't think about.  I used to have a blog previous to this one.  I used my real name.  Why not when the only people who read it were my friends?  Eventually I started receiving comments from people who I didn't know and was pleasantly surprised that strangers related to me and possibly even enjoyed my stories.  I was getting such positive feedback that I continued to share.  Then one day it happened- a snarky comment.  Not just a snarky comment, but a comment that cut deeply because it was a very personal attack.  It was an attack of me that was armed by my own words. It attacked something fairly intimate about my life which I had initially shared with others with a belief that my respect for my readers would be reflected back.  After walking around with a lump in my throat for a few days I shut down the blog.  I had very quickly learned that everything I put out into the world does come back with magnitude and the return shot is not always pleasant.

In the past two months I have had two of the blogs on my blogroll go inactive after the bloggers decided that they weren't so keen on receiving abuse.  One the the bloggers is a dear friend and so I can still participate in her life and the other is a woman who I have never met and probably never will.  I hope that they both come back because I have enjoyed participating in their virtual lives.    I also have thought about the pros and cons of putting yourself out there and in my case I came back because I discovered that I enjoyed the interaction with others.  Since most of my readers do not know me in my "real" life I find a kind of honesty in feedback that I don't always get in the real world.  I also get a different community that stays together based on mutual interest rather than some of the associations that are used in the real world.  I think there is more choice out there.

That being said, I would seriously warn anyone who is beginning to blog about exposure.  The more you expose, the more you can gain from others feeding back, but you are  All of my personal attacks have come from anonymous readers who take advantage of their protected identity while becoming rather intrusive with me.  These are readers who can get as close as my posts will allow them. Along with being anonymous they have one other characteristic in common.  The attacks say more about them than they do about me.  I will give two examples:

"I feel sorry for your husband; you are a bitch and he will leave you."  I have taken the liberty to correct the grammar from the poster, who writes at a much lower grade level.  Poster is not feeling sorry for SB.  Poster is feeling sorry for herself/himself and she/he is probably single.  I imagine the poster is wondering why I get a mate and she/he is so much "nicer" but is alone.  Because you are probably not so nice, honey.  Read your message to me and think about it.  I would defend my bitchiness but I am too busy being loved up.

"Haha, you have a big nose.  How does he kiss you with such a shnoz? are not an interesting writer."  This was one of the posts that caused me to close my original blog.  I won't include the more personal attacks because they were much more fact, so personal that the anonymous poster outed herself as the woman who SB broke up with three years before I even met him, who was so disinterested in me that she ran a search of my name online and stalked my posts.  I would defend my nose but there are enough pictures of me for you to judge.  Yes, I broke it playing rugby but that would make it crooked, not big.

The internet, just like the real world, has bullies who hide in the back of the classroom and attack others in calculated and very personal attacks.  Unlike that bully in the classroom who you will eventually chase out of the room when you freaking snap, these internet fiends are able to stay hidden.  Of course I wonder how satisfying it is for them when they cannot measure a reaction.  When I shut down the first blog, my non-anonymous poster stepped up an anonymous e-mail campaign but after she got no response she eventually deflated and slithered away.  And I am still busy being loved up.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

things that make you go hmm

It is interesting that I had forgotten all about these salacious memories until tonight.  I was catching up on one of my favorite feminist websites and it had a discussion about the world's oldest profession.  Some second wave and third wave feminists were arguing on whether a so called feminist prostitute blogger was empowered, subversive or objectified.  Frankly, I haven't asked myself if prostitution is feminist or not so I don't have an immediate opinion.  Let's see...working outside of the traditional convention: check; self deterministic: if there isn't a pimp involved, I guess; empowered: ummm...?

So I surfed over to one of the blogs listed and gave it a bit of a read.  The author called herself a feminist but I wasn't sold.  She didn't seem to be too concerned with gender equality.  In fact, her only concerns seemed to be related to money and the designer clothing that she bought with her money.  And so I kept reading (for research purposes).

In one of her entries, the call girl recalled a meet and greet function for "providers" and "hobbyists" that took place in a hotel lounge.  Suddenly I remembered something.

When I was 19 years old I worked in a four star hotel.  I worked in the back of house organizing banquets and events.  Once each month the penthouse of the hotel was reserved for a meeting for the higher ranking members of a charitable organization which shall remain nameless.  I would set up the penthouse for a dinner followed by an informal meeting (a bar was set up in the corner).  Then I would leave, never to be invited back.  This was unusual because usually as the coordinator I was expected to stick around to take care of any requests but for this group, only male staff were admitted into the penthouse once the meeting was underway.  I never really thought to much about it because the members were all aged men who were affiliated with a religion and I assumed that the male only service requirement was related to some sort of traditional (hegemonic), medieval belief.

One day though, my friend JR couldn't help himself and let me in on the truth.  He grabbed me and dragged me from the back of house to the hotel lobby so that I could witness a troop of women enter the lobby.  "Holy crap, are those prostitutes?" I whispered in shock.  I had never seen any bonafide prostitutes up close before.  They actually looked just like the stereotype: tacky makeup, big hair and cheap little, itty bitty dresses with "hooker" heels.

That's when JR informed me that the hookers showed up every month and went to the penthouse where the high ranking members of the charitable organization were meeting.  I couldn't believe that a sexist big mouth like my coworker Gustavo would resist the urge to share this with me because he loved making me uncomfortable at work but JR sheepishly told me that the men who worked the shift were tipped big.  Really big.  And since they wanted to continue receiving big tips they kept their mouths shut, even Gustavo.  JR also revealed that another perk of working the event was that there was always porn on the televisions after the meeting had cleared out so the guys would stay up there to drink from the bar and catch up on the maneuverings of Misty Flatback or whoever. 

After that, when I saw the high ranking members of the charitable organization handing out candy in the Riverwalk Parade I would cringe.  Kids, you don't know where that hand has been.

