Thursday, June 30, 2011

trash talk

I had stopped picking up my free issue of the subStandard for several months.  I was having a debate with myself of whether the small bits of local news were worth having to suffer through the highly partial writing style or the peanut gallery who have somehow managed to find employment as journalists.

The editor is a disgrace.  Never one to give up an opportunity to suck up to her feudal masters she attempts to ridicule anyone who won't tow the party line.  Remember when she compared the railway protesters to the Na'vi, having clearly just seen Avatar and wanting to write something related, except in her version the blue guys were in the wrong?  On second thought, maybe that piece was one of her (unintentionally) more brilliant writings.  It would explain a lot about her line thought.

This week I wasn't quick enough to say no thank you and was left holding a copy of the paper.  I couldn't help myself and looked inside.  Clearly I had not learned Pandora's lesson and so I paid for it.  To that bald idiot opinion writer who took the easy way and wrote an article blathering on about how confused he was about why women are dressing in skimpy clothing and protesting I would like to thank you for ruining the ten minutes of bus time that I usually use to check Facebook.

If you were a man of moderate intelligence you could Google the Slutwalk and find out that it was originally organized in response to an idiotic statement by Toronto Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti who stated that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized."  It was a protest by women and men against victim blaming ('scuse me while I climb onto the pulpit).  Any person who slightly understands the concept of free will can understand that we are accountable for our actions.  This is why we brag about being "civilized."

Please let me ease your confusion, Mr. Vittachi.  Women with short skirts are not asking for it.  Even if the skirt is worn with high heeled shoes.  Even if a women chooses to objectify herself.  It does not imply consent for others to objectify or assault her.  We learned these lessons in kindergarten somewhere between keep your hands to yourself and don't take what doesn't belong to you.  Maybe you were too busy eating your own crap to have paid attention that day so I am happy to explain it now.  Class dismissed.

Monday, June 27, 2011

sunday mornings

We spent a great deal of Sunday relaxing because the previous two nights were un-relaxing. Despite our best intentions of leaving two parties at a reasonable time we found ourselves dragging our carcasses through the front door as the sun was beginning to peek its head over the horizon. We clearly had underestimated how entertaining our friends are. And I have never found a pitcher of Sangria that I haven't immediately befriended, including the storage bin filled with suspiciously purple colored liquid at the Christmas party.

Fortunately I was a member of a rugby club during university and knew exactly what I needed after two nights of debauchery. I lived with three teammates during my final year who were also completing their studies. One was a civil engineering major like me and the two others were completing a doctoral degrees in microbiology and neurology. Our weekend routines consisted of rugby on Saturday, partying on Saturday night and then waking up on Sunday with a lot of work to complete. One of the roommates had to routinely slaughter mice on Sunday. There was no laying about in bed and crying over your pounding head. Every Sunday morning we would each consume one cup of coffee, a diet coke, lot of Gatorade and something greasy. Sunday morning was the one time each week that I would indulge in pizza, tacos or a burger. After the mixture of caffeine, sugar, electrolytes and grease the day seemed more bearable.

Ten years later I woke up on Sunday morning and dragged myself to the Starbucks, 7-11 and McDonald's. I wonder if my roommates still have to do the Sunday routine. I would like to imagine that I'm not the last to grow up.

Friday, June 24, 2011

smells like

One of the women on the lift was wearing a perfume that smelled lovely. It was light and floral, very different from what I would wear. I found myself wondering how it would smell on me. This got me to thinking of my own history of perfume. I can distinctly recall events of my life through my perfumes. They have their own special timeline of moments and occasions; I think that other women must have their own fragrance timelines as well. Here is mine:

Charles of the Ritz, Jean Naté: Technically a body splash and powder, not a perfume, this was given to me when I was eleven or so by Aunt Jane. It is said to be spicy and floral. I recall that it could be deemed invigorating. I have fond recollections of splashing it on before my first cotillion. I wore it to school once or twice but I don’t think any of the boys noticed; they were too busy grabbing my butt and running away.

Top notes: er, let’s just skip this one.

