Tuesday, July 26, 2011


It is an apt definition; I feel as though a black bile is indeed residing in my stomach and throat.

I read a book over the weekend. I didn't really intend to but it was so hot outside and I had nothing to do. The book was recommended by a friend who works in the field of gender and sexuality. It was novel about loss, love and postmodern sexuality. It wasn't a great book. It was perhaps above tolerable. The story was written in the first person perspectives of the two main characters and the swerves between the narrations were abrupt. The plot involving the love story of a widowed man and a scarred woman was absurd. And the scars were literal, not figurative. And the widowed man was previously married to another man. Then there was the ending which was wrapped up too suddenly and neatly with a little bow of happily ever after that caused me to huff in disgust.

Despite all of these problems I got caught up and now I have been depressed for days. While writing about scarface, a stalker, a bigoted minister, and a twin, the author managed to capture the male character's grief and loss in a few meaningful sentences. The endearments that were once used. The emptiness and unexpectedness of the emptiness. The strangeness of another body, in this case another gender to boot. I have been laying wide awake with horror thinking of this fictional man's all too real grief as if it were my own. I am still so sad about Jon's death but instead I am picturing the character's dead husband and mourning him. I'm sure that a psychologist would be able to explain displacement of grief to me so that I don't feel so stupid about why I have been crying off and on for days. I don't need the degree to know that some of this is the grief that I have been unable to express over the past year.

I talk to SB as much as I can but sometimes it is hard to put into words and sometimes I am too confused to even express it. I am not rational. I sometimes don't think that SB can understand how much I loved Jon because I haven't been able to explain it without guilt that I loved Jon the most of anyone in the family. And I have irrational anger that SB went out of town when Jon came to visit and meet him but who was to know that the cowardly retreat/timely visit to his sister was the only chance he had to meet him? I certainly wasn't upset at the time, all of us thinking there would be time in the future.

Even now I feel a rush of panic like I felt when I knew just how long forever really is. Gone forever. Nonexistent. Forgotten. I tried to talk about Jon but I don't think that I made any sense with all of the blubbering and continuous changes of subject. Much like that damn book. Maybe I am going through early menopause.  Or maybe I have finally gone from "touched" to outright nutty. Maybe like than damn book I have lost the plot.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

patriotism, cultural conservatism and extremism

When I heard about the bombing in Norway I immediately wondered if Muslims were involved.  I told myself not to jump to conclusions but the faces of terrorism have shifted from the IRA to Arabs and Africans.  A lot of people had my same pondering and others went so far as to draw conclusions and make accusations.

As it turns out the killer was the opposite of who we thought him to be.  Bond haired, blue eyed Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik killed at least 92 people in his version of ethnic cleansing:

"Tell me one country where Muslims have lived peacefully with non-Muslims without the Jihad
...How many thousands of new Europeans must die, how many one hundred thousand European women should be raped, millions robbed and tractor discarded before you understand that multiculturalism + Islam does not work?
...I dare not even think of how many Norwegian children who have been suicide because of these experiences (assault, robbery, rape, psychological terror committed by Muslim youths). There are probably several hundred in the last 15 years.
....Non-Muslim youth in Oslo aged 12-18 are in a particularly vulnerable situation in terms of harassment [from] Muslim youth."
 Unfortunately these children were most vulnerable no to Muslims but to Mr. Breivik.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


You can see the live feed of the landing here (Atlantis should land at 5:45pm or so):

can I get a what, what

When I was sent a link to BBC News Magazine's "Viewpoint: Why do some Americanisms irritate people?" I thought it would be a fun read. I've written previously about variations in colloquial English between the various English speaking countries.  The viewpoint was interesting, though not anything new.  I did roll my eyes a bit when the author parroted the often used argument about his language being the original English.  Buddy, where do you think our English came from?  You can refer to my previous post about why British English is not any more authentic than ours here.