I hope that SB never wants to join the upper ranks of a male only, charitable organization.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

the middle ground

I had another long day today and have been sitting on the couch, drinking a glass of wine and decompressing in blessed silence.  SB poured me the wine even though he can't drink it because he is allergic to red wine.  He is bumbling around the flat with my i-pod because he is trying to give me quiet time.  Sometimes it is the small things that reawaken all of my feelings of love.  Thank you SB for knowing what I need.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

passive aggressive internal dialogue

I worked overnight on Wednesday so SB had to fend for himself.  85% of the time this means that he cooks himself a package of refrigerated tortellini in a soup of chicken stock.  I was able to ascertain what he had for dinner because the bowl was sitting on the dining table when I returned home.  On Thursday night I washed out the pot that he had cooked dinner in and proceeded with the evening's fare.  As I set the table I saw his bowl, spoon and drinking glass on the table but left it for him to pick up.  We had dinner with an extra setting of dirty dishes to the side.  I cleared the table, except for his dirty dishes from Wednesday night.  Last night the dishes remained while we ate curry.  "Hey look, it's your dishes from Wednesday," I pointed out helpfully.

It is now Saturday afternoon and we have finished lunch with our extra place setting.  I feel like if we continue to have an extra dinner companion we should give him a name.  Or he could wash the damn dishes.  I have debated with myself over just cleaning them up but now I am holding out based on principle, whatever that may be.  My internal voice tells me to just suck it up but I want to hold out this time even if it is much more difficult to force him to clean up after himself.

internal voice: just pick up the dishes. 
me: no, he needs to wash them.

internal voice: but you always wash the dishes
me: exactly, but the least he can do is clear the table
internal voice: he doesn't care and he won't remember
me: yes he will.
internal voice: how many times have you told him to clear his dishes
me: *sigh*

I don't get it.  We are feminists.  How did I end up doing the majority of the housework?  What happened to all the equality that both of us believe strongly in?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

cultural norms for the fat bottomed girls

While perusing Iva Skoch's Wanderlust section for the Global Post my gaze was drawn to a mural that was painted in Tanzania as a pictorial sexual education service announcement.  Rather than words or photographs, the murals have caught on with the public as an effective way to relate sexual health to the general public.  The picture I liked the most was this one:

“The one where the guy is staring at the girl with the big butt,” she says and stretches her arms three feet wide. The mural shows a couple walking down the street with the man turned around to check out another woman who is noticeably more gifted from behind. The sign above them says, roughly translated from Swahili: “Be happy with what you’ve got.”
I am tickled with how perceptions of beauty vary greatly among different cultures.  And I am contemplating a move to Tanzania.  
In defense of western culture, my bubble butt has garnered its share of unsolicited praise over the years throughout my time in the US and Italy.  I have no idea what the HK people think probably because I am no longer a single gal in my 20's and taking photographs of my posterior is frowned upon in more mature social groups.

Monday, November 1, 2010

fun for the familiy

We have a little family of two people but looks can be deceiving.  Depending on the day, time and place I may be living with a 5 year old, 14 year old, 38 year old or a 72 year old man.  It is one of the joyful/painful realities of living with someone with ADD.  I sometimes am worn out and beg for a break.  I sometimes send him off on his own so that I can clean up the home that he has destroyed or just so that I can be somewhere quiet where I don't hear him asking me to find things for him (that he will then leave lying around) or playing music, chatting on the computer and watching a movie all at once.

Most of the time I enjoy our adventures.  For the most part, ADD boy and hyperactive girl work out very well together.  We play a lot.  We hatch schemes and go out on missions together.  And he is so darn adorable with his goofy, gap toothed grin and crinkly hazel eyes that hold so much laughter.  I have a hard time saying no to him. 

Which is how I ended up with a ghillie suit in the closet.

Or how I woke up with cold feet one morning

 And then there was that time when he wore his hockey jersey to bed

 On Friday night as we were buying groceries he came bounding over to me like a happy Tigger, his ears a-twitching and eyes a-crinkling.

Me: Yes?
SB: (bounce, bounce, bounce)
Me: Honey, is there something you want me to buy?
SB: Can we have a pumpkin?

He picked out a monster; I bought the smallest one I could find that was still feasible for carving.  I still have nightmares over the Christmas tree that took up half of the floor space of our previous flat and shed bucket loads of sharp, little needles.  I have a fragrant smelling pillow that I made out of the needles that I picked up every day for 1 1/2 months while he falalaed away.

I sketched out a few designs for him and we settled on one that worked well for the size.  Then I had to set up a LOT of newspaper for him on our nice rug because he said that his mother used to carve the pumpkins indoors when he was a child.  Hmmm.  Then he plopped down and began his handiwork. 

I think that he did a great job.  I wouldn't let him save the seeds for me to roast.  I don't have the time to clean them and roast them right now, and from experience, those pumpkin seeds do not yield much food.  Last night he placed a tea light inside and then raced downstairs.  He called me from the street to complain that he couldn't see the face very clearly from the street.  He still isn't getting a bigger pumpkin.  I don't have enough newspaper.

So handsome

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

how do you live with yourself?

Once in a while I need to reaffirm my purpose in life, or at least the purpose of my career in life.  Maybe it's because I don't want children so I can't count on someone else continuing to validate my existence or finish my work.  There are days when I feel like I am actually doing something that makes a blip of difference to someone else's existence and other times I feel like I am running in a hamster wheel, basically just taking up valuable space and oxygen.  I wonder what would happen if some authority began running an audit on how much oxygen one should be allowed based on their contribution to existence.

