Monday, May 28, 2012


It's funny that for someone who wasn't exactly mothered, I am mothering.  Maybe the irony isn't funny but pathetic.  Either way, even though I don't want for children I love doting on SB.  Having read about relationship issues, I try not to do it so much so that our relationship becomes some weird mother and child situation but I limbo the line in several instances.  Yesterday I caught myself spooning food into him.  In public.  And he was just sitting there, reading the paper and absentmindedly opening his mouth like a baby bird every time  I came near him with a spoon full of fruit.

I have spoon fed him before, but only at home and usually only after he has stopped eating and has gotten distracted with something else.  His family will back me up that even as a child he would take hours to finish dinner.  Rather than leaving him to his own devices I shovel the rest of his meal into him so I can start on the dishes.  I will admit that I kind of like feeding him.  His life is centered around food and eating and I have become focused on stuffing him like a goldfish.  Is there such thing as having a fetish that is non-sexual?  Because there is nothing remotely sexy to me about feeding SB but I get a moderate amount of personal satisfaction when he enjoys my meals enough to overeat.  The only reason that this works is because he has that ridiculous metabolism; otherwise he would weigh 400lb and our food fest would take on a more sinister bend.

I wonder if part of this is a security thing.  Not food security but security through food.  Although it was good to hear that SB considers me to be the prettiest, I was much more pleased when I became the best cook.  This took a while because ex-girlfriend  F was a marvel and while SB loved what I was preparing, there was no way to compare my Vietnamese and Southwestern American cooking with her British cooking.  Luckily for me she started dating a Muslim man and handed over the recipe for her cumin-mustard seed-lemon marinated pork loin, thus ensuring my victory by default.  She is probably winning accolades with a cumin-mustard seed-lemon marinated lamb loin but it will be a while before SB is able to visit her and sample her bounty.  Which gives me plenty of time to spoon feed him into submission.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

lessons in futility

We have been going on rounds for a couple of weeks with PCCW.  Our problem is that we expect a level of customer service like we had back home.  Their problem is that they are unable/unwilling/disinterested but they can't get rid of us.  We pay for a guaranteed minimum of 3 megabytes per second but we have been getting under 1.2.  The technician who came to our home told us that the contract actually stated (in fine print) that they only needed to guarantee 80 percent of the 3 that they advertised.  We pointed out that even without a calculator we could see that 1.2 was less than 80 percent of 3.  Then the technician informed us that the internet was being split between the two computers in the home.  We shut off my computer and ran the internet speed test again.  1.12 mps.  Then he told us that our Now TV was tied to the cable and that our internet was slower when the television was going. Then while we were scratching our heads he announced that this was an administration issue and left.

Well, wait a minute, we thought.  We have two separate contracts for Now TV and Netvigator. How are they able to charge us for two separate services and only deliver enough for each to only work one at a time?  So we have been on the phone with PCCW repeatedly trying to resolve the problem.  We have offered that we will be satisfied best if they actually deliver what we are paying for.  Otherwise we told them that we felt that they should reduce our bill to 40 percent, which is the service that we are currently receiving.  The service representative only replies by offering to upgrade our contract (why do we want to pay more when we aren't getting what we pay for now?) or repeating the same line about our TV and internet sharing the same connection, which leads to the same talk about how we are paying for two separate services that they are under-delivering and have been for years.  And then she offers another great upgrade package that will solve everything if we only pay more.

Are we wrong here?

Friday, May 25, 2012

back to the basics

One of the many advantages of living in Hong Kong is the abundance of very reasonably priced activities that one can enjoy.  There are plenty of expensive, exclusive sporting clubs to join but you can also find enjoyment at many of the LCSD venues at amazingly cheap rates.  Some venues, such as the swimming pools, are overcrowded but other parks and recreation grounds, especially those in outlying areas, are comfortable and well maintained.  Over the years SB and I have enjoyed camping, hiking and picnicking in country parks and trails.  Our rugby and lacrosse matches are played in LCSD sports and recreation facilities and twice per week I can be found flailing about in my local sports ground's circuit area.

A great regret of mine has been that I have been unable to access any of the very nice looking water sports equipment.  You need a license to rent out the sailboats, sailboards, kayaks, etc.  Even though SB is an expert sailor (his father was a professional racer) he was unable to convince anyone to allow him to take a test to prove his abilities.  He couldn't event enroll in the advanced sailing course because the LCSD system forces you to start at basic and work your way up.  We tried for years to enroll in the weekend basic sailing courses but never found any openings.  Finally this summer we agreed that we couldn't stand another summer of having to travel to private venues to rent mediocre water craft at cut-throat rates so we decided to take weekday courses in order to obtain the necessary certificates.

