Monday, April 30, 2012

one wonders

When one crashes into a slow moving object that is fixed on a track, others might wonder about one's intelligence.  Clearly one knows that a tram can't swerve out of your way.  Clearly, yes?

Sunday, April 29, 2012


SB told me that he failed to exercise rage control the other night.  He has no problem with rage but he thinks that I sometimes need to dial back my sporting aggression.  We use the word "puppies" when he sees signs that I may lose my mind.  Apparently I am not supposed to tell nice people that I just met that their teammates are wretched and then threaten to commit battery if said teammates "accidentally" punch me again.  I also forgot to mention that this nice young lady has several teammates that I really like.  Puppies.

Last night we also went to Makumba, an African, live music club in the mid-levels.  The music reminded me very much of the music that Paul Simon started working with after his S&G days.  They have samples of their music on the website.  And the food was fantastic.  Who doesn't like fried plantains and lots of meaty finger foods?  There was dancing, drinking, snacking and limbo.  Yes, limbo. 

SB's boarding school classmate was visiting as well as my undergrad friend and our day included yum cha in Causeway Bay, a stop at G.O.D., a visit to the Henessey rooftop bar, the Wanchai market, checking out some architecture and haunted houses, curry in Chungking Mansions, watching women's lacrosse, and African live music.  We will be hard pressed to top this experience for the next 24 hour visit.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

about wolverines

Last night I watched a program about wolverines on the Animal Planet.  I have heard so much about them that it was surprising to realize that I didn't actually know what one looked like, other than it must have long claws because Hugh Jackman had on some long talons for his character in X-Men.

"What is that?!"  "It's a giant weasel," replied SB, "which means that it's extremely strong and mean."

Folks, lemme tell you that I have found a new star for my nightmares.  It will probably join the crocodile and cassowary in terms of horror potential but it probably won't displace the shark as my number one recurring character.  I can't tell you how many times I have waken up to check that SB still has both of his legs.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


SB's sister's 13 1/2 year old dog stumbled when climbing the stairs and is now wrapped up at the landing.  His gums are white and he didn't want dinner, which is very unusual since Ozzie is a robust, old dog.  SB's sister has been cuddling him and scratching his head but he isn't really responding.  We are all pretty traumatized.  SB tried to chat with Ozzie on speaker phone but he was so broken up that I was afraid that Ozzie would worry.  Either that or Ozzie is rolling his eyes at us. 

We have had a very long time with him but we want a bit more.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Marzipan Cake

This recipe is simple; I mix everything in a food processor, although you can mix it by hand if you don't have one.  I even baked it in my toaster oven and it was fine because it's a very forgiving cake.  The result is a dense, almond-y delight.  It is one of SB's favorites.
  • 235 ml unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 235 ml sour cream, at room temperature (1 cup)
  • 5 ml of baking soda (1 teaspoon)
  • 479 ml of sifted all-purpose flour (2 cups)
  • 2.5 ml of salt (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 118 ml sugar (1/2 cup)
  • 250 g marzipan cut into pieces (8.8 oz)
  • 4 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • Optional: icing sugar or whipped cream topping. I previously made this in my 9" cake pan and the top was relatively flat so I shifted icing sugar over the top but I made these cakes in small cake pans and the tops rose a bit like muffins so I covered them with whipped cream.  The lightness of the whipped cream was a great contrast to the dense marzipan.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 F). Butter a 9-inch, nonstick spring-form pan (I used four small cake pans).

Start by adding the butter and sugar to the processor and blend for five minutes or until the butter is creamed.  Add in the marzipan, a little at a time until it is roughly incorporated.  Now add the eggs and sour cream and mix until it is all blended evenly.  Finally, add the flour and baking soda, a bit at a time so you don't end up with a big flour cloud like I did because I was in a hurry.  Total food processor time was under ten minutes for me.

The batter should be thick.  Pour it into the pan(s) and spread to create an even surface.

Bake the cake for about 1 hour or until the cake returns to shape on top when pressed and shrinks a bit from the sides.  Cool the cake pan on a baking rack (if you have one).

When you are ready to serve it, sift icing sugar over the top or add whipped cream.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

it could be worse

My bad day yesterday cleared up faster than the weather did.  It was pretty rough for a while; I tried to clean the home while I was cooped indoors and scrubbing toilets always puts me in a good mood.  That, and hunger.  SB's cousin's child has been found to be allergic to wheat and the family can't really cook so SB and I have been experimenting with foods, trying to find easy, gluten free recipes to send on to them.  I tried a rice porridge mix for breakfast and it was inedible.