More interesting was the follow up, "Americanisms: 50 of your most noted examples."  I am afraid that my eyes are stuck at the top of my brow line from rolling so much.  The Institute of Pretentious Ponderings' fainting couch will be overloaded by the volume of offended parties.  The complaints cover almost all of American informal speech and slang.  The chorus of mincing, (probably) Anglo complainants clearly have not stepped outside of their front doors for a good half century because they are unaware that their surrounding environment is full of bloody arsed innits.

And then there was comment number 22.  What's wrong with a train station?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Land: what used to be a natural surface has become the tool of power for western civilization.  Land is divided into imaginary boundaries and arbitrary lines that denote states, territories, domains.  In Hong Kong land is so valuable that the government can lease it for astronomic fees.  Very few citizens own their land and large corporations cheat, bribe or fight for access to it.

In western society land ownership is an inalienable right.  Previously it was a right reserved for nobility.  The feudal system ensured that property would stay within the confines of their exclusive society.  A man without land had no voice; he could not vote or partake in government.  In modern society these rules have been lifted but property still remains a contested, political issue.

There is no place on earth that is not subject to politicization.  We carve out nature into our own landscapes and gardens.  The parks of Europe can be traced back to the revolutions that seized royal hunting grounds and gave them to the people.  Israelis plant olive groves and parks in the harsh desert because their viability fulfills a prophesy that the land belongs to them.  The large tracts of American wilderness remain so because of government intervention, because they are living symbols that shape our national identity.

When we go to museums and galleries SB has a preference to landscape and wildlife paintings.  Early in our relationship I took him to see an exhibit in the Johnson Museum of the Hudson River School.  Along with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, the Hudson River School provided illustration of an emerging American identity based on individualism and ties to nature.  Interestingly the depiction of nature and transcendental philosophy was less natural and more political that most of us realize.

The idealized portrayals of the American West projected the themes of discovery, exploration and settlement.  Veni, vidi, vici and et cetera.  When gazing upon the bucolic scenes one cannot be faulted for not noticing other events taking place on the canvas.  When we compare the earlier paintings of wide, open spaces to the later ones featuring more enclosed lands we can easily overlook the subtle message of the times.  As the great country was nearing the Civil War our paintings began favoring a protected wilderness.  It was time to protect the land and keep its inhabitants together under one system.

In the 21st century our direct relationship with land has changed but we are still reliant upon it.  We rely on the invisible boundaries of the motherland for identity.  Until we come up with something better we still rely on land to provide nutrition.  And we still need to live somewhere which is why SB and I are paying a ridiculous amount of money for a tiny place that we call home.  Maybe we aren't so removed from the feudal system after all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

the grass is always greener when it isn't real grass

Happy Valley Recreation Ground is closing pitch 1 and pitch 6 (the rugby pitch and large football pitch).  I cannot find any press releases but through word of mouth from some folks in the rugby union we think that the pitches will be closed for two years and then converted from natural grass to artificial turf. 

It makes sense to convert the pitches.  A combination of overuse and strange groundskeeping has yields a large dust bowl for most of the year.  The rugby pitch is the home turf of Valley, one of HK's largest rugby clubs.  If you play rugby anytime other than the weeks after it is closed and resodded you will come away covered in a fine layer of dirt both on the outside and on the inside.  Or you will come away muddy because the groundskeepers seem to prefer watering the pitch in the middle of the day so that most of the water can evaporate before even landing on the grass and what lands on the grass softens the ground up so that it can easily be ripped out by players' boots. 

As much as my knees and elbows will rejoice in using artificial turf over hardened earth I will be sad to see the natural grass pitch go.  It is the only place I can go nearby and walk barefoot.  SB and I always cut through the recreation ground on our way home in the evening and we often remove our shoes and walk across the pitches.  I wonder if the pitches could be sustained even with the steady use.  What if the groundskeeper didn't cut the grass so short and only watered it in the early morning instead of right before a team took to it?  Why can't LCSD hire a contractor?  The LCSD facilities that are managed by contracts rather than in-house look so much better. 

