Saturday, December 31, 2011

with Senna, the magic died

A couple years ago I discovered that SB used to be a Formula 1 fan.  We were walking past our local pub and a race was showing.  SB was drawn to the television and I was forced to continue home alone.  I knew that he enjoyed watching Top Gear and occasionally spouted off car related facts that indicated more than a passing interest in racing but I was ignorant to the depths of his fascination.  I later found out that Ayrton Senna was his childhood hero.

Two nights ago I gave SB a belated Christmas gift in the 2010 documentary, Senna.  I knew that it was going to be heavy because of its inevitable conclusion.  We sat mostly in silence, with me occasionally asking him for explanations regarding the F1 rivalries that he knew all about.  It didn't take long to figure out that his childhood fascination with F1 was not idle but bordered on obsession.  When we entered into that final season on the documentary no more words were exchanged. 

At the death of Roland Ratzenberger I looked over to see that SB was crying.  I have only seen SB close to shedding tears twice: once when we broke up years ago and I was bawling my eyes out he looked misty eyed and once when his grandmother died he looked distraught and may have shed one or two tears before walking out of her bedroom.  I had never, ever seen SB actually cry.

Later he told me that he and his younger sister used to watch the F1 races together, that they loved Senna and were caught up in the Senna-Proust rivalry as though it were an epic battle from the Iliad.  But when Senna died all of the magic died with him.  They continued to watch the races but it wasn't the same anymore; the spark was gone from their lives forever. 

SB told me that years later he had a discussion with an older friend who had been a motorsport fan in the 1950's.  He said that after several racing idols died year after year he couldn't bring himself to enjoy it anymore.  Years after Senna died SB had dreams where he was either driving the car on that fateful day or he was talking to Senna on the radio transmitter.  It reminded me of my dreams about my uncle.  While I was still too far in shock to understand the magnitude of loss when my uncle died, I now wake up from my dreams feeling wretched.  I imagine SB had a similar feeling over his racing idol. 

When SB mourns for Senna, he is also mourning for the loss of his childhood, for the end of a fantasy that he lived week after week through the races.  Ayrton Senna was supposed to be invincible but in the end, the man who became a legend was only mortal and this fairy tale did not have a happy ending.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

tales of a rugby whore

Last night a women's motley joined with the Potbellied Pigs to host the USS Carl Vinson Gravediggers in a friendly rugby match.  It worked out well because we alternated between the pigs playing fifteen minutes and then taking a rest while the women came on for a turn.

Oh yeah, for those who don't use the term, a rugby whore is someone who is willing to play for another team.  At tournaments in the US there would be a sign up area to match single rugby players with teams that needed more players.  The sign up sheets would read "whores" and "looking for whores." Technically I guess those looking for whores should be called "providers."  Yes, I recently learned some new terms.

Most of the ship's players were new or fairly new.  The men were in great shape and beat the pigs narrowly due to their fitness advantage even though their rugby skills were rough, kind of like that time when the US women won the Rugby World Cup.  While the male navy players were very fit, the women were a bit soft in the middle.  I suspect that they all are given the same servings of food on board. 

Our motley crew was considerably stronger than the lady gravediggers so we divided evenly between ourselves for the last play session.  Even though the navy women were probably a bit heavier than us, Liz and I decided to do the lifting because they had no experience. While Liz and I were showing the girls how to jump in a lineout I kept looking at the soft, round knees and thinking of how cute they were.  I was pretty pleased that we got the girls up in the air; it speaks well for my weight lifting routine. 

The lady gravediggers may have been at a disadvantage in skills but they showed great tenacity and put up some fantastic tackles.  Your correspondent will admit that she went into contact expecting less and was shown the floor for her folly. 

In the end we all departed for Wanchai where stories of the legendary match could be cultivated.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

all creatures great and small

Once again, the local police have been called in to clear the sitting area near the bus terminal of pets.  The area is a lovely gathering place for a large assortment of furry friends; the two restaurants welcome pets at the outdoor tables and there is plenty of space for man and beast to interact.  A little white dog who can hop through hoops and ride a skateboard rules the corner by the high planters, leading his tribe that consists of a Chow Chow, a Bichon Frise, two yellow Labs and occasionally a Bernese Mountain dog.  A Corgi and an ancient retriever loll about near the benches while little dogs like to bark at each other from under the outdoor dining furniture. But every so often some cynophobic calls the police on the illegal gathering and the scofflaws are dispersed.  I will give it a few weeks before they return.