I am fortunate in many ways because on the career front I have actual tangible results for my efforts that can be measured.  My job is nowhere near perfect and I have many days when I arrive home late at night, exhausted and frustrated from spinning my wheels.  I also have days when I am energized and excited that I can contribute something positive to the built environment.  I would say that my work can be divided into three categories:
  1. Wow, I am doing something useful and beautiful that will hopefully benefit someone: my swimming pool project makes me feel this way.  It is being built on a brownfield site so no wilderness was cut down, it is going to achieve at least a gold BEAM rating (hopefully platinum), it provides a service to the community and it is attractive in appearance;
  2. Well, this is the best of the situation: I am working on a ridiculously expensive residential tower on a new site but if we didn't provide the building someone else would have.  What we have done is ensured minimum adverse environmental impact (no podium and smallest footprint achievable), platinum BEAM rating and it looks really, really nice and blends into the hillside.
  3. This really sucks and I hate my life and hate my job: I began working on a project that seemed perfect as it was closely related to both of my graduate degrees as well as similar to my thesis topic but the problem was that I was uninterested in master planning for a site that had great ecological and heritage value.  Yes, someone would have developed it anyway, but I was appalled.  I only got as far as setting up a framework of what to consider for a viable, new community but then begged off from the project and irritated my boss.  At least I can sleep with myself.
In the end, someone will live with what I have done and I hope that I can live with it also.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

tolerance comes in all forms

I had an interesting discussion this weekend with a fellow American in regard to my two adopted homes in the United States - College Station, Texas and Ithaca, New York.   The person who I was talking to hailed from Chicago so he had limited experience in either state but that didn't stop him from forming strong opinions.  His daughter was a couple of years from high school graduation and we were discussing my two universities (actually I went to three but who's counting).  He was very interested in Cornell but not so much in Texas A&M.  That did not surprise me.  One is an Ivy and the other is a massive state school with a very strong military presence and he was obviously and proudly an elitist.  Well, so am I in a lot of ways. 

I tried to give him the facts as I knew them about both schools and answer his queries as honestly as I could but eventually I felt the need to correct him on a few of his assumptions.  He correctly assumed that Texas is a much more conservative state than New York and that Texas A&M is a conservative university while Cornell like all of the Ivies is liberal; but then he commented that I must have been very relieved to get out of Texas when I went to Cornell.  Actually, no.  Cornell presented a whole new set of problems.

At Texas A&M I was treated to my fair share of conservative rhetoric.  There were things that frustrated me such as the protests against affirmative action or the huge presence of religious organizations that exerted a great deal of influence on the students.  On the other hand, when I realized that I was being proselytized I was able to have a mature conversation with my would-be saviors about how I was uncomfortable with having those discussions in the classroom.  This ended up being a very useful conversation for them because once I sensed that they were listening and not being defensive I also kindly pointed out that United States common law recognized that there was a difference between them approaching me in the quad where I could walk away if I chose and them approaching me in a classroom where I could not necessarily walk away.  One of my classmates later told me that he actually looked up the Bill of Rights after our conversation.  In my opinion, this was very tolerant behavior even if the beliefs were not as tolerant. 

In Cornell I was in for a shock.  Some of my shock was due to my own assumptions of what it would be like to finally live in a place that was similarly open minded - much like how when I was little I thought that I would grow up to some magic age and all lying and bullying would stop because all adults seemed to be so good compared to me (boy was I wrong) or how I thought in high school that when I went to college there would be no more stupid people (nope, there were just as many losers who sit in the back of the class and make fun of everyone).  I thought liberals, due to being more open minded and aware of social and environmental issues, would be kinder and wiser by virtue of their awareness.  One semester of listening to some of my classmates look down their noses at all the people who were more ignorant than they were cleared up that misconception.  Funnily enough, in one of my planning classes we watched a video about racism that I had seen previously in a communications class at Texas A&M.  In the Texas version of the class discussion we all talked about ways that we held prejudices and displayed prejudicial behavior.  It was an eye opening experience for me to hear from students who didn't get looked in the eye all day or were expected to be athletically gifted.  In the New York version of the class discussion I watched a room full of Ivy League educated, future decision makers pat themselves on their backs and talk about how the situations in the video would never happen at Cornell.  Oh, really?  Then the instructor led a discussion of how we could help others become aware of subtle and institutional racism.  I finally spoke up and pointed out that if we had nothing to learn from the video's examples, why were all the white students sitting at the discussion table while all the minority students were sitting in the outer circle?  That did not get a good response. 

Tolerant is not just a state of mind but is exhibited in behavior.  Bigots wear all sorts of hats and many are far sighted.  Yes, those classmates from Texas very probably think that I am going to hell but that won't stop them from treating me in a kind way as prescribed by their religion.  My time at Cornell was 98% freaking wonderful but 2% of the time I dealt with breathtaking close-mindedness despite our open-minded beliefs.  But I least I learned from it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Another one for the shelf

Halloween is my favorite holiday.  I love candy and when I was a child this was the only time of the year that my spartan parents would allow me a few pieces.  Being a clever little sugar addict I would squirrel away some of my booty before presenting the bag to my parents for them to pick out a few measly pieces for me.

As I grew older it only got more fun.  I was very good at sewing and would craft my own costumes.  The transformer costume was probably my best although it involved less sewing and more gluing and painting.  In university I amended a starfish costume from spongebob squarepants into a giant vagina suit.  And then I wore it to a party that was attended by several dozen women who were all dressed as naughty schoolgirls or naughty angels.

This week I came up with the idea that SB, A and I would dress up as the three most famous Kims.  I was on the hunt for the perfect tan jumpsuit for my Kim Jong-il while SB would only need a Mickey Mouse hat for Kim Jong-nam .  When A was told to gain some weight for Kim Jong-un the plan was permanently shelved.  Some people just don't have what it takes.

So my dear readers, my loss may be your gain.  I hope one, or actually three, of you take up the mantle. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

punk rock girl

SB knows that I like punk rock.  It is the largest genre on my ipod- or more accurately, genres.  I have it divided into punk, hardcore, ska, rockabilly and pop punk.  Tonight was the first time we have discussed just how influential punk was for me.  I don't quite remember how the conversation began but as we were eating dinner our discussion progressed to how things that are so big lose meaning over time.  In particular I talked to him about the straight edge movement in punk rock.  It's funny how he had no idea of something that took up a big portion of my life.