These next few weeks may be my last opportunities to walk five minutes from my home and touch blades of grass.  The closure of the pitches makes Happy Valley much less appealing for me as I have moved here largely because of the sports that I can play.  Lacrosse and hockey will still be played but GAA and rugby will move on to greener pastures.  I wonder if we will pack up and follow the grazing lands also.

Monday, July 18, 2011

run, rabbit, run

Now that the Casey Anthony trial in the US has drawn to a surprising close, the real media circus begins.  With no Palin will-she-or-won't-she mystery tour bus to chase the media is now fixated on hunting for the country's most notorious mother.  Meanwhile the country's economy collapses.  And still no cure for cancer.

After being jeered by hundreds of irate Floridian upon her release she has managed to do what Palin kept claiming she wanted to do as well.  She has actually managed to disappear.  So far a convenience store clerk in Oklahoma who mildly resembled her was run off the road and assaulted.  A small group of golfers who took a plane from Orlando to Ohio, where Ms. Anthony's parents are supposedly from, were tracked by the media.  The nightly news is being usurped by a bizarre version of Where's Waldo.  Could she be in Vegas?  Could she be in New York?  My bet is Orocovis, PR.

a win

It stung more than I thought it would when the US women lost to Japan at the close of the penalty kicks for the FIFA World Cup. Strangely my sadness over the US women losing didn’t prevent me from feeling very glad for Japan. I guess I can compartmentalize my feelings for both teams. I wanted each to win for different reasons.

I have been very invested in the world cup; it is a game that is meaningful to me in a very personal way. A couple years before the first batch of US women forced the world to recognize their skill and provide an international stage for women’s soccer I was a child at HKIS. I was blissfully unaware of gender bias and had no inkling of the trouble that I would cause when I tried to join my school’s mini rugby team. The after-school activity programme did not explicitly state that it was a boys’ only team.

Decades later I am a coach of a boys’ rugby team. I know what the HKIS coaches didn’t know back then- that girls and boys can play rugby together until puberty happens because there is no difference. If I were a coach of a younger age group I would be coaching girls also but several decades ago no one knew this.

I tried to join. My parents, who would never be confused for jocks, did not see what was so obvious to the other parents. We were informed that this was a boy activity. My parents did not object, probably because neither was especially interested in having to sit at the sidelines for hours each week. I looked at the list of other after-school activities and chose soccer. As it turned out, soccer was not as popular a sport for the children of HKIS as it was for the thousands of kids who play elsewhere. The school did not have a female soccer team.

I guess that they were not eager to keep saying no to me because I was allowed to join the team. I wish I could say that it was fun and we overcame all of our biases but that was not the case. On day one the coach decided for me that I would be the goalie. It was clearly the best position for the smallest person on the team. It was also clearly a great position for someone who was one of the fastest runners in the school. At the age of ten, only one girl and three boys were faster than me in the 400m run. I could hang in the chin up position longer than anyone else in my class and my time was better than the best time for the grade above mine. I think my parents still have my little athletics certificates.

I was left to stand in goal. I was excluded from learning other positions and mostly ignored. After several weeks of being forced to stand between two orange cones while my teammates ran around and practiced drills I went home and told my parents that I didn’t want to play soccer anymore. They never asked why. Sometimes I wish they would have but I doubt it would have changed anything. I suspect that the “training” given to me by the soccer coach was designed for this very outcome.

Ten year olds can be quite resilient. Down but not out I went on to become a terror at the recess bombardment game. I couldn’t throw the ball nearly as hard as some of the other boys but I could catch better than them.