Meanwhile it looks like a raccoon has joined the neighborhood.

Monday, December 26, 2011

the day after

We had three Christmas dinners in three days so once can understand why we winced at the idea of waddling through Causeway Bay for boxing day.  Instead we put on our elastic waisted pants and began to walk with no particular destination in mind.  We visited some birds who were having their own Christmas meal on the grass seeds in Happy Valley. 


In a park in Wanchai we watched groups of men playing checkers (at least I think it was checkers) and snoozing on the benches. 

Eventually we did wander into Causeway Bay to eye other sorts of birds in their plumage.  I love seeing the winter fashions in this town.  Leg warmers with high heels and short shorts.  Brilliant.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

this is why we no longer have a Christmas tree

Two years ago I came home from the office to find that SB had hung up his hockey gear to dry in an unusual place.  The hockey gear had never smelled so nice.  The same could not be said for the tree.  And then there were the fir needles all over the floor.  This is why we no longer have a Christmas tree.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


There are few things that I dislike more than settling down to a novel with promising beginnings only to find the plot unravel, break apart into illogical splinters and then be spackled together and tied into an abrupt bow in time for the foregone conclusion.

Of course it may be more realistic since life often splinters into pieces of absurdity. If only everything really did tie neatly in the end.

In other news I am spending Christmas with SB's second favorite exgirlfriend and her husband who shares a same first and middle name with SB. And the ex thinks that I am a ringer for her. Conclusions?

Monday, December 19, 2011

my rap

SB asked me why the iPod only seemed to have a couple NWA songs on it when he owned several albums that I had downloaded to my iTunes.  I am aware of the significant contribution that NWA provided to the history of rap and hip-hop but their misogynistic lyrics push my boundaries of acceptance.  That, and too many memories of that ex whose name rhymes with Moseph, who played lip synced their most outrageous lyrics to me in his car when he was angry and passive-aggressive.  "Punch the bitch in the eye, then the ho will fall to the ground (the rest is too graphic so you will have to look it up yourself)"

Of course I am aware of my hypocrisy as I happily play Jay-Z's 99 Problems (but the bitch ain't one).  But I own the Ipod so I am the arbiter of tasteful music.

Friday, December 16, 2011

coincidental competencies

I hated John Irving's Owen Meany; the story seemed so implausibly coincidental: a hero trained throughout his short life for achievement of seemingly random competencies that allowed him to perform the mission of his life in the end.

Last night my own random competencies turned me into another Owen Meany, albeit a much less effective one.  The women of my family's "lala" genes, later proven to be very real occurrences of epileptic vertigo, allowed me to realize that what I was witnessing was not a crazy man repeatedly banging his head on the ground while on his hands and knees.  My own experiences with concussions provided me with knowledge on how to care for the man and reassure him as he passed in and out of consciousness.

A history of broken noses and chipped teeth came in really handy after he fully regained consciousness and I was able to reassure him that despite the bloody face, split lip and aching teeth, there would be no permanent damage.  His mouth looked bad but not bad like teeth would fall out.  I would know.

Sadly when the EMT/paramedics arrived the first words out were, "Oh, you're drunk."  No, but he did have a history of low blood pressure; thank goodness one of us thought to ask.  Then they asked him to get up off the floor where I was elevating his feet to get checked out.  No one helped him up until he began to sway again.  I was glad that I told him about how he passed out twice while seizing so he could tell them since they didn't stick around to find out what really happened.  As the very useful medical staff were escorting him out I made sure to firmly tell one of them that he hit his head very hard.  In case anyone cared about concussions.  I wonder if I should have put my history of snappy comments to use.

Monday, December 12, 2011

deck the halls with trolls and chorus

The rugby holiday party was this Saturday after our match.  A and R wanted to get ready at A's boyfriend's place but having seen their version of housekeeping I pushed to use the facilities at King's Park.  I was outvoted and off we went to a colony of apartments in Hung Hom.  It was a chilly evening so getting ready in a warm, albeit dusty, apartment may have been preferable to the drafty shower facilities at King's Park.  The boyfriend was kind enough to pretend to be taking a nap on the couch while we flitted around him in the living room.  I can only imagine how confused the neighbors must have been if anyone had looked into the large window and seen fully dressed man lying on the couch in apparent disinterest while surrounded by three nude women.

