Sunday, February 28, 2010

books, vampires, the rapture, and more books

For last night's bedtime story, SB asked me what I knew about "the rapture." I explained to him the idea held by various Christians including members of the the evangelical community that a period of time would occur when Christians would be brought to heaven at the end of the world, i.e. kingdom come, while all the non-believers would be left behind for the hellish end.

I related to him that when I was a teenager one of my neighbors gave me a book from the "Left Behind" series. It detailed the coming of the rapture but I was unaware of what it was at the time. The book began well enough. Then the plot started to get a bit wonky and soon enough, a very irritatingly preachy tone started to emerge. Being a bookworm I read it from cover to cover despite my misgivings but afterward was sure that I had been had.

SB had never heard of the "Left Behind" series which surprised me because it was quite a bestseller at the time. I compared it to the "Twilight" series or the "Harry Potter" series of books that are popular today. In fact, from what I could recall, the "Twilight" series involves chaste vampires who spent a lot of time pining and longing. SB's youngest sister is really into the books much like my younger cousins and older sister (heh) were into Harry Potter. I read a bit of both books with the family and found Harry Potter to be a good series of stories. I can't say the same for the "Twilight" series.

I can't remember if the "Left Behind" series was well written because I was so disgusted by being tricked into reading something that wasn't what it seemed to be. Which brought up a funny recollection to share with SB:

Back in university I had a summer job at a pool hall where I ran a weekly 9-ball tournament that attracted quite a few heavy hitters (who I didn't realize were such a big deal as I don't follow pool or billiards). I became friends with a lot of the characters who came out for the tournament but I especially liked a moderately unsuccessful pool shark named Paul. Luckily, Paul also knew this and had a day job. One day we were talking about our mutual like for history when he told me of a book that he had found at his girlfriend's house. It was a story about a knight during the dark ages...or so he thought. The beginning of the book started out with a nice description of the times followed by some brief character development and then a plot of two dueling knights. Then entered a lady. Then lots of panting. Then more panting, shirt ripping, and lots of descriptions of manhoods and swelling. It did not take Paul many more pages to realize that his historical novel was indeed a romance novel.

And the lesson today is that things are not always what they appear to be.

For those of my readers who are fervently awaiting the rapture, I came across this ideal adoption network of atheists who will also be left behind with the pets and can care for them, because you need to include all your loved ones in the rapture contingency plan.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Martin Brodeur may be the greatest but Ryan Miller was pure gold tonight

I tried to watch HK Cable TV while attempting to work but no work was being completed so I forced myself to switch to just headphones. To my delight I chose a channel on radiotime.com that had my very favorite goalie of my lifetime, John "Beezer" Vanbiesbrouck as the announcer. Score! If Ken Dryden joined in I would have passed out from unfiltered happiness. Unfortunately after I flung my headphones into the side of my cubicle after a Canada goal I realized that I was still not productive and had to cut myself off.

At 6:30 I raced down the street to Amici where a kind and warm hearted Slovakian in charge had arranged to replay the game on the Slovakian channel. And what a game!

Although I became aware that even when cheering, "USA, USA!" with pure joy, the chant sounds goonish. But what else can I cheer? It's not like we're the only inhabitants of America.

In other news, I found curling to be oddly enjoyable. With the USA knocked out I wonder who to cheer for. I do find the two tone hair of one of the Scottish women to be compelling...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What were they thinking?

When I read this article my jaw dropped. To present the story briefly, a school in the United States issued free laptop computers to students for better collaboration among the students during projects. A fact unknown to the students or their parents was that the school administration was remotely activating the webcams attached to the laptops to monitor the students. This was only found out when a student was disciplined for behavior that occurred outside of the school premises and the evidence was a photograph taken of him from his laptop webcam.

I have soooo many questions to ask these school administrators, beginning with "What were you thinking?!" These MINORS were being spied on in their own homes and everything they did in front of the open laptop was under scrutiny. Everything. How many of these kids had the laptop in their bedrooms? And how did the administrators think this would end? They had to know that this would make them look like jackasses when it came out, at the very least. I cringe to imagine what someone would see if someone was able to record me through my open laptop.

Monday, February 15, 2010

How not to celebrate Valentine's day in Hong Kong if you are a pleasantly fuzzy, white guy

Poor SB. I told him that he didn't need to do anything but he was suspicious. In years past I had expected something out of him so he was smart not to really believe me when I said no worries. In the past, V day was a rectification day because it comes 11 days after my birthday and so the plans that SB made for my birthday but ran out of time to do would be completed for V day. The chocolates he forgot to buy for the birthday were so prominently displayed for V day that he would not forget and the same went for the flowers. This year the Paul Frank store was located next to the GOD store, on the way home from the CWB MTR stop and he hit the jackpot for my birthday with one GOD monkey mug and one Paul Frank stuffed monkey. All I wanted for V day was the birthday card. I was so happy with the monkeys that I did buy him a book to read, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, as he had told me earlier that he felt like the economics books I gave him for Christmas did not count as literature and he was embarrassed that he had not read any literature for an unmentionable amount of years.