I won't describe much about the history of punk rock because you can Google it and learn more than I know and discover a history that began before I was born.  I began to listen when I was 13 years old and began high school in central Florida, where my parents had moved me from Hong Kong.  Life was good to me.  I joined the IB program, successfully tried out for a couple of sports teams and met my best friend, Tobin. It was during the second half of the school year when I met Zed in my art class.  He was a very quiet student but when he did speak it was clear that he had a strange sense of humor as well as mild disdain for my best friend and me.  I spent most of my time chatting about sports with a lacrosse player while Zed kept to himself.  Then something changed.  Our teacher let us bring CDs to class and we were allowed to take turns playing music.  The classroom was filled with a lot of Nine Inch Nails (by the girls who only wore black) or whatever was popular but not so popular that you ran the risk of being mainstream (after all, this was art class).  One day the stereo started playing something fast, short, simple and angry sounding.  I asked what we were listening to and Zed slowly spoke up.  "It's my band."

Over the next few weeks I began to ask Zed more about his band, mostly out of curiosity rather than enjoyment of his music.  Punk rock and his band were basically the only two subjects he wasn't shy about and through the music I learned a lot about him.  I learned that through his music he was more politically aware than I was.  He learned about me as well through our debates over the message of his songs.  He wasn't the dumb outcast that I perceived him to be and I wasn't quite as shallow or silly as he thought.  He invited me to his band's next performance which was in seedy bar.  They were opening for a heavy metal band.  The night ended with me hiding under a table as a bona fide, chair smashing, broken beer bottle wielding, bloody brawl broke out amongst the metal fans.  Holy sh*t!  Was this how he spent his weekends?!  As it turned out, this was not how Zed spent his weekends.  He explained that his band's lead singer's brother was in the metal band and the two couldn't be more different.  Zed was straight edge.  It meant that he didn't drink, didn't do drugs and didn't have casual sex.  That night as he drove me home in his Chevy Nova I realized that I wouldn't have to be quick thinking to avoid the back seat because his lifestyle meant that he would respect me.

He also didn't judge me if I wasn't interested in the straight edge lifestyle.  Straight edge was a big deal to him throughout his youth but it never was a prerequisite for our friendship. As time went by he was less committed to being straight edge although he still doesn't drink or use drugs.  Technically he "sold out" but I think that straight edge served its purpose by giving him an identity while he was undergoing his own cognitive process of discovering what he believed in.  I can look back at some of the mantras of the movement with a bit of a smile as I recall what a big deal it all was at the time but I am glad that it existed for me. 

On the flip side, in 1995 while I was attending the Warped tour I experienced the extreme side of straight edge when a militant fan of Orange 9mm, a straight edge band, attacked the lead singer of Guttermouth because he was intolerant of Guttermouth poking fun of straight edge as only for the under-21 age group (21 is the US legal drinking age).  The lead singer of Orange 9mm had to come up on stage to calm down the straight edge goons and explain that everyone should be tolerant of each other.  Yes, I learned a lot about the world through the lens of punk rock.  Though not so big in my life now, it has left its mark.  I identify as a third wave feminist like the riot grrrls of the 90's who accepted women expressing themselves in a multitude of ways.  I recommend reading Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant,detailing conversations between Bad Religion's Greg Graffin and conservative university professor Preston Jones.  Punk rock- it's not so big anymore but it still matters to me.  I don't know why it has taken me this long to talk about with SB but our punk rock conversations have just begun.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Skin deep

About a year ago I came to the horrifying realization that I was no longer immune to aging.  I consider myself pretty lucky that I made it into my 30s without a wrinkle in sight.  I credit good genes, somewhat healthy living and the weight gain I experienced in the past couple of years (maybe it stretched out my would be wrinkles!).

When I noticed some very light wrinkles forming at the corners of my eyes where they crinkle when I laugh I immediately knew who to call: my friend S.  S is a professional model.  She is a hard drinking, chain smoking, veggie hating model and she had once told me that with her lifestyle it was necessary to know all the beauty secrets of the trade. She sent me an email of her ritual.  I immediately had to cross out her first trick, which is botox, and her second trick, which involves going to a pricey spa so that someone can pour acid all over your face and sand it down.

So here's what was doable to me and how I do it:

Microderm abrasion: The thought behind this is that if you buff the stratum corneum (top layer of epidermis), the body interprets that as a mild injury and begins the healing process to replace the lost skin cells.  Some imperfections like wrinkles, sun damage or spots  are removed.  Skin is also more receptive to moisturizers without the barrier of dead cells.  I just started trying this out.  I don't trust the spa "professionals" to not buff off too much of my face so I do it at home.  I am currently using the Olay Regenerist Micro Dermabrasion Kit because it is less abrasive than some of the others but I suspect that it is more of a glorified facial scrub.  I have read good reviews of the Neutrogena kit but I can't find it in HK.  In fact, the Olay kit was bought stateside because I couldn't get it here.  Hmm...I'm really helpful so far, aren't I?

Must-do skin care: lots of water and sun protection.  I don't think I need to explain too much about this.

Cleanser: I use Cetaphil.  It is inexpensive, dermatologist recommended and available at the Watson's that I go to (near Times Square).  It is very gentle for my skin.  Sometimes I use it with a facial brush for extra cleansing.

Toner: I don't use it.  My cleanser gets off the oil and dirt from the day.  That is toner's only real purpose.

Facial Moisturizer:  I have tried a lot of different lotions and potions.  My mother used plain old Oil of Olay and she has great skin but I wasn't satisfied with the lack of hype.  I admit it- I am a victim of shameless advertising. I used Patricia Wexler's MMPi Skin Regenerating Serum for a while because SB saw me once after I had put it on and commented that my face looked smooth.  It took me a while to realize that this stuff made me look smooth because it was basically a heavy coat of gunk.  It was so thick that I couldn't wear makeup with it and it sometimes clumped up on my face. Next I bought the Clinique system and liked it, especially the Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief.  It was non-greasy and really hydrated my face, plumping up the skin.

I have since moved on to another line that I love: Olay Regenerist.  I use the Regenerist lotion with UV protection during the day and the Regenerist micro-sculpting serum at night.  Regenerist gained quite a following after a Consumer Reports study found that it performed the best out of brands including StriVectin-SD and La Prarie which also cost a lot more.  It has antioxidants, which give the skin cells ample protection against the destructiveness of free radicals and increase your skin's ability to protect and heal.  I couldn't find it for the longest time here although I could find Olay's Total Effects line which isn't as good but recently I have been able to find almost the entire line at Mannings.