Giorgio Beverly Hills, Wings: It was the summer before I began high school. I invited by some cross country girls to their pre-season training. I liked running, really liked competition and was thrilled to be accepted by upperclassmen becaue they were notoriously fond of hazing the freshmen. The girls took me to breakfast after our runs and then to the mall where I eventually found the perfume counter. To a fourteen year old girl this floral and fruity fragrance by Jean-Claude Delville was the mark of my debut into high school. Halfway through the year I met my best friend and discovered that she also wore Wings. I chose to keep my relationship with her and broke up with Jean-Claude.

Top notes: gardenia, lily, passion flower, rose, osmathus and marigold;
Middle notes: cyclamen, orchid, lilac, jasmine and heliotrope;
Base notes: sandalwood, amber, musk and cedar.

Borghese, Il Bacio: Marsella Borghese provided me with a young and flirty floral perfume that soon found a bee. One of the boys on the wrestling team started walking me to class between sixth and seventh period. He was perfect: relaxed, confident, and popular- everything I was not. He leaned into me and told me that I smelled good. These were the most romantic words that anyone had ever spoken to my teenage heart. He snuck me into a bar to listen to live music for our first date. He drove me home an hour past my curfew. My father hated him.

Top notes: Freesia, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Lily-of-the Valley and Rose;
Middle notes: Melon, Peach, Plum and Passion Fruit.
Bottom notes: Musk, Amber, Sandalwood and Cedarwood.

Guerlain, Samsara by Jean Paul Guerlain: I kept my sweet kisses until university. Then I finally decided that I needed a more mature scent and I sure found it. Aunt Jane took me to the massive makeup counter of a Texas mall and after almost two hours of attacking the testers this scent stood out. It is a scent that will stand up when your sense of smell has been under assault.  I still love this scent. I wore it religiously for almost seven years. It was only in my mid twenties when I began to wear my own skin comfortably that I realized how heavy it is. It is described as warm and clean but it is also paradoxically seductive and exotic: the final beatitude that transcends suffering. I still adore Samsara but it is not my regular scent anymore; it is tiring being sexy and mysterious all the time.

Top notes: Jasmine, Ylang Ylang;
Middle notes: Jasmine, Sandalwood, Narcissus;
Base notes: Tonka, Iris, Vanilla

Estée Lauder, Intuition by Alberto Morillas: My best friend returns for this next chapter of scent. In 2003 she called me up after a second date to tell me that she had met her future husband. After finishing the conversation I strolled into the living room of my friend’s house and casually asked if anyone wanted to go with me to visit Chicago. Eighteen hours later I arrived with my new friend Ryan. While my best friend worked during the day Ryan and I toured the city. On our last day we went to the famous Marhall Field’s and he helped me to find a new scent. It was a bit less dramatic than marking the occasion with a tattoo or piercing (which I had done on previous big trips). It was warm and spicy, which I enjoyed, and had a wonderful amber note. It went on too sweet but settled well on my skin. Unfortunately the Intuition lotion stays sweet and never quite settles into the warmth that first drew me in. SB met me during the winter when I was slathering it on my hands and feet and associates that scent with me. I wish he wouldn’t. I would like to think that I am far more multi-dimensional.

Top notes: mandarin, bergamot, grapefruit, fresh green garden
Middle notes: gardenia petal, freesia, Chinese rhododendron
Base notes: amber

Calvin Klein, Euphoria: We had a small flirtation in the spring of 2008 due to a sample in a magazine. It checked all of my boxes as far as exotic, warm and amber however it wasn’t quite me. My twenty-five year old self would have worn it well but it was too sweet and light for a woman who was close to thirty. Just to be sure I tried on a sample and brought it to Uncle Jon. He said it was not me.