After completing my first season of coaching children I realized something: the kids don’t remember a win or a loss after a couple of days; it is the parents and coaches who keep score. Children simply want to have fun and compete. When I cheer for the US women I am cheering because they were little girls who also wanted to be allowed to play, to have fun, to compete, to experience teamwork, and to play with their friends in a sport that they enjoyed.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Except from a letter to John Adams

Dated December 23rd, 1782
from Abigail Adams

There are few occurrences in this northern climate, at this season of the year, to divert or entertain you; and, in the domestic way, should I draw you the picture of my heart, it would be what I hope you still would love, though it contained nothing new. The early possession you obtained there, and the absolute power you have ever maintained over it, leave not the smallest space unoccupied. I look back to the early days of our acquaintance and friendship, as to the days of love and innocence, and, with an indescribable pleasure, I have seen near a score of years roll over our heads, with an affection heightened and improved by time; nor have the dreary years of absence in the smallest degree effaced from my mind the image of the dear, untitled man to whom I gave my heart.


Watching this interview clip freaked me out.

In the way that driving past a car accident freaks me out.

In the way that watching a video of my friend getting his junk pierced freaked me out.

In the way that A Clockwork Orange freaked me out.

If  you like that stuff see below


Friday, July 15, 2011

the Colorado Wookiee

On average the Colorado Wookiee can live to 9 lives or more, depending on level of inquisitiveness.

General Physical Description:
The Colorado Wookiee is classified as a hirsute breed. They are long with a large full head, perky and erect ears and immensely large paws.  50% of wookiees are ginger colored.

The Colorado Wookiee has a minimum weight of 85kgs. They have been recorded as weighing 98kgs. when playing multiple sports.

They will eat you out of house and home. The mainstay of a Colorado Wookiee diet should be large unlimited amounts of fresh pasta and plenty of clean water. They have quite delicate stomachs when approached with green colored foods so when feeding fresh fruits and vegetables make sure they are hidden beneath pasta. One must always worry about a Colorado Wookiee coming down with the first case of scurvy in the 21st century.  An earthenware bowl is the best type of feeding dish to use, as they are harder to knock over than the plastic ones, also they not chewable. A feed bag is preferred.

The Colorado Wookiee is unusually picky about bedding and will flop about a bit before settling down to sleep. Wood shavings may be acceptable to some wookiees but the Colorado Wookiee will only sleep on pillow top or memory foam mattresses with a minimum of two pillows and another warm body close by to use as a leg rest.  One should always be wary of being squished in her sleep.

Suitability For Children:
The Colorado Wookiee is suitable for all ages of children, but remember they are of extremely high energy and will wear out even children.  They like to carry children on their shoulders and swing them around in the air at dizzying speeds.  As they are so good-natured many people want one, however they do seem to be one of a kind.

Character & Temperament:
The Colorado Wookiee is quite intelligent though it can be a bit cantankerous unless it is fed regularly.  They are much like large children with delightfully energetic and inquisitive natures that may sometimes cause mischief and food shortages.

Sleeping Habits:
Colorado Wookiee are most active in the afternoon and at night; they generally sleep during the morning and must be prodded awake.

Toys & Exercise:
Wookiees need things to climb on, crawl through, dig and chew. It is possible to provide plenty to entertain this wookiee with using household items, such as food. Several boxes of can be put together with holes in them so the wookiee can go from box to box, just like being in a buffet.
Abandon hope all ye who enter. 

Colorado Wookiees can become well trained. They are more intelligent than guinea pigs and hamsters. They can even be trained to make a mess in one specific area, which makes cleaning up after them much easier. However if you get them as adults you will have to pick up after them often.

Show Characteristics:
Colorado Wookiees love to show off.  They will always attract an eager audience because they are so damn adorable.

Country of Origin:
United State

Thursday, July 14, 2011

a pig in a poke

I have previously mentioned my concerns of food safety in the kingdom next door.  It comes with much relief that one of Hong Kong's six major industries is testing and certification services.  Economically we can't afford to overlook issues that are causing a major uproar in China.

Contaminated food has reared its ugly head in another arena that threatens Chinese aspirations: sports.  As China has risen in international power it has pursued sports prowess in similar fashion to the gold medal competitions of United States and former Soviet Union.  However, it seems that corner cutting in food production poses a threat to athletic glory.

During the 14th FINA World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai pork will not be consumed by the athletes.  Apparently the clenbuterol used to speed up growth and build muscle in cows and pigs is also causing athletes to test positive for the banned anabolic agent.