We filled out ballots for any and all basic sailing and windsurfing time slots so now we are waiting to see if we made the cut to any of these very popular courses.  We ran into a few problems when filling out the ballots because everything at the Happy Valley LCSD booking office was printed in Chinese but we just barely had the skills to understand the forms.  If we make the course, we will immediately go back to the booking office and attempt to enroll in the next level class; each level allows for access to faster equipment.  My goal is to eventually get myself catamaran permission while SB is eying the sailing races.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

what time is it

One of our friends was relating a lunch conversation regarding a what if scenario: if you were able to go back in time, what period would you go to and what knowledge would you bring back with you?  She wanted to go back to some time in the 1800s because she thought that she could affect history best at that time.  Funny, I had the opposite reaction.  Maybe I'm too conservative but even hypothetical time travel causes me to think to much about butterfly effects and such.  Rather than taking on the idea of affecting world change I just thought about myself.  I have made a lot of mistakes but I'm not sure that I would change most of them because they made me who I am today and I like who I am, regrets included.  I've learned a lot from my little failures.  But I did think that there was one thing I would like to change.  Well, there are a few things but one that I was willing to share.  I would have liked to travel back to meet my thirteen year old self and told her that life was going to be so much bigger than what I was confined to by my well meaning but extremely, religiously conservative family.  There were long stretches of time where I struggled to find something to look forward to.  If only I had known that freedom was right around the corner.

SB liked the idea of traveling back to the 1960s and hanging out with his beloved grandmother.  "What, when she was a swinger?"  I asked.  "It would have been fun to go dancing in the 60's," our friend said.  It wasn't that kind of swinging, I informed her. To be fair, it wasn't quite like that and explained it to our friend after enjoying her turn different shades of red.  SB's granny was never a swinger but during that time period, it was discovered that many of her peers at the club were having special sorts of parties at the lake.  Many of SB's peer group grew up with the cringe inducing knowledge that grandma and grandpa had a very special relationship with the other kids' grandparents.  Eww. 

Maybe traveling back to hang with grandma wouldn't have been such a good idea.  One the other hand, grandma might have appreciated being forewarned that grandpa was going to run off with his young secretary.  It all ended well because she went on to marry the love of her life, a neighbor on the lake who she had grown up with.  Yes, those were interesting times but I'm not sure if I would have wanted to live them as much as I enjoy hearing about them.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

meeting in the middle

SB has not read a book in ten years with the exception of the business school readers.  He has perused some of the economics books that I have gifted him over the past several years but there has been a dearth of fiction.  I have been determined to rectify this serious deficiency of character whether he likes it or not.

Now you may imagine that is would be easy for a strong personality like myself to drag such a troglodyte into the light, kicking and screaming as may be, but this was not the case.  Upon being presented with the fiction section of the neighborhood book store he only displayed fleeting interest in gory or rather energetic looking titles.  My attempt to point him toward the classics was met with a five minute rant about how he was forced to read Jane Austen in school and how he was sure that there have to be better books out there (not that he ever found out).  My attempts to defend Ms. Austen  went nowhere.

Then there was the problem of when he would read any of the literature that we picked out.  I am starting to regret that sports package subscription; he watches it until his eyes glaze over and then he switches over to the Discovery Channel package to watch bunches of idiots attempting all sorts of unnatural feats on land, sea and air.  We finally came to the conclusion that the only way to get him reading again would be for me to read out loud.

Of course this decision had its own problems.  When considering some of my favorite classroom book assignments I realized that I do not have the vocal power to do justice to Shakespeare, nor do I have the staying power to read Faulkner out loud cover to cover.  Then there was the problem that my preferred content would put SB right to sleep while his preferred content would give me nightmares.

Finally I settled on a book that seems to be both classic and gory as well as acceptably frivolous for a first attempt at reading out loud.  May I present...

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith.  I will let you know how it turns out.  I have high hopes.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and termites

In response to my Australian friends questioning whether Americans celebrated Mother's Day, I gave them a quick history lesson that Mother's Day was founded by Anna Jarvis, an American, in 1914 to honor her mother, who had conducted the Mother's Friendship Day during the Civil War.  In 1908 she had first unofficially celebrated the day with white carnations and florists became very supportive of the movement (and its commercial appeal).

And now for the other side to the tale...

It didn't take long for Jarvis to regret how the celebration went from a day of sentiment to a day of profit.  She later referred to florists, card companies and confectioner as "Charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations."

Here was some of her advice:
A maudlin, insincere printed card or ready-made telegram means nothing except that you're too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone else in the world. [...] Any mother would rather have a line of the worst scribble from her son or daughter than any fancy greeting card.