Other stuff I was recommended that is not part of my daily routine but occasionally included:

Retinol: otherwise known as vitamin A's active metabolite. Retinol, retinyl palmitate or retinaldehyde is thought to increase the the amount of retinoic acid in the cells, thus encouraging skin renewal. It can also cause irritation.  I use it in the Roc Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream that was given to me by someone who worked for Johnson & Johnson.  It smells like laundry detergent, which is weird, but has not irritated my skin.  I don't know if there is a better brand out there so I have no strong feelings on the brand. What I do know is that it does seem to work on the fine dehydration and laugh wrinkles on my face that sprout up from time to time.

Glycolic or Lactic Acids (Alpha Hydroxy): it exfoliates the surface layers of skin and  increase cell reproduction by removing the built-up top layers of skin, allowing healthier cells to come to the surface. Exfoliation helps reduce skin discolorations, gives skin a smoother texture, and improves how skin functions. Glycolic and lactic acids also have water-binding properties, making them beneficial for improving dry skin. There also is a good deal of research showing that use of a well-formulated AHA product can increase collagen production. I use Neutrogena Healthy Skin Face Lotion.

Salicylic Acid (Beta Hydroxy): it is similar to glycolic and lactic acid but is better for dealing with blackheads and acne because it not only exfoliates the skin surface but it can penetrate through the oil in the pore and exfoliate the lining of the pore, it is antibacterial  and it has anti-inflammatory properties. You can find it in a lot of acne products at the pharmacy.

Vitamin C: often in the form of ascorbic acid, it is an antioxidant that reduces signs of aging by increasing collagen production, reducing skin discoloration, strengthening the skin's barrier response, enhancing the skin's repair process, reducing inflammation, and helping skin deal with exposure to sunlight.  I haven't tried to apply it yet.

Vitamin E: often in the form of alpha tocopherol, tocopheryl linoleate, tocotrienols, alpha tocopherol, and tocopheryl succinate, it protects skin cell membranes from oxidative damage. It reduces the formation of free radicals when skin is exposed to UVA rays, protects the top layers of skin from early stages of sun damage, reduces water loss from skin and prevents the peroxidation of fats (a leading source of cell membrane damage in the body).  I use Kiehl's Light Nourishing Eye Cream but not in combination with my retinol.

Niacinamide (vitamin B3): it increases ceramide and free fatty acid levels in skin, prevents skin from losing water content, stimulates microcirculation in the dermis and can improve skin's elasticity.  This is found in most of the Olay line, including my Regenerist.

Well, I hope this is useful to someone.  If you have any skincare secrets, please pass them along.  And no, I do not want to hear of anything involving wiping baby parts across your face or eating endangered animal penis.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A new patron saint

Sister Mary MacKillop of Australia is about to become beatified by the pope.  You can read about her here.  Interestingly the CathNews article discusses that she was excommunicated (ferendæ sententiæ) in retribution for reporting a priest for child abuse while other articles clearly state that the child abuse was more specifically pedophilia.  It seems that after all that time the men who control the Catholic church are still more interested in protecting their holy and anointed fraternal order than the lives of their flock of little lambs and dumb sheep.  At least they have now given their flock a patron saint for victims of priests.

And remember: ordaining women as priests is as grave an offense as pedophilia.  You will either be excommunicated or relocated, depending on your gender.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Speak English

It all began with a pregnancy.  My friend N posted the following phrase: up the duff and over the moon.  I had never heard the word "duff" used before so I Googled it.  Apparently N is pregnant and very excited.  Up the duff is a term for a usually unplanned pregnancy in a roundabout way because duff = dough = pudding = slang for penis.  Uh huh. 

I have previously referenced moments where my comprehension of others' English has been tested.  T, my Welsh friend, tests my understanding every time he has a few drinks in him.  My rugby team in Texas had a few ladies from North-East Texas whose accents were so strong that even the rest of the Texans had difficulty figuring them out.  We eventually all picked up the heavy drawl when we discovered that the other West teams couldn't understand us at all and we were able to call out our plays to each other without need for codes. 

Let us not forget the colloquialisms.  I previously described the weird conversation we had with some finely mannered vertebrate creatures from another rugby club whose smug behavior was lost on us due to a different interpretation of a phrase.

Last night I was chatting with a mutual friend who thought it was hysterical that I had to look up the phrase.  "What did you think up the duff meant?" She asked.  Well, whatever it was, I was hoping that it was curable.  Then a man who was at the table behind us started up very loudly about how American English was terrible, unlike "proper" British English.  If I had a nickel for every time I have heard this I would be be able to buy a few more drinks to properly prepare me for hearing this again.  Don't misunderstand me- I quite like the British accent. It is different to mine and therefore interesting.  I am charmed by the polished, slightly nasal tones and prim facial expressions when you are making fun of my accent but at least no American finishes a statement with innit. 

The fact of the matter is that English is a living, evolving language (and no, Sarah Palin, this does not excuse your ignorant fabrication of grammar and syntax).  If we were to compare the dialects I think that by virtue of its isolation, American English evolved at a slower rate and may actually be more similar to the original English than modern British English.

According to Spiritus Temporis:
In many ways, compared to British English, American English is conservative in its phonology. It is sometimes claimed that certain rural areas in North America speak "Elizabethan English," and there may be some truth to this, but the standard American English of the upper Midwest has a sound profile much closer to 17th century English than contemporary speech in England. Most North American speech is rhotic, as English was everywhere in the 17th century.

With all the influences upon English from everywhere else in the world, I doubt that anyone can claim to be the possessor of the proper English dialect.  From what I remember of Canterbury Tales, proper English disappeared long before Englishmen took the language across foreign seas.

Friday, September 10, 2010

From the horse's mouth

"The Girl Scouts allow homosexuals and atheists to join their ranks, and they have become a pro-abortion, feminist training corps. If the Girl Scouts of America can't get back to teaching real character, perhaps it will be time to look for our cookies elsewhere."