According to a NBC news article by Ed Flanagan, a study by a World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited lab in Germany revealed that 22 out of 28 travelers returning from China tested positive for clenbuterol.

Several foreign athletes may have already suffered as a result of eating food.  According to Flanagan,
German table tennis player, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, nearly faced a ban when he tested positive for clenbuterol but was saved when his claim of contaminated food from his hotel was corroborated by similar results in four other players.  Polish canoeist Adam Seroczynski unfortunately was banned for two years for his positive test at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

For their part, authorities in China are showing more concern than they had for previous food contamination issues.  Unlike with other food frauds this one affects them on an international stage.  Athletes may be wary to risk a two year ban to compete in Chinese sponsored, international competitions.  On the other hand, I know a handful of shady athletes who might be eager to apply for a term abroad in the motherland.  Bring on the body building swine.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

the view from up here

We had dinner at Tosca in the Ritz Carlton last night.  It was good.  SB and I discussed the meal on the ride home.  He has never consumed a meal at a fancy restaurant that has been outstanding.  This ranked better than most for him but not exquisite.  There was a lot of salt that kept the dishes from being thoroughly enjoyed.

When I went to live with my aunt and uncle they introduced me to the wonderful world of culinary transcendence.  I have eaten meals, both fancy and plain, that have been spectacular.  I didn't realize how lucky I was until recently.  My uncle had a highly refined sense of taste.  His cooking skill only extended as far as the grill but he could taste anything and tell you what you should add to make the dish perfect.  He knew if the dish needed marjoram, thyme, sage, any number of spices that I couldn't distinguish.  The pleasure that I received on the occasions when he declared a dish to be perfect rivaled the glory of winning a race at school.

He and my aunt celebrated food.  They seemed to personally know all the chefs at their favorite restaurants.  Ernesto of the eponymous restaurant would often cook off menu for them.  The chef at the Plaza Club knew that he loved the green chili soup even in the summertime.  When the young chef at Gloria passed away suddenly my aunt and uncle were upset enough to call me at Cornell.  Yes, I have eaten very well.

I have resolved to find places in Hong Kong where I can share ecstatic gastronomic experiences with SB.  I want to leave a dinner with him raving.  Not raving mad, just raving.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Mia Hamm.  Brandi Chastain's black bra.  And now Megan Rapinoe's goal in the 122nd minute.

I think that the US women have earned us the right to call it soccer for another few years.

Earlier on I was apoplectic because I thought Brazil's Erika faked an injury for extra time.  If so then it was only deserved that the US should tie the game in that allotted injury time to take it into penalty kicks.

For those who can't stand watching women's sports I will give the highlights: 1 own goal, 1 retaken penalty kick, 1 red card, every US player connecting with her penalty kick, Hope Solo and Abby Waumbach.

Remember when Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs?

Monday, July 11, 2011

summer fare

When I moved to Texas to live with my aunt and uncle I discovered a new meaning to summertime.  Previously summer consisted of seemingly endless travelling between Asia and the States to visit family.  Then in high school I took summer school and worked at a grocery store, which left little leisure time.  Just the way my parents liked it.  My aunt and uncle were the cool, hip parents compared to my conservative, religious upbringing.  They included me in happy hour when they opened their bar at 5pm.  Summer was a time for concerts, hill country barbecues, water sports and fun. 

I took the love of summer to New York when I moved for grad school.  SB and I used to host a regular dinner.  We would fire up the grill and invite our friends and neighbors over.  We also participated in frequent picnics.  One of my favorite picnic foods was smoked trout soI was excited this summer when I saw a smoked trout in the display case at the new gourmet store in Happy Valley.  Though not quite the quality of the homemade trout that was caught locally and smoked in a neighbor's back yard, it brought back memories of the summertime picnics in the woods. 

What are your summer foods?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

what happens next?