Eventually Jarvis' crusade against the commercial monster that she had inadvertently birthed took its toll and she ended up as a "recluse and a hoarder" who lived out the end of her days in a sanitarium, unaware that a group of florists paid part of her asylum tab.

Here is the link to Mental Floss' article regarding Jarvis: The Founder of Mother's Day Later Fought to Have It Abolished

Sunday, May 13, 2012

the end of innocence

I went to high school in a medium sized city of 28,000 that was located very close to Orlando.  I lived in a nice suburb, just around the corner from an impressive sports complex, and within a five minute bicycle ride from the high school.  I spent almost every afternoon after school running in the trails of the park or swimming in the pool.  I could ride the bike trail between my home, school and sports complex almost with my eyes closed.  It was a charmed life.  I knew that not everyone else had a charmed life; one of my best friends came, literally, from the other side of the tracks.  He had more family members in prison than out and carried a baseball bat in his car even though he didn't play baseball.  He used to park around the corner from my home and wait for me to sneak out of my window to take me to punk rock shows in seedy bars.  But he was also street smart and managed to keep me in my safe bubble despite the late night shenanigans.

Last month two students from my high school were found burning on the bike trail.  They had been murdered and set alight by a couple of men with long, felony rap sheets.  Even all these years later, I am more shocked than I should be.  I am aware of horrible violence in the world; my sister worked with some scary people in the beginning of her medical career but somehow this city has remained as an oasis of innocence in my mind.  In November one of my former classmates went missing after a custody disagreement with the father of her children (and number one suspect in her disappearance).  She has not been found.  Fifteen miles away another student, Trayvon Martin, was shot while walking in his own neighborhood.  Now this.  I guess there are no safe places anymore.

Monday, May 7, 2012

happy returns

SB returned late last night from his rugby tour in Vietnam.  He forgot to tell me when he was returning so it was a pleasant surprise.  He managed not to lose his wooden spoon or his stuffed animal, a silver poodle that doubled as a purse.  I patted myself on the shoulder for being smart enough to find him a very lightweight, balsa wood spoon and put in on a string for him to wear around his neck.  Apparently the gift shop next to their hotel did brisk business selling wooden spoons to the unfortunate souls that lost theirs (or had them snatched by evil teammates).  Another enterprising woman must have noticed the strange men carrying stuffed animals because SB noticed that later in the weekend she parked herself in front of the hotel with a bag of stuffed bears.  By Sunday a half dozen hungover men showed up at the animal/spoon check with stuffed bears.

SB must have missed me because he was extra clingy in his sleep.  I had to jab him awake a few times in the night with a plaintive, "Get offfff meeeeee!"  I missed him also even though I am not as demonstrative.  It was comforting to stretch out my leg and place my little toe against his flipper.  This morning I awoke and as I gazed fondly at his giant feet I thought that I really should donate him to Ocean Park.  They would probably feed him frequently and do better at entertaining him than I do.  But I would miss him.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


We had some new neighbors move in.  A few days later the most horrible smell arose in the hallway.  A few more days later the smell was so overpowering that I was gagging in my own living room.  Finally I sent SB to investigate the smell and discovered that it was all coming from a pair of shoes that sat in the large shoe rack that the new neighbors had installed in our shared entryway.  We had to ask them to move the damn shoes.  Frankly, I thought it was pretty suspect to place their shoe rack right outside of our door instead of if they were trying to keep the shoe smell away from their own door.

The old woman of the household plays mahjong all day long, every day of the week.  Every. Single. Day.  She leaves the door open.  It doesn't really bother me; I kind of like the sound and she starts in the early afternoon and and finishes by early evening.  She has some goofy friends.  One of them wandered into our home the other morning.  I guess SB and I should lock the front door when we're having breakfast in our underwear.  Mahjong lady seems very friendly unlike her children, smelly shoe man and his wife.

Today another neighbor went to the flat and had a long conversation in Cantonese with the new neighbors.  I recognized a few words and assume that she was asking the new neighbor to close the front door when cooking up fish and other pungent foods.  I was relieved because I really didn't want to have to knock on their gate and complain about the fish smells after already complaining about the revolting shoes.  The relief was short lived because they reopened their door five minutes after the neighbor left.  And then they had a big fight in the hallway, followed by one of them stomping off and the other turning the television up. 

My umbrella is also missing.  I've never lost an umbrella from my front door before but I have no proof so it could just be a coincidence.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Aberdeen Shikoyi

From the Kenya Rugby Football Union:

Nairobi, Monday 30 April 2012

The Kenya Rugby Union, working in tandem with the family of Aberdeen Shikoyi,the Kenya Women's National Team captain who passed away at the Nairobi Hospital on Saturday 28 April 2012,have set up a joint working committee tasked with the overall