- Hans Zeiger, a Republican candidate for Washington State's House of Representatives

Where were these girl scouts when I was a kid?  If they had revealed their evil feminist agenda to me, perhaps I would have sold more cookies to further their wicked, Wicca plans.

Monday, September 6, 2010

An awakening

I agree with reports which claim that our sense of smell is closely linked to memory (the olfactory bulb is part of the brain's limbic system, an area associated with memory and emotion).  I see things all the time that are related to my childhood here, twenty years ago, and distantly recall it from my past but a smell can send me hurtling through time and space.

This weekend I had two very evocative moments related to scents.  I smelled something in the Wanchai market that caused me to shrink into the body of a four year old girl walking through the market in Iloilo with a banana leaf wrapped sweet in her hand.  The caramelized sticky rice treat was probably the most delicious thing I had ever tasted at the time.

Then later that day as I was returning home a not so pleasant smell really sent me reeling.  I can't describe the smell- probably something related to old, musty buildings.  What I can describe is the uncanny amount of recollection I experienced.  The smell was that of my second ever apartment that I lived in for two years while I was in San Antonio. But it was so much more than that.  In that instant I was reminded of myself at the age of twenty having just gone through a terrible experience that I won't go into detail about but when I moved into the apartment I was sad and lost and yet hopeful all at the same time.  It was the beginning of a time of major transformation for me when I went through the trauma of growing up alone but also somehow evolved into something wiser, stronger and better than what I was.  I don't know if I became who I am because of life's hard knocks or in spite of it.  Somehow there was enough Pollyanna and enough Candide to power me through the hills and troughs until I learned to stop getting carried away by my life and start living on my own terms.

So to me of yesteryears I am so happy to have met up with you again but I am even happier that you are behind me because those were some damn crazy years, both good and bad, and I prefer to remember you than to relive you.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Uncommon cold

The abundance of colleagues wearing face masks tipped me to the possibility that all was not well in the office.  My suspicions were confirmed by an email from our vice-chairman informing us that he had left some type of vitamin C packets with the studio secretaries should anyone need any.  By Friday I started noticing that my vertigo was back and I was hearing as though in a vacuum.  I had a cold.

I bought a bag of ibuprofen at Watsons and 200mg lasted me through most of the morning.  In the afternoon I went to the nearest general practitioner in my insurance scheme and left with bags upon bags of medicine.  Some of the medicine was labeled: generic zyrtec, some type of decongestant, cough drops, paracetamol (to add to my growing collection); and some of the medicine was mysterious.  Thanks to Google I was able to identify another type of allergy medicine.  Should doctors be handing out bags of meds with no explanation?  What is up with everyone's love of paracetamol?  It has been given to us for everything from stomach flu to bronchitis.

My bag of goodies only cost $30 copay.  I added them to my overflowing stash of meds that I don't need to take.  A good night's rest and plenty of water did the trick.

I'm sure there must be an overprescription black market somewhere in Canada where I can make a killing.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ninepin Islands

The only times that these islands are accessible are unfortunately in the sweltering summer months because otherwise the waves make landing a boat to be quite tricky.  The closest islands to the Ninepin group as you travel east are the Philippines so there is no buffer from the ocean waves.

If you love rocks like I do then you must visit this natural area within the realm of Hong Kong Geopark.  The terrain features hexagonal columsn of rhyolite that are estimated to be 140 million years old, igneous rocks. Due to the heavy tides that batter the islands, the rocks are eroded into sea caves and arches.

We were lucky to have Shoils take over with planning the trip because we needed a local to help us out.  We went with the eco-tourism group, HK Traveler.  Their website is Chinese only and difficult to navigate for English speakers so it is perhaps a better idea to e-mail and ask about the Ninepin tours if you don't have a Chinese speaker at hand.

Aside from the sweltering heat, this is by far the best island visit I have taken in HK.  Just remember to bring plenty of water.  And the tour isn't set up for individual recreation time but the leader was fine when SB asked to go off on his own to swim around in the water during one of the lectures in Chinese.

From the times that he spoke English, the tour leader proved to be very informed about the islands.  It was enjoyable to listen to him. Ltd 旅行家
Address: Suite A, Hennessy Plaza, 164-166 Hennessy Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong (MTR Wanchai A4 exit)
Tel: 2836 5878 Email:


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Women's Rugby World Cup

I have three laptops running.  One is connected to our new television live streaming the free matches at, one is showing the live blogging from a friend watching the USA matches (they are not being shown) and one I use to chat with my equally excited friends. 

I admit it; I have lost my damn mind.  I don't care.  I have waited for a long time to see women playing world class rugby, representing their countries in a bona fide stadium and acknowledged as the athletes that they are.  Fellow Texas Aggie Stacey Bridges is 18 years old and making her world cup debut for USA.  New Zealand's Anna Richards is 44.  Wales' Non Evans made history by competing in two different sports at the Commonwealth Games, judo and weightlifting, and won two silver medals in judo.  One of the South African ladies' mother played in the previous world cup (Portia Jonga I think?)

These women, unlike their male counterparts, do not make a living playing rugby.  Ruth McKay (NZ) is a head shepherd, Phaidra Knight (USA) is an attorney and sports trainer, and Evans peddles pharmaceuticals.

When Ireland sang their anthem preceding the match against England, I admit to shedding a tear.  I sat alone in the flat and was overcome with so many emotions.  I was prevented from crying for Australia because they were tone deaf and I ended up giggling over their enthusiastic bellowing.  Maybe some anthems are easier to sing than others.  By the time you hit the rockets' red glare in the Star Spangled Banner all hope is lost of ever bringing your shriek under control.  So I end this post with a homage to the Irish lasses who made me recall that for many, many, many years we have been struggling to promote sports and sportsmanship among women and sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel truly does shine brightly- as bright as the smiles on the faces of the women who were honored to play in the 2010 Women's Rugby World Cup.