Top notes: Pomegranate, Persimmon, "Lush Green Accord" (whatever that is);
Middle notes: Lotus Blossom, Champaca Flower, Black Orchid;
Base notes: Liquid Amber, Black Violet, Cream Accord, Mahogany Wood

Prada, L'Eau Ambrée: Dissatisfied with the lack of dimensionality in my Intuition I went back to the perfume counter. This time I had done some research and carried a list of perfumes that carried the base note of ambergris or sandalwood. This perfume by Daniela Andrier is mesmerizing. Not sweet at all but comfortable. I can’t describe it very well except to say that it first appears to be one thing and then settles into this subtle presence that you can detect like an aura of warm musk. The scent actually gets more and more beautiful over time. This is the scent I wear the most. It is the most versatile and comfortable. I am trying to retrain SB to recognize me with it. So far it isn’t working. There is a woman on his minibus who wears a scent similar to my cloying Intuition winter skin lotion and he sits near her sniffing and thinking of me.

Top notes: cedrat lemon, mandarin neroli;
Middle notes: May rose, benzoin, gardenia jaminoide;
Base notes: modern amber, warm patchouli, opoponax, vanilla.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

these are a few of my favorite things

I had to take a picture of the lift control panel at my office.  You can see which button gets used a lot and which is still as pristine as when it received its factory finish.  This morning we slammed the doors shut on an elderly couple.  We do that often; the Board of Management of the Chinese Permanent Cemeteries is located in our building.  That's what they get for trying to arrange their final resting places during business hours.  The nerve.

Later in the morning I was in the Immigration building assisting a newly landed friend when I was compelled to take this picture.  We were looking for a seat while waiting for her number to be called and thought we had found one but the whole row was apparently occupied by this woman and her young daughter.  The whole row.  She was a fantastic actress, a convincing Helen Keller when we moved in closer to see if she would move some of her possessions and allow us to sit. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

pushy people

I have written before of my bewilderment while watching fellow bus and tram-goers rushing to alight at a stop as though the vehicle was on fire only to commence shuffling like geriatric tree sloths once off the vehicle. It seems that the slightest indication of a queue forming will cause frantic behavior no matter that there is no urgency at all.

Last night as the tram arrived at the Happy Valley terminal I heard someone yelling for a fellow passenger to stop pushing him. I peered from where I was standing in the back of the tram to see what looked to be an actual tree sloth- a pale, slightly stooped individual with fuzzy ears and droopy eyelids. The tree sloth was much more animated than I expected and shook his small bag of fruit at a middle aged woman behind him. "Give me some respect; I am almost ninety years old," exclaimed the folivore at the interloper of his personal space, "you stop pushing me in the back!"

The woman ceded the tiniest sliver of space between their two bodies and they continued down the aisle until he was almost at the front of the tram where she apparently couldn't help herself and closed the distance. I was still leaning against the back of the tram so I was unable to hear the exchange but there was more grocery bag waving. Then the aggrieved old man finally disembarked and shuffled along (at a much more rapid rate than the other passengers might I note). I was curious to know what kind of a person would crowd an octogenarian but the woman didn't look anything unusual. In fact, she looked like every other typical passenger as she plodded along without the slightest look of embarrassment on her face.

I wonder what Edmund Leach would have made out of all of this.

Monday, June 20, 2011

get out the map

I am not sure if I properly remembered our excursion last week but this is the map that I drew from the best of my recollection.

Part 1 (yellow dots): from home in Happy Valley to Parkview.  I would cut this part out on a hot day.  You simply walk up the road for 30 minutes.

Part 2 (orange dots): the beginning of the trail to Tai Tam.  Take the trail to the right of the entrance, to Mount Butler, which begins to climb almost immediately.  If you enter the picnic area you have missed the trail. 

Part 3 (black dots): bushwhacking down the stream.  At the bottom of a large set of stairs is a stream crossing.  Go South and whack away.  Remember to look for options and don't just take the path in front of you.  There are several "escape" paths where you can skirt obstacles in the stream below.

Part 4 (pink dots): Tai Tam reservoir.  Once the reservoir comes into view there will be maintenance paths for the slopes. 

We walked to this interesting structure (can anyone tell me what it is?) and then climbed up the slope to the maintenance path.  It brought us back to the main trails.
What is this?