But then when I started feeling really sorry for myself I realized that things could be worse.  I could be somewhere having chunks of flesh cut off of my leg.  And I'm not talking about that time when our rugby scrapes got infected by some nasty staphylococcus bacteria that was lurking around on the pitch and we had to have our skin scraped off.  That was nasty but this picture that one of my friend's cousin posted takes the cake for pain. 

At least she will have something to show for her (voluntary) pain when it's all over.  At first I thought she got some sort of a brand.  That was the newest technique in body modification when I was in college, but at second glance I realized that it was something more serious, and possibly, scarily prone to infection until it heals.  She calls it scarification.  Suddenly tattoos seem like child's play.

Friday, April 20, 2012

it's going to be a long day

Did you know that your employer can deduct your mandatory long term pay from his mandatory MPF contributions when you leave the firm?  I didn't, so I was surprised by my statement which showed that my MPF was depleted by 50%.  So pretty much, half of my severance package was a fake.  This also means that I won't be repeating any of the complimentary statements that I had made when I left the firm to others.  In fact, I will probably be emailing this story to Cornell as a cautionary tale to those who are interested in working for this Cornell alumnus in Hong Kong, or any firm in HK for that matter.  One more lesson learned.  I will keep reminding myself how favorable the taxes are here.

While I was on the phone with my MPF holder, trying to sort out what happened to my account, SB woke up and decided that he was hungry so naturally he began chirping at me.  "Please hold on," I told the account representative, and then, "Go find you own %$#@ing breakfast!" to SB.  He left in a huff.  And made a point only purchase his own %$#@ing breakfast.  So now I am making my own %$#@ing breakfast while he is watching hockey on television.  And it's raining.  And we have two friends coming over to couch surf for the weekend.  It's going to be a long day.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

hockey pictures

Okay, so I have had my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens for a little bit over a year and I am getting better at using it but could still improve.  I've uploaded my latest hockey photos to show you.  They look pretty good compared to where I was last year but I am still fighting between underexposure and overexposure.  Sometimes the photos are too dark and sometimes they are too blurry.  Advice is much appreciated.

My rugby photos are much better but the speed is significantly less than on ice.  My biggest problem in rugby pictures is that some pitches are not well lit at night.  With hockey I am working against taking pictures on a somewhat reflective surface, through plexiglass panels, and with constant changes in distance between myself and the players.  They sprint the length of the ice in mere seconds.  I also have noticed that at 200mm, I sometimes fail to focus even though I thought that I had.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

grimace and bear it

So...remember when I said that this year I would not be sitting in the South Stand for Sevens and getting hit by flying cups of beer and who knows what else?  I am a pushover.  Yes, I admit it.  And for being a pushover I was punished brutally.  A and R came up with a brilliant plan on the Tuesday before Sevens, which was that we would dress under the same theme and sit together.  Brilliant plan with four days for execution.

Since I was less than thrilled to be sitting in the South Stand, but not wanting to be the Yoko Ono that broke up the band, I agreed to go with a theme as long as they came up with it.  What they came up with was Ronald McDonald and friends.  A loves McDonald's.  Loves it.  "I'll be Ronald!!!" she texted to me.  "I'll be the Hamburglar!" R chimed in.  "Does this mean that I'm that hairy, purple thing?" I demanded.  "Hahaha" and "LOL," they replied.  Thanks guys.  Really.

And then I was presented with a dilemma of what to do when you hate the costume idea but are a perfectionist.  I didn't believe that those two clowns lovely ladies were going to pull off credible costumes in four days.  Actually, less than four days because R was going to be doing various activities as a member of the HK women's squad.  I was feeling rather pessimistic about the whole thing until I walked into one of those trendy/cheap clothing stores in CWB and discovered that some people have terrible taste in clothing.

I couldn't believe that people bought these things to wear for real.  Within the first ten minutes of what I thought would be a very long shopping day I was standing at the register with a fluffy purple jumper, purple leggings, a furry purple sweater, and part of SB's Birdie the Early Bird costume.  Ridiculous.

This was the goal

Who would wear this in real life?!

The gang in the South Stands

I managed to spend almost ten hours in the South Stand with various members of my club before fleeing with A for higher and cleaner ground.  At that point SB was driving me crazy; imagine ADHD mixed in with sensory overload and excessive alcohol.  We found A's boyfriend sitting up in the West stand with some of the NZ tens players and Steve Thompson, who looks even bigger in reality.