Hearts of steel
And heads unbowing
Vowing never to be broken
We will fight, until
We can fight no more
From the four proud provinces of Ireland

Ireland, Ireland
Together standing tall
Shoulder to shoulder
We'll answer Ireland's call

Thursday, August 19, 2010

On being alone

Reposted from YouTube.

Here where there are so many people, it seems strange that so many of us are afraid to be alone when I think we should sometimes want to be alone so that we can hear their own thoughts and find our own pace.  The conversations I have over lunch with my coworkers often drift to fears of being single, of not finding someone as though we really only are halves of people.  As much as I enjoy the story of the Androgyne from Plato's Symposium I do not actually believe that I am incomplete as my own entity.

I immensely enjoy that SB and I can sometimes be a homogeneous blob of a couple together but it mostly works because we are so alike and our blobbiness is from the combined similarity and not because one of us is absorbing the other.  We also stand alone quite well most of the time.  Occasionally he shows me that he does need me and I have become better at needing him without feeling like I have lost something in doing so.

I enjoyed the years that I was single.  I think that my ability to be happy alone is one of the traits that draws SB to me.  I was not simply content being alone, but truly enjoyed myself.  I liked going on walks alone.  I enjoyed making my own schedule and doing my own things when I was in my mid twenties.  I had spent my early twenties slowly disappearing into a relationship where both of us were too immature to realize the damage we were doing to each other and to ourselves with our insecurities and my mid twenties were a revival of sorts.  Then in my late twenties a handsome stranger crept out to have coffee with me and we sat silently on the porch, watching the neighborhood wake up.  Then I was no longer alone.

I always find time for solitude; SB does the same.  At different parts of a hike we will wander away from each other to make our own explorations.  At home SB will occasionally hear me say that I am having "alone time" which means a few hours of wandering about in the streets.  He does the same.

If you can't spend time with yourself, then what does that say about yourself?

Something to talk about

This article about Lour Gehrig really hit home with me:

It was in the men's health area but it applies to women also.  The article really resonated with me.  I felt sad, disturbed...I don't know...scared.  If Gehrig did not have ALS but was actually killed slowly and painfully by his brain and nervous system degenerating from injury, was it a blessing that he never knew?  Gehrig was a Columbia man and quite smart as well as a gifted athlete.  How would you react knowing that your resilience was in fact your undoing?

SB and I have had a few conversations about his own noggin.  It began when his mother visited us in 2008.  She was concerned that he was playing rugby again and made a comment about his concussions.  He became annoyed and changed the subject but I cornered him later that week and asked what the exchange was all about.  According to SB his mother mistakenly believed that every knock he had suffered as a child playing ice hockey was a concussion.  He was irritated because he thought himself to be a responsible guy and would not still be playing contact sports if he had suffered serious multiple concussions.

But as I came to find out, we all have differing views on not only what constitutes a concussion but how many are acceptable risk.  I accept a couple big concussions or maybe three smaller ones as acceptable risk but this may be because I have had two small concussions so I want to put myself in the safe category.

SB has had more than two. He admits to having had at least one significant concussion.  He thinks that he may have had a couple as a child when his mother observed him playing ice hockey.  Then there was one that he suffered two years ago playing rugby.  And that is all he talked about.  That leaves a gap from the age of 14 when he left his mother for boarding school to 34 when I met him that he has not accounted for any concussions.  During this time he continued to play contact ice hockey for five more years, played varsity lacrosse for his university, and began rugby in his early twenties.  I imagine there may have been at least one more concussion that we are not counting.

Thinking back to my own concussions I remember being concerned at my blurred vision and inability to process my thoughts.  I am even more concerned that this would have had any lasting effect especially since I am so conceited about being a smarty pants.

I have noticed quirks with SB that have befuddled me more than they have concerned me.  I won't get too much into them because they are personal but they are not related to his ability to rationalize and theorize.  I had discussed his quirks with his sister long before any concussion talk ever existed and it seems that he has always had these quirks but a small part of me wonders if he had them before his big concussion as a child.  A part of me fears what is going on inside my nervous system and I hope that it looks normal in there because I am never going to be as stoic or humble or compassionate as Lou Gehrig was when he became unlucky.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I believe in tall tales

I made a friend last night, a Samoan kiwi who had spent the last 12 years playing professional rugby in Europe.  I immediately took to him as he had a jovial nature, wide smile and ability to spin tall, tall tales.

I suspect that his true story would make for quality entertainment but instead of blowing his own horn for our entertainment, he mixed fact with pure theater.  At some point in the evening he was explaining how he inherited his quick reflexes from his father, the great, white, black man who was John Travolta's backup dancer when a young lady in our group spoke up to express her disbelief in the story (did that mean that she had accepted the previous 30 minutes of storytime because one of the tales involved Nixon).

As she grumbled to me about her incredulity I explained to her that sometimes you must choose to believe because only then can you be carried away to that wonderful place where unicorns, sugar plum fairies and great, white, black backup dancers exist.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The big fish conducts and anthrolpological study on her small pond

This weekend I was having street-side lunch in Mongkok and was entertained by the goings on in the stores and booths around me.  I watched several instances when a person would begin to peruse a clothing rack and very quickly another person would join the rack and begin earnestly going through the clothing items just ahead of the original peruser.  It was funny to watch the shoppers jockey for position at the rack even though the other racks were available.  It didn't seem to matter which rack was being sorted through as this happened on all of the three racks near to the front of the store at different times.

If reminded me of when I used to feed the turtles at the gardens as a child.  I would drop some worms into the water and watch the turtles swarm.  Then I would drop more worms at another location but the turtles were too busy trying to get the first batch of worms to notice.  Eventually another turtle would notice the other section of worms and dart over to begin another frenzy but sometimes it took a few minutes and other times the worms would still be floating around in the water when I became disinterested and wandered off to try and catch the long legged insects that hovered by the water edge.

From my small sample size, it occurs to me that closely crowded animals are wired to compete for resources that they perceive to be attractive based on others' desire for them.  If someone wants a certain something, then it must be worth having and you mustn't miss out.