View from the end of the stream hike

Maintenance trail

Where we found the trail again

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Questions for a long term worker

After two and a half years of working at my first job in Hong Kong I am actively looking into expanding my horizons.  I have had a conversation with my company director over the past few months now and I have his blessing to move on.  As I am gathering all of my move on information I have realized how little I know about being a worker in Hong Kong.

I think that my next employer will still need to process an employment visa before I can begin work.  Can I work at my current job while the application is being processed? 

Since signing up for my MPF I have never paid any attention to it.  When I leave should I leave it with the current administrator (Fidelity) or transfer it to my HSBC total investment?  I haven't read all of the fine print regarding the provisions but they all seem the same.  And will I need to go with my next employer's MPF plan or can I arrange to pay it into my current plan?

Does anyone want to share their experiences?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Alternative hike to Tai Tam

SB and I had planned a day long hike in Sai Kung but then we woke up to heavy rain and had to cancel our plans. By late morning the sky was beginning to clear up and we were beginning to get on each other’s nerves from being cooped up in our small flat so we cancelled the cancellation and started off for a nice hike to Tai Tam and then maybe some shopping at Stanley. There is a bed linen store that I like and I wanted to find some sheets for my parents who don’t think of buying luxuries like high quality bedding for themselves.

Somewhere along the way the plans changed. I think it was at the 1 ½ hour mark when we stopped for water by a stream crossing and I refused to move out of the shade. 90% humidity and 35 degrees (that’s 95 Fahrenheit for my American readers) make up a one-two punch combination. I was a melted blob of agreeable putty when SB suggested that we go off trail and follow the stream where it would be shaded.

I almost changed my mind in the first five minutes because we had to navigate a couple of drops down into mud and underbrush but I figured that we could not get any dirtier so we continued. Ten minutes later we were rewarded for our decision.

We happened upon many beautiful sites: large boulders in pools, intimate bamboo gardens, small waterfalls and abundant plant, insect, and animal species. I will have to rate this as one of my favorite hikes in Hong Kong. It was also one of the most challenging hikes.

At two parts I needed SB to help me. Once I had to drop from a boulder onto his shoulders and once he had to help me down a slope. Height was definitely an advantage. This was also a full body experience. I had to use my hands, arms, feet and core strength to grab, push, pull and balance. There was a lot of use of friction to hoist myself up or down between boulders. I fell once and cut my knee and hands. I strongly suspect this hike would have been much easier if we had done it in reverse.

I would rate this hike as difficult on most days but very difficult on the day we went. It would have been too hot, too humid and too slippery for most of our friends but we may try the hike with healthy friends in the fall. Next time I will also prepare better. I was not dressed appropriately (I was wearing a tank top and running shorts) and was not properly hydrated at the beginning so although we had enough water I still felt lightheaded at the end. As my track coach used to tell us, if you can recognize that you are low on electrolytes you are probably too late to catch up. Prepare, prepare, prepare.

We eventually made it out at the Tai Tam upper reservoir and caught a bus to Stanley but by then I was filthy, tired and desperate to go home.

I will work out the hike on a map for my next post.

 SB tried to get a pedicure from the fishes in the pool.  Eventually he won them over although the bigger fishes had somewhat uncomfortable nibbles.  Then a crayfish showed up and SB decided to end the cleaning.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Al Jazeera's Struggle over the Nile programme

After our exhausting hike yesterday SB and I spent a very quiet evening at home with comfort food and the television.  As we were flipping though the channels we stopped at an image of the Aswan Dam.  We ended up watching Al Jazeera's series about the struggles for water and survival from countries that are affected by the Nile.  It was a fantastic programme that held us riveted to the end.

I highly recommend watching Struggle over the Nile, especially if you are ignorant about African politics and geography like I am.  Other than superficial knowledge of South Africa, I know a bit about ancient Egypt (mostly from architecture school) and a bit about Kenya (my sister was born in Nairobi), a fair amount about Rwanda and my understanding of everything else is pathetically dismal.