As we leaving we could hear really loud shrieks coming from one of the neighboring apartments.  A explained that one of the neighbors constantly engaged in very loud activities with his girlfriend.  "Not girlfriend," corrected A's boyfriend, "he hires hookers."  To which we responded with varying reactions from disgust (A: ewww!) to humor (R: haha, how much?) to intrigue (me: how do you know this?).  A's boyfriend somehow figured out who the neighbor was and while the details of the discussion remain murky, the neighbor voluntarily disclosed that he hires women who are vocal, thus why the noises in the hallway were similar even though the participants changed.  Interesting neighbors.  The only excitement in my neighborhood occurs when the couple down the hall get in a fight and start swearing in English.  They conduct all of their communication in Chinese except when swearing and then the hallway rings with, "F*ck youuuu!" and "No, f*ck youuuuu!"  I guess in Hung Hom it's the same, only a more literal event.

Friday, December 9, 2011

no thanks

Last week a friend of mine sent a message on Facebook asking for donations to bring back to the village that she grew up in.  She was soliciting on behalf of a family friend who had lost his leg in a car accident and was having difficulties providing for his two children.  When I saw her husband on Wednesday I gave him an envelope with some money.

On Thursday she called to thank me.  She was weeping.  She told me how grateful she was and that the money would help her to buy metal sheeting to make walls for her friend's home.  He had no walls.  My mind was reeling; he didn't even have walls.

Later that night I told SB how rotten I felt that she was thanking me so much when all I did was give what I was comfortable with giving.  It made me feel good to know that my money was going to help someone who very desperately needed help but it wasn't like I was doing anything really special.  I should be thanking my friend because she is simply amazing.  I have never seen pictures of her village but I have a feeling that it isn't exactly affluent.  She works hard in a restaurant so that she can send money home to her family.  Her difficult waitress job has helped to build a home for her father and now is building a home for a disabled friend.  She works miserable hours but rarely complains because in her mind she is living the dream.  She is married to a wonderful man who provides her with a home and support yet she doesn't want to tax him to provide for her family so she earns money for the houses while he earns money for the two of them.  I think she would warm even the Grinch's cold, black heart.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

pot,meet kettle

The only times that I returned to the town where I went to high school were during spring break, and I usually passed the time in an alcohol enabled haze with my best friend.  Aside from her, I would occasionally meet up with one other friend or my old boyfriend.  I have not been back since 2006.  This is probably why I only now realized something interesting about my friends.

When I was in high school I became involved in a ridiculous love triangle, only it was more like a parallelogram.  My favorite boyfriend had previously dated my cross country teammate (I asked and received her blessing to begin dating him).  We eventually broke up and got back together for the next couple of years during which he added several more of my teammates to the mess along with a few of his friends.  With one exception we somehow all merrily muddled through our conjoined romantic messes.  Aside from the exception we are still friends.  While it seemed like the entire cross country team was tying itself in knots over bad boy surfer types there was one exception: teammate K.  Teammate K was planning to go to theology school and had no interest in joining our romantic entanglements.  She would just laugh at us as we shared our ridiculous exploits to her over lunch.

Now, years later, I saw teammate K in a picture with another friend and noticed a familiar last name.  After a few minutes of Facebook stalking discovered that teammate K has been married for several years to a man who was previously my homecoming date.  It was a memorable homecoming because I spent half an hour of it in the restroom consoling my date's ex-girlfriend and promising that I wouldn't sleep with him.  For all I know he was dancing with teammate K while I was consoling the ex. Apparently she wasn't as separate from the mess as she let on; she just was much more discreet than the rest of us.  I had no idea that they were interested in each other but now that I think about it they would have made a wonderful couple, both of them so sweet and caring.  And sneaky.  When I think of how she used to laugh at our shenanigans...that lovely hypocrite! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

letter from a student

I wanted to share an e-mail that I received from a student (my responses in red):

Hi [name redacted],

I'm [Student X], and I am doing an EE regarding the development at [school redacted]. As part of my research (I know it's late), I really want to meet up with the contractor and ask him a few questions about the design and construction/demolishing of the buildings. (Dear Student X, please explain what an EE is if you want me to answer your questions immediately so you don't flunk your late paper.)

These are the questions I am proposing to ask him:

1. Have you taken into account the noise, air pollution and disruption that you may cause the students at school due to the construction that will be going on. If you have, how will you try to minimise the disruption to the school life? Yes, there are strict ordinances to follow regarding construction in school zones that govern construction during class sessions as well as during exam periods.  The contractor must submit an environmental management plan with noise mitigation measures for approval from the architect and environmental engineer before construction can commence. 