My friend S backed up my observations when she shared with me one of her stories from being a teacher.  Last year the second grade teachers arranged for a mock archeological dig at a beach.  They planned the trip to occur in the winter during the school week when the beach was mostly deserted.  The teachers roped off a large portion of the beach and hid "artifacts" for the students to dig up.  A group of beachgoers arrived soon after and walked over to the "dig."  S thought that they were just curious onlookers but then they walked over the rope and set up their picnic in the middle of everything.  There was nothing she could do, as it was a public beach.  It appeared to her that these other people had decided that clearly the best part of the beach would be the part that was occupied by others so naturally parking themselves in the center of the action would guarantee the most prime spot.

Maybe growing up in almost the opposite of density has wired me differently.  I am not a fan of herding and I don't know what it would take for me to compete for a resource.  I would not survive Survivor.  I would not be part of those turtles who climb on top of each other to fight over the worms that the others want.  I go out of my way in the opposite direction to push for more personal space.  I will scoot away from others who sit next to me. 

If I were to turn the lens backward upon myself I would see a neurotically territorial animal with an exaggerated view of the extent of necessary personal space.  I probably resemble a small dog to the density dwellers as I tend to subconsciously annex the space around me, urinating on every fire hydrant within the city block.

A few weeks ago my boss decided to place a couple of file boxes for our project on my desk.  It made sense to him because his office was cluttered and my desk is remarkably empty.  Well, I spend time every week clearing off my desk and electronically filing everything to avoid paper clutter and it was a horrible shock to discover that the space I had so meticulously cleared off was now full of boxes.  Just because the space is empty does not mean that I am not using it.  I subconsciously stake out that territory!  So I have carefully and methodically reorganized shelves in our storage cabinets and moved each box one by one out of my bay.  That's right. My space, every empty square millimeter.  Maybe I should raise my leg over it next time.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

my me(h)morable meal

SB and I were invited to Shoil's husband's birthday dinner at ToTT at the Excelsior.  The restaurant's ambience was lovely and I enjoyed the soothing color scheme of brown and copper with blue lighting.  The food was presented beautifully and my glass of house Shiraz was enjoyable.  No one else was drinking so I can't tell you too much about the wine list but the food was meh.  We shared four appetizers and four desserts along with our entrees and I was most impressed by how beautifully everything was presented. 

The dinner guests were another story.  Shoils and hubby have invited us to several dinners, always with different other friends who are always engaging and interesting.  Shoils could be a professional hostess.  She is a perfect facilitator as I have mentioned before, and we are always delighted to be included in her invitations because it seems as though all of her friends share a certain warmness that goes well with wit and humor.  Egged on by Shoils, we all end up having a memorable evening.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

It's like one of those nonsensical engrish t-shirts you can buy here

Reposted from Fail blog.

Not only do you need to look up the definition of anonymous but somehow you have managed to be incoherent, amusing and creepy at the same time.

Can you guess that I am irritated and dumbfounded by the popularity of the tea party?  Can someone please tell me why they are so popular?

And while you are at it, please explain why Sarah Palin referring to Obama as "the professor" is insulting because I kinda like the idea that our nation's leader is edumacated.

And by using edumacated I was celebrating English as an evolving and modern language and not at all celebrating and lauding my ignorance.

Anyone care to refudiate me?  All kidding aside, I would like to know about the appeal of Palin and the tea party.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

One of those days

I woke up early to go jogging but couldn't find my sneakers because I had left them outside to dry.  By the time I realized where the were, it was bordering on too late so instead I hopped onto my mini-stair climber which isn't really that good.  Then I took a nice, relaxing shower which must have been too nice because before I knew it, I had fifteen minutes to get dressed and be at the bus stop.

At some point in the morning I went to go file some drawings when I bent over and...something was off.  I stood upright and thought for a moment.  Then the horrifying realization hit me.  I forgot to put a bra on.  And it was noticeable but at least the small, random, black and white patterns on my dress visually obscured certain, er, outlines.

I sat slouched at my desk, counting the minutes until lunch time when I was finally able to dart to the elevator, ride down with arms crossed, and jiggle my way to the market where I bought a bright pink, polyester monstrosity for $19, but it was the only thing that looked like it would fit.I called SB to tell him what had happened.  "Really?  That's strange because I forgot my belt."  Um, that's not quite as mortifying.

But then I remembered when he texted me a few months ago to reveal that he got up to go to the bathroom and discovered that he had put his underwear on backwards and I felt a lot better.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


The U.S. Special Investigator for Iraq Reconstruction reported that due to shoddy record keeping and a lack of oversight, $8.7billion of taxpayers' money is unaccounted for.   For some contractors, money does grow on trees.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The other part of Sai Kung Country Park

SB and I headed out for a day away from it all (and to break his newfound addiction to Discovery Turbo now that we finally plugged in our television after 1 1/2 years).  We decided to skip the beaches this time and head to the streams.

We took a taxi to Sai Wan Village drop off (I think) and encountered something that we don't usually see in this area: people, or more specifically protesters.  We had a pretty good idea that they were raising the alarm over that d*ckhead who rerouted some streams and scraped off the tidal flats in a previously natural area to build himself a compound.  But don't worry, he claims to be "ecological" and wants to do some organic farming or something and it would only be a weird coincidence that his farm starts to resemble a lodge or retreat where fellow devotees can go to worship money and nature.

But I digress.  So now that the pristine beachfront landscape will contain one giant pockmark, we go further inland for relatively unblemished beauty.  We didn't exactly know where we were going, but we had decided that that we would find the nearest stream (general direction pinpointed from Google Earth) and follow it up.  We were delighted to very quickly stumble upon a pool and waterfall, sparkling like a clear emerald.  From there, the adventure only got better and better.  So without further ado, I present the photos:

the beginning
the concerned citizens
the location of the monstrosity
always remember to stay hydrated
and wear practical shoes (with toe protection from the rocks)
just a pile of twigs and leaves
or is it?
a path along the stream

This climb was scary for me, but not for the guy with the giant inner tube and flip flops
there were so many little fish!
"reminds me of my time in 'Nam"
but still more to go!
Running out of time, we took the dry route
this is all you can see from the trail
the end