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
- Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence

 In the United States public opinion is split over whether gay people should be granted the same rights as heterosexuals.  Polls show that a majority of the younger generation of the United States believe in equal rights, including the right to enter civil marriages.  Our household reflects American society.  It bothers me.  I care very strongly and SB doesn't at all.  And nothing I can do or say makes him care.  I guess I should be happy that his opinion isn't opposite to mine.  But I am not happy.

I point out to him that until 1967 interracial marriages were against the law.  When the supreme court ruled that states laws banning interracial marriages were illegal 73% of Americans were in agreement with the state laws banning such marriages.  Seven years after the supreme court allowed interracial marriages to occur my parents were married.  My grandpa was delighted with my mother; my grandmother was not.  Most of the family understood both opinions although it's the younger generation who can call it what is was: bigotry.

After gay rights I wonder what is the next frontier?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

the Secret Lives of Buildings

I took the title of this post from Edward Hollis' book of the same name.  Aside from contributions to the built environment and representations of man's innovation, invention and ego, buildings are witnesses to history and record events through interventions upon their facades and walls.  In a building can be found a record or a story with the original intention and then twists and turns in the plot.  Within Hong Kong's rising skyline you will stumble upon temples, houses and low buildings that stand as records of another time.  The stairs along Queen's Road in Wanchai that lead to dead end streets housing restaurants and fabrication shops used to lead to a waterfront.  Walking past a real estate agency I am reminded of the noodle shop that used to reside there and the bowl of beef noodles that I used to enjoy so much.

The web site Dear Photograph has a huge following of people who share memories captured within 'then' and 'now' photographs. 

Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse is a historian in the Netherlands who specializes in the first half of the 20th century.  You should check out some of her poignant photomontages for "Ghosts of Amsterdam" here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

reverse ferret

Jack Shafer's article regarding Rupert Murdoch and News of the World's decent into a genre reserved for conspiracy theorists and David Lynch is a good read.  In the camp/horror/film noir movie that is playing in my head I can easily imagine Mr. Murdoch hobbling quickly through the winding halls of the news agency, yelling "reverse ferret!"

Here is the opening paragraph of Mr. Shafer's article:

When legendary editor Kelvin MacKenzie ran Rupert Murdoch's London Sun in the 1980s and early 1990s, he would incite his reporters into tabloid action by ordering them to "put a ferret" up the trousers of the powers that be. As Neil Chenoweth writes in Rupert Murdoch: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Media Wizard:

[MacKenzie] would do this until the moment it became clear that in the course of making up stories, inventing quotes, invading people's privacy, and stepping on toes, the Sun had committed some truly hideous solecism—like running the wrong lottery numbers—when he would rush back to the newsroom shouting, "Reverse ferret!" This is the survival moment, when a tabloid changes course in a blink without any reduction in speed, volume, or moral outrage. In the midst of a disaster of its own making, it pulls a ferret out of a hat and sails on.

- Jack Shafer, Slate.com


Thursday, July 7, 2011

have you seen this video?

It is a test.  It is better than I imagined it would be.  I passed.  SB didn't.  It was hysterical when we replayed it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly has passed away in Rome.  My first exposure to his work was through the building that housed it when I made my pilgrimage to the Menil collection in 2002.  I went to see the work of Renzo Piano and was introduced to the works contained within his architecture.  That day was like awakening into a dream.  Piano's Twombly gallery is light, graceful and plain if such a word can be used to describe something so silently powerful.  While others have hurled themselves at Twombly's works, I had a horrifying desire to press my face against the cold, beautifully smooth, Italian masonry walls.  The walls were covered by layers of translucent material that rested lightly and gracefully, allowing ambient light to softly wash the rooms that held the works.

To me Twombly's art is a nonlinear timeline that alludes to mythology, eroticism and poetry.  For others it is so much more.

feeding the goldfish

SB phoned me at 7:30 to state that he was ravenously hungry and wanted to know what was for dinner.  Er, nothing.  I immediately finished the last of my emails and rushed home.  Knowing just how dark and murky the depth of his pit of a stomach is I cooked the entire package of pasta and whipped up an easy tomato sauce using ingredients from my pantry. 