2. Did you predict what the microclimates are going to be like around the new buildings when they are completed   Yes.  But wait, did you want me to say anything more than that?

Student X, it seems that you are unaware of the roles between an architect, engineer and contractor.  I would suggest a simple Google search of our respective roles for clarification prior to asking the contractor who has forwarded this message to me.  Basically, the contractor builds what is proposed by the design team.  On the design team, the engineer usually undertakes the CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) of the architect's design.  Architects who have specialty in environmental design can also run a basic CFD model during the early stages to help decide how to orient their designs and take advantage of the microclimate and wind conditions but the engineer will usually undertake the "official" model.  You can download a trial copy of Ecotect if you want to try it out; I find it to be a useful tool in early design stages.

3. What aspects have you included in your designs of the buildings which tries to minimize the effect that the new buildings are going to have on the existing environment once the buildings are completed? Again, this is not the contractor's job to design a building.  The architectural design team would have studied this with the assistance of a heritage consultant.  For the project you are asking about we have kept the building heights and mass in similar form with the existing site as well as using the original structure as the focal point of the new design.  We also have taken into account the microclimate so that the original buildings maintain effective ventilation and solar exposure.

4. Are there any features that you have included in your buildings which tries to minimize the carbon footprint of the building?  (grammar!) Features include recycled construction material, local or environmentally friendly building materials, solar heating, etc.  A key factor to lowering the carbon footprint is how the construction is managed.  Proper site management will reduce demolition waste, water waste, and construction waste.

5. Did you include any features in your design which tries to minimize the 'wall effect' that the buildings may generate?  The low height and massing of this new building will certainly not create a 'wall effect' but it is an interesting dilemma for high rise buildings in HK where the land is so valuable that we tend to build up every available square millimeter.  New regulations have been proposed to mitigate this problem but we have yet to see if they will take effect.  Development interests here are quite strong.

6. Did you consider what problems a building that is mostly made out of glass may bring?  I also would love to find out the marvelous technology used to create structural glass.  If you can give me any examples of glass buildings I shall try to find out.  If you are discussing this particular project, I assume you are referring to the large, operable windows in the recreation facility that are set back from the exterior balconies (thus, in shade) and take advantage of the site's local ventilation.

That's the questions that I will be wanting to ask him, but it will be fantastic if you could answer them as well! Thank you.  SHE would be happy to answer.  She also would like to suggest that when interviewing, whether it is for your late EE paper or for admission to a school, it is always pleasing for your object of interest to feel as though you really are interested, i.e. you did some research and know something about the subject of inquiry.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

the awkward turtle

The tutorial:
  1. The awkward turtle is what happens when one experiences bumbling conversation, TMI over sharing, unintentional insults or any number of communication blunders. 
  2. When first experiencing mild conversational discomfort, place your hand on top of the other, palms up (some people prefer palms down but it isn't so awkward that way).
  3. Move your thumbs back and forth in a sweeping motion when the conversation becomes cringe worthy, like the flippers of a turtle that has been upended onto its shell.
  4. Use the awkward turtle whenever necessary rather than wringing your hands.
An example:
(at an evening match, upon seeing an acquaintance)
Me: Are you  playing the next game?
Acq: No, I just felt like getting here early.
Other acquaintance: How's it going with your girlfriend?
(she recently moved in with him)
Me: It's nice that you get to see each other more often.
Acq: She's moving out right now.
*Insert awkward turtle*

Two weeks later:
(at an evening match)
Same acquaintance has previously moving out girlfriend up against the rails and is trying to dislodge her tonsils with his tongue while everyone tries to look in other directions.
*Insert awkward turtle*

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day

In 1996 I went with my two friends to the National Mall in Washington DC to view the AIDS quilt.  One of my friends had recently completed a panel in memory of her uncle who had recently died.  The quilt filled the entire mall (that is 1600 x 120 meters).  I spent the day meeting other friends and family members who had sewn panels in memory of loved ones.  In many cases AIDS patients in hospices were working together to sew panels for each other so that they would not be forgotten.  I remember protesters holding horrible signs at the perimeter of the area.  I remember sitting on the grass in front of a panel with a cigarette encased in it; the deceased person's friend explained that when he was too weak to smoke he still enjoyed holding the cigarette to his lips.  Later that night there was a candlelight march that lit up the mall in a sea of light.  I returned to my room in the early morning hours and broke down crying. 

It is 2011 and millions of people still die every year. 

The quilt in 1996 (source:$names-quilt-dc.jpg)