I was pretty happy with his romantic gestures for the past year and did not feel like we needed V day this year to remind ourselves to be nice to each other but he knew better so he frantically threw together a plan as only he can, which brings us to my list of what not do do in Hong Kong for Valentine's day:

1) Buy roses at 3am from the sketchy looking couple on the corner: SB and I came home very early on V day after watching the Six Nations at Carnegies, which I think counts as a romantic night out. We got out of the cab to notice a couple of people waving at us. Curious, we waved back. Then they beckoned. They were selling flowers. "Roses?" they asked SB. "How many do you want?" SB inquired to how much. "Eleven," said the man and quickly grabbed a bunch of them. As they were quickly pulling out a knife to chop off the extra stems on the crooked little blooms, I remembered the kids who used try to tie string bracelets to my arm in Italy and then demanded payment. "Wait," I stepped in the way of the lady as she attempted to chop the flowers, "what is eleven?" The man was now distracting SB by telling him that he was throwing in a few branches of leaves with the flowers for free. "How much?" I asked again. Then the woman began mumbling to herself. She told us $280 for eleven limp roses, which she would discount to $250. I started to laugh. "SB, she thinks we're drunk." Of course it was a good possibility since it was 3am but SB has been having a gout flare up lately. The couple tried a few more tactics before I walked away including telling me something about having to have such high prices due to the holiday. SB took a bit longer to follow so I was not surprised when he arrived at our door with one rose that set him back $30. "They smiled at me," he offered, hanging his head. He knew that he had been had but he couldn't help himself. I gave him a kiss for that and tried no to laugh later that day when he saw a dozen nice looking roses for sale at the upscale flower shop in our neighborhood for $70.

2) Remind her about those pesky last few pounds to shed: SB woke up, kissed me good morning, and said that he would run to the grocery store for a few ingredients for his famous french toast. He came back an hour later and proudly presented me with...a box of lowfat chocolates. "Lowfat?" I asked groggily as I sat up in bed. He snatched them back and stared at the box incredulously. Lesson number 2: do not buy anything in a rush if you are SB. It will always end strangely. Murphy's law applies. They tasted as one might imagine lowfat chocolates to taste.

3) Don't demonstrate the passion of your love with a fiery meal: SB reserved a table for us at Little Sheep. It is the only hot pot location that I go to. We have not been able to figure out how to ask for only spicy broth for our order (we always end up with yin and yang) and the tasty, ginger infused broth always sits alone and unused. SB breaks out into a sweat when eating chocolate so you can imagine what he looks like after a few bites of Sichuan peppercorn and chili infused goodness. A few trickles around the temples soon became a raging torrent pouring down his face. He tried to blame the steam from the pot as he mopped his face continuously. Our waiter practically ran to us when he saw SB's soaked mop of hair and quickly tried to refill our tea, thinking that SB was in agony. When it became clear that SB was still eating away and not in any sort of pain, he began to snicker at us. And then he not-so-subtly brought over more of the waitstaff to gape at the soggy gweilo. At one point, there was so much sweat running down his face that one cheek would drip onto the tablecloth while he was wiping away the other cheek. "I hope they don't charge for tissue," SB quipped at me as he mopped off his face. Romantic!

This has actually turned out to be one of the most romantic V days that I can remember. I can't remember having so much fun and laughing so much.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A comment from another time

SB and I were having our usual bedtime chat and last night we were tackling racism- not the overt form but the more subtle racism that we possess and don't really have self awareness to identify. Like when during one class in undergrad, a black student told me that he could walk across campus all day and no one would look him in the eye. Even though he was one of my friends, I quickly realized that I probably also did not make eye contact with black people who weren't my friends. The same statement was repeated to me from a Korean student that I was working with the next semester. My undergrad university had a long military tradition and was overwhelmingly white. The school tried to attract minority students and was only mildly successful because our isolated location in rural Texas, combined with strong military tradition and lack of closeness to urban society was a deterrent for a lot of minority students who came from much more diverse and less conservative city settings.

I felt that a lot of students who never made eye contact with the minority students were not so much prejudiced as they were ignorant. They were less comfortable with things that were not typical, such as non-white students and just subconsciously ignored the outliers. I grew up within diverse groups of Asians and westerners but had not seen a lot of black people until I moved to the United States as a teenager. One of my first friends was a black girl named Stephanie, who I am still friends with today. But when my college buddy told me that other students did not make eye contact, I recognized that I was guilty.

SB related to me a story he heard from family friends. A long time ago, before he was born, the friends threw a blackface party. Back in that time, it was not considered offensive for a white person to put on blackface and pretend to be black in the entertainment industry. Nowadays it seems so obvious that that is a pretty poor idea for most of us who come from places where our awareness has been raised. Anyway, this party got underway with all the white guests in blackface when a group of partygoers arrived who thought it would be funny to arrive dressed as the Ku Klux Klan. The hosts of this unfortunate party told SB that even though they were only fake black, they felt really, really uncomfortable with the fake Klansmen. And a lesson was learned.