He burst through the door moments before the pasta had finished cooking, head buried in a family sized bag of Doritos.  I hate Doritos.  I just thought I would share that with you.

I quickly placed the entirety of six servings onto a platter and brought it to him, then went to get a plate for myself.  I might have gotten half a serving onto my plate.  He ate everything else.  Then he polished off a serving of ice cream. 

He has these hunger fits every few weeks.  I don't know what brings them on but he can eat and eat and eat.  His metabolism is a wonder to behold. 

Then, less than two hours later he laid next to me as I was reading in bed and fell into a deep, satisfied slumber as though he was drugged.  I am strangely charmed when this happens.  It must be love.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Strawberry shortcake

I thought strawberry shortcake would be an all-American dessert.  In the New York countryside strawberries would come into season nearly the same time as corn.  In 2008 my friend Kristen and I spent a morning picking strawberries at a nearby farm.  They were delicious and it was difficult not to eat them as we were picking.  We confessed this to the farmer but he didn't charge us for it, probably because we had picked enough to fill a large basket.  Only after we paid did we begin to worry about the massive quantity of fruit.  We shouldn't have worried because my roommate, Chris, was a very large, very hungry man.  He was of Swedish decent and looked every bit like one of those vikings that you find on the cover of romance novels.  He had long, blond hair and spoke in such a low growl that he was somewhat unintelligible.  It was futile to carry on a phone conversation with him because all you would hear was the sound of an idling engine.  He consumed over a hundred strawberries in less than an hour.

To my great shock, SB didn't know what I was serving him for dessert.  He had avoided strawberries as a child because he thought they looked too much like his nemesis, the tomato.  He did not understand how difficult it is to make a good shortcake, one that is light and fragile instead of dry or dense.  He didn't know how truly American this dessert is, how it is associated with lemonade and sweet corn and fireworks.  All he knew was that it tasted good, but it was enough.

Strawberry Shortcakes for two

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
very, very small pinch of salt
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter in small pieces
½ cups cold heavy cream

Preheat the (toaster)oven to 425°F (205°C).  Lay parchment paper on a baking sheet, to go in the middle rack of the oven.

Mix the dry ingredients together.  Add the butter and pinch it together with the flour until you break the butter up into small flakes.  You do not want to overwork the flour and butter or your shortcakes will be hard instead of light.  Pour the cream into the ingredients and mix gently with a fork just until it is blended.  You may have to knead with your hands (gently).  The dough should be sticky.
Divide the dough into who portions and place on the baking sheet so that the shortcakes are more than three inches apart and about an inch high.  Bake for about 20 minutes when they are lightly golden and puffy.  They will be fragile so carefully transfer them to the cooling rack.

Whip 350ml or so of cream until it is light and fluffy.  You may add some sugar or vanilla to the cream but I prefer it plain.

Wash a container of strawberries and slice them.  You may sprinkle a tiny bit of sugar on them to release some juices that you can drizzle over the top of your shortcakes.

Use a serrated knife and carefully cut the shortcakes in half horizontally.  Don't worry too much if they break because you can hide it with the whipped cream.  Put some whipped cream and then strawberries on half of the shortcake and then place the other half on top.

Monday, July 4, 2011

of mountains and mole hills

I wasn't aware that there were any large swaths of untamed wilderness or towering peaks in Hong Kong Island but we all have our own definitions of what big is.  I learned this lesson when I was living in Italy; like Hong Kong's mountains, the size of a stallion is vigorously debated.

green eggs and sham

For those who aren't aware, Hong Kong has made effort to promote six industries (aside from those relating to the finance and real estate services) that they have identified as advantageous, crucial to the development of economy and able to propel Hong Kong toward a knowledge-based economy: testing and certification, medical services, innovation and technology, cultural and creative industries, environmental industries and education services.