An hour later I trained my camera lens to spy on the South Stand and saw that only SB and two cross dressing cheerleaders remained from our group.  Fred Flintstone and the cavemen had stumbled off somewhere to pass out and the guy in the black unitard had been removed by security when he tried to cool down by removing the black unitard.  R's mother sent us a picture of her daughter passed out in the seats, the Hamburglar brought low by Pimms.  And that concluded another year of Saturdays in the South Stand.

Friday, April 13, 2012

60th Taipan Challenge 2012

Hong Kong Football Club has partnered with the fabulously British Jack Wills for the annual Taipan Challenge.  This year there are going to be post match festivities and a party at the Jack Wills Causeway Bay shop starting at 7pm. 

Usually the match involves a Gentleman's Team and a Football Club Taipan team.  A's boyfriend tells us that this year the match will be between the Taipan team, of which he will be a part of, and the Chairman's XV (the HKRFU national team and training team).  The Jack Wills Facebook page states that they are introducing the Alumni University Match, Oxbridge Students Vs Ivy League Students, which is similar in format to the New Year's challenge between HK based secondary school students and overseas students (i.e. boarding school kids).

I suspect an uneven score for the alumni match unless it is a women's match; other than Dartmouth, the Ivy men's rugby teams aren't strong but the women's teams, especially Princeton, Brown and Cornell, have had strong squads over the years.  Anyway, it would be nice to meet other Ivy grads who play rugby.  I only know of two women who went to Cornell and Princeton, and the Princeton woman has since left but she was a shrew anyway; SB had the unfortunate experience of being on a junk trip with her and she was so narcissistic that she thought that most of the other men were hitting on her.  So naturally she showed what a glorious creature she was by rolling her eyes and looking down her nose at the mortals who made the mistake of attempting friendliness.

In other news, SB is still waiting for his invitation to play.

Actually, he isn't.  He is playing in the ice hockey professional league's final tomorrow night at 8pm.

When: 14 April, Saturday
Where: Hong Kong Football Club, 3 Sports Road, Happy Valley
Free Admission
Minis begins from 8am
Under 12's tournament from 1145
Under 16's play at 2pm
Universities game at 3pm
Under 19's at 4:15
Mansergh Cup at 6pm

Jack Wills is providing live entertainment from midday along with DJ Reflex.

Jack Wills Proud Partners Of The Taipan Challenge from Jack Wills on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

that God who terrified poor James Joyce

"I'd be willing to argue - although I'm sure this is controversial - that God has been unconditionally loving since about 1965, that this - the big change as - and the social upheaval was that atheism was an allowable life identity. There were many different ways to be spiritual. There were many different ways to be in the world, and Christianity tried to - then became a buyer's market.

People chose if they were going to be Christian. They could decide which church they were going to join, and that the churches like the Vineyard really see themselves as trying to offer a God who is quite different from, you know, that God who terrified poor James Joyce."

T.M. Luhrmann, discussing her anthropological study on Evangelical Christianity, When God Talks Back

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

the people you meet

SB went downstairs to buy more eggs and didn't return for almost an hour.  "Sorry, I got side tracked," he told me when he returned.  As he was passing the tram stop he saw a white couple with a map who appeared to be unsuccessfully asking for directions from a Chinese man.  "May I help you?" he asked them as the Chinese man fled.  The couple turned toward him.  "We are deaf."

Oh.  Then the woman asked him for directions to the cemetery.  Ah.  She could read lips.  He tried to explain the way but he tends to pack in waaaay to much information (probably went off on a tangent about the Parsis and war memorials) so after receiving a few bemused looks he decided to personally escort them.  The woman spoke to SB and then signed to her companion, who didn't seem to read lips or speak, so that they could all be in the conversation.  They are from Austria (SB said that the woman's English had a slight German accent).  Bless their hearts, I told SB; I am impressed when anyone decides to travel to a foreign country on their own so two deaf people doing so seems very brave.  I'll be sure to mention them to my friend Melissa, who has barely traveled outside of Florida and has never owned a passport.

I wish that I had met them.  I have rudimentary ASL and wonder what sign language they used.  I suppose that an Austrian deaf woman who can speak English probably knows a few different sign languages, including ASL.  How lucky for SB to have met such interesting people at the beginning of the day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


SB and I went to an Easter/Passover luncheon at the home of M, who hosts most of our group's get togethers since she has the largest kitchen.  I like the inclusion of Passover in the celebration because we end up eating lamb instead of some godawful boiled ham.