All images from Al Jazeera

Saturday morning

We were on our way to brunch after watching the Stanley Cup finals and found this somewhat usual Wanchai sight.  He had a buddy with him but the buddy woke up as a group of young women stood over them, giggling.  He eventually staggered to his feet and set off, most likely in the direction of home, leaving his drinking mate alone to nap in the noon sun. 

A small bowl was sitting on the ground in front of the remaining gentleman and SB could not help himself and placed some change into the bowl.  We heard more giggling behind us and saw another group of women taking photos.  The sleeping man will have no idea of how popular he was with the tourists.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Carl Vinson part II

Sadly, I only brought my camera phone.  If I had known that we would be allowed to grope the Superhornets I would have brought the big gun lens with me.

I was impressed by the mechanics of the supercarrier.  Everything was supersized.  The doors were larger than the floor area of my flat.  The four lifts from the lower deck could each carry several planes and could move up and down in seconds.  I was told that they had been set to a very slow speed so that they would carry the visitors safely up and down without anyone falling off the edge.  I wish I could do justice to my description of how it felt to ride the lift.  There were no railings so you stood looking out at the ocean.  Then as the lift began to ascend you had a feeling of being on a giant stage rising through the air, quickly.  Soon the flight deck came into view and suddenly you were standing under the stars in a totally different setting despite not having taken a single step.  Dozens of fighter planes loomed with a few combat helicopters and a Growler.  Cool.

The Navy pilots were standing on the flight deck to answer our questions.  You can easily identify a fighter pilot- they all have a certain look about them.  Je ne sais quoi.  They are obviously clean cut, not too tall in stature, physically fit and have that expressions that range from confident to arrogant.  There is also that thing that must come from the actual occupation.  I suspect the pilot look is self selecting.  Anyone willing to be sling-shot into the air and land on a moving patch of metal in the ocean must already come with that look.  The helicopter pilots are more laid back.  They teased us that helicopters are far better than fighter jets.  I may have to agree, but I wasn't about to give up my chance to get nose to nose with either piece of machinery.

Friday, June 10, 2011

from the sage of Balitimore

"Criticism is prejudice made plausible"
           -Henry Louis "H. L." Mencken (September 12, 1880 – January 29, 1956)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

You know what I love?

I love it when I step onto the lift and someone is frantically pushing the 'door close' button. I especially love it when the door closes on me as I am stepping inside so that I am compelled to stand thisclose to the button pusher and give the death stare.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Go team!

Our team was covered in the local media.  Okay, by local media I mean the Apple Daily.  And by team I mean our drummer.  I can't read the characters but apparently you can rate the photograph; she garnered 3.5 stars out of five by some lecherous trolls.  As a feminist I was appalled so I did the only logical thing.  I gave her five stars. 

She has recently moved here from California. She has found the locals to be very welcoming.  Very.

Stanley, paddling and ASSociations

This was my first dragon boat experience in Hong Kong and I am hooked. Our team came from our university and hotel industry, comprising novices as well as very experienced paddlers. Our first race was a disaster. I was in the third row and didn't see what happened but there was a noticeable stall in the middle of the race. Apparently an exhausted paddler was out of rhythm and the paddle clashing took out two other paddlers. We were disheartened to find out that we missed qualifying for the next set of competition by 0.3 seconds. Our team rallied for our final race in the Gold Cup division and won convincingly. One of the event photographers is a friend so she made sure to take a lot of pictures of me looking psychotic as our team paddled into the win. In my defense I was very focused and did not know that we had a very comfortable lead. I will not share the images.

Our pleasure boat was dead center of the row facing toward the beach and we had a wonderful cross wind unlike those on the shore whose ventilation was being absorbed by us. The only moment of discomfort other than the heat occurred when the boat to our right turned on a very loud generator and began expelling noxious fumes into the air. After several attempts to ask the occupants to turn down the generator we realized that despite being unable to hear us over the noise of their generator and bad music they understood what we were trying to convey and chose to pretend ignorance. At this point the harbour police, who didn't have any pressing issues, decided to investigate and helped to convey our request to move the damn generator to the other side of their boat. The people on board the boat, which appeared to be a decrepit ferry, decided that they were very aggrieved at our request and retaliated by increasing the volume of their godawful europop music and yelling at us, only their music drowned out whatever insults they were trying to convey.