I am never so relieved of Hong Kong's high level of testing and certification services as when I read articles like this one from the L.A. Times regarding food fakery and contamination.  I hope that Hong Kong can continue to remain as an protected harbour against any filth that may trickle down the delta.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Another bad haircut.  The stylist tried to give me the layers I requested and somehow it went terribly wrong.  I had two flaps on the side like dog ears and a short, blunt cut in the back.  The stylist who I wanted but was busy came over in the middle of the haircut and stopped the one who was hacking away in what I think may have been panic.  Maybe he confused layered with bi-level.  They conferred for a few minutes and then the good stylist asked me if it was okay.  I wasn't sure what he was referring to but no, I wasn't a fan of looking like a basset hound.  I repeated my original request for shoulder length, layered hair.  Long pause.  I had not yet seen the back but I suspected that it was several inches beyond shoulder length. 

To make matters worse SB came along from his shampoo and audibly sucked in his breath.  Oh dear.  This was not going well.  I looked at the floor and noticed a large pile on long hair.  Now it was my turn to feel panicked. 

To cut a long story short (heh) I now have a bowl on top of my head.  Like I used to have when I was a child and my mother cut my hair.  It was the best that they could do. They had to shave part of the back of my head to get it even in length.  I used to have hair down to my waist.  SB loved running his hands through it.  Now he can rub on the prickly part in the back, that is if I can get him to stop weeping.

Friday, July 1, 2011


SB and I attended three weddings in June.  All of this matrimonial fever had us thinking of our own plans again.  It has been almost two years since his decision to marry me now.  He still hasn't met my parents.  And I won't make it official without at least one meeting of the families.  It doesn't seem too much to ask for but somehow it has been a monumental undertaking.  My parents are very active retirees; they are constantly moving about the country back in the States.  They spend the fall and winter in Tucson where my father is a docent at the desert museum (I think I previously mentioned his work with the Harris hawks and other desert raptors).  During the spring my mother works as a tax counselor for the elderly.  They spend their summers at a national park in Utah.

SB's parents are no less busy.  He also has two sets of them to round up.  His mother and stepfather are in the process of moving to be closer to his eldest sister and grandchildren.  His father started another family later in life and has one son in university and a daughter still in boarding school. 

I feel reinvigorated by all the June weddings and maybe rededicated to our plans.  We are tentatively planning a meeting during the Christmas season.  That gives me plenty of time to get myself worked up worrying if they will like each other.  Wish me luck.

what's your emergency?

Thanks to my supervisor's spectacular management skills I didn't go home until 2am last night.  The late night combined with the knowledge that it would have been avoided if someone hadn't given me the assignment with only 48 hours notice made for one sad and sorry woman when the alarm clock woke me up for another day of joy.  I sent SB to take his shower ahead of me while I tried unsuccessfully to become one with my pillow.

A very few minutes later I was roused by SB's distraught yelling.  I shot out of bed and ran to the bathroom, expecting him to lying in a pool of blood, only to find him standing perfectly upright. "What's wrong," I rasped, my heart still in my throat.

SB turned from the mirror to face me. "My nipples are lopsided," he wailed.

Great.  After thirty-nine years of blissful ignorance you notice this now.  Right now.

I was so unimpressed that I didn't even bother to respond and stomped back to bed.  Unfortunately I was fully awake and my snoozy time was over.  SB followed me into the bedroom, dripping water all over the floor for me to slip and fall on (at least one of us should manage that pool of blood that woke me up to begin with).  He made me analyze his nipple placement and indeed one nipple is an inch or so higher that the other.  I wasn't surprised by this so I must have noted it on a subconscious level before.  "I can never take my shirt off again!" he wailed some more.  Oh puh-leasssse!

I told him that nobody is symmetrical.  Why did he care?  His shoulders are lopsided from where he broke his collarbone much more noticeably.  Anyone looking at him directly can see that he's broken his nose and that doesn't seem to bother him.  In fact I was pretty sure that my nipples weren't perfectly symmetrically located either.

So at 7:30 this morning SB and I were standing side by side in front of the mirror like two boobs comparing our boobs.