I often visit M's complex to pick her up when we go out because it is on the way out of the valley.  The doormen all know her and most of them recognize me.  They usually wave me in but this Sunday SB and I were stopped at the reception and requested to fill out forms identifying ourselves and where we were going.  Then we had to ring M from the lobby for approval to enter.  I half expected the doormen to take some samples of my hummus, veggie side dish, and almond cake for testing.

M's husband met us at the door, rolling his eyes in exasperation.  Their complex was built by SHK and apparently the penthouse of one of the complex's towers is the rent free abode of a certain notorious individual who is out on bail.  While he resides in his company sponsored digs, security has been ramped up to ensure that no one is lurking around his front door with a recorder tucked into an innocuous looking roasted chicken.

Monday, April 9, 2012

honey, I love you

I was very disappointed to discover that Turkish baklava is not made with honey but with sugar syrup.  My resident hunney bear wouldn't even touch the dessert after I made the pronouncement that there was no honey to be found in any of the layers of phyllo.  SB likes his honey.  As I type he is sitting on the couch, chewing a piece of honey comb that we picked up at City Super.

For his previous birthdays I have presented him with all sorts of exotic flavors that differ from the acacia and clover honeys that are popular where he grew up or the wildflower and orange blossom honeys that are popular where I grew up.  He likes the manuka for its earthiness though the kamahi is a close second in terms of strength of flavor.  In the US, buckwheat honey has a similar taste.  My  personal favorite might be sourwood honey although I haven't tried any of the southwestern cactus honeys.

On the hike today he picked up another honey jar from a vender at Yim Tim Tsai, one of the outlying islands in Sai Kung.  The vender's uncle in China collected the honey.  What is the correct term for gathering honey?  Harvest?  Anyway, the honey is very light and milky in color.  At first glance I thought it was creamed honey but it wasn't.  The honey is actually very liquid with some froth and crystals inside.  You can taste the granules.  It also has a very flowery bouquet.  I'm not sure that it is up to SB's spoon in your mouth standards because of the granules but it is tasty and I am enjoying the novelty of such an obviously homemade product.  Perhaps I will make a honey butter to serve with corn muffins.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hong Kong Women's Sevens Challenge Cup

It was a great day of rugby.  There were obvious differences in talent between the top teams (England, Australia, Canada, USA) and the bottom ranked teams but the second tier teams put up strong showings with the USA having to fight hard for their victory against Spain, who later won over the Netherlands and eventually won the plate from China in Hong Kong Stadium.  The Canadian women had previously dispatched England 27-7 in Dubai in December but on Sunday during the cup semifinals both North American teams looked out of their depth against England and Australia.  The cup final between Australia and England was very close and could have been won by either team but eventually the clock ran out to give the win to England 15-10.

Monday, April 2, 2012

hiding in plain sight

The human heart can be a willful and rebellious creature. When prodded by an overactive mind that bears the taint of delusion, it can become a monster.
          -The Madness of a Seduced Woman by  Susan Fromberg Schaeffer

Two years and four months after purchasing my kindle, I have now accumulated more books on it than I ever owned, not that I will be burning the physical books that SB's parents are storing for me in their climate controlled basement.  For one, most of those books are architectural and art books whose images and diagrams don't work in Kindle format and secondly, I do enjoy holding the really, really old, leather bound classics that I have picked up at garage and library sales over the years.  My suede bound, miniature sized Ivanhoe and metal covered Kaddish are among my most precious of the collection.  Of course neither of those books, nor any of the large and voluminous architecture books travels as well as a Kindle.

While the Kindle isn't good for certain illustrated books, it is great for another reason: it is the "ultimate brown paper wrapper" for readers of embarrassing books.  The Wall Street Journal has reported that Kindles are fueling a boom in the romance and erotica industry.  I am included in the group of readers who wouldn't want to be caught dead by my esteemed colleagues with anything less than a Booker winner but now I am allowed to indulge my less cerebral self with titles that can be safely hidden behind the orange dimpled, leather cover of my Kindle.

In high school I had a classmate who was a voracious reader of romance novels.  She bravely (or obliviously perhaps since she was very engrossed in her reading) sat on the bus and at her desk reading paperback books with colorful images of Fabio tearing the bodice of a swooning, big breasted heroine.  Sometimes I would peek over her shoulder to see what was so captivating that she never seemed interested in talking to anyone in the class.  Fifteen years later I have my own copies of The Madness of a Seduced Woman and a other titles that end more Happily Ever After.  I am currently considering adding Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series to my secret Kindle stash, which I have hidden under a category titled, "Lilith."  It boasts about thirty books, much less than the two hundred titles in the "20th Century Literature" category, but twenty-nine more than I would own without the Kindle.