We didn't have any other incidents until the end of the day when the group on the eurotrash ferry began a play fight by throwing empty beer cans at each other. You can guess where most of the cans ended up. As the boat pulled away from the race area they left a distinctive wake of aluminum.

Now here's the best part of the story: several members of the eurotrash boat had boarded our boat to share in our hospitality and sheepishly informed us that their boat belonged to the DUTCH ASSOCIATION. Yes, members of a country known for its environmental policies were spewing fumes, dumping beer cans and cigarette butts, and playing criminally bad music. The Atlas of Dutch Water Cities sits on my bookshelf in the office along with various publications about water conservations systems. Like Milli Vanilli they apparently have fooled me with their lip syncing of eco-communities and pristine landscape but I've got their number now.

In other news SB and I were awarded a dragon boat drum and we are over the moon. SB has shown his excitement by refusing to let me carry it and getting chased around by a policeman who wanted him to stop beating on it. I half expected to find it occupying my half fourth of the bed last night.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

22nd anniversary of Tiananmen Square Crackdown

The vigil will be tonight at 8pm in Victoria Park.  It would be interesting to see the turnout given the recent spate of arrests in the mainland.  SB has gone every year that he has been in Hong Kong.  He goes to remember the bright, young students and activists that were asking for a better future.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dear Web Browser,

I have been a happy and loyal customer for several years. I am a fan of the customizable toolbars, add-ons and features that you have provided me in each new version. You have been good about offering me options that I hadn’t even thought about wanting. At this point in my life I wonder how much longer I will need a home computer because of all the online storage and provisions that are available to me. If Adobe, Autodesk and Microsoft Office provided online software services I would be able to work anywhere.

There is one thing that you, Web Browser, could do that would make my day year. I long for a better blocking/filter application. You see, I have a problem with a person who keeps appearing in my news reader. Actually there are two people who bother me. I will not name them because it would just raise their already inflated internet profiles so I will just refer to them as TBA (Two Bimbos of the Apocalypse). I tried to use your parental control filter to block TBA but this caused entire pages containing their names to be blocked out such as CNN and MSNBC. I found a nifty application called Ex-Blocker but it isn’t quite what I need either. Ex-Blocker is good for avoiding personal entanglements and will block TBA’s Facebook and Twitter accounts but I don’t have those relationships established with TBA anyway.

Please, please, puh-leeeeaaaase create an application that filters out all news articles referring to certain, un-named, irritating people. I would pay you for it. Many people would pay for it; otherwise I will continue to have high blood pressure when reading the news.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

hoisted on one's own petard

My English neighbor loves to condescend to Americans.  I think it is part of his genetic makeup.  Rather than fight him I provide much entertainment by taking on a painfully obtuse personality.  Once in a while a scorching zinger escapes from my thick head and he makes a great show of applauding my wit.  I am quite the idiot savant.  The Englishman has recently become bemused at how we savants are multiplying.  SB and another American woman have joined the act and we have become quite the stooge act.  You can usually catch us on Friday nights at the local pub.

Last night our English better went for the well over used statement about how Americans don't understand irony.  Where did this come from?  It seems that every mediocre British comedian now uses this as the reason why nobody likes his show but Americans are doing just fine with the Office and John Cleese lives in the United States. 

My neighbor then asked me to define to him what I thought irony was.  "Getting caught in a trap of your own making," I chirped; he grudgingly had to admit that I wasn't too far off from the definition.  Later I realized that I had missed a golden opportunity to utilize Socratic irony in our conversation when it became clear that he couldn't define irony any better than me.

He also couldn't resist bringing up Alanis Morisette's song.  For the last time, she is Canadian.  Isn't that ironic?

"Actually, I don't know anyone who understands irony better than an American," I told him, "we gave guns to the Afghans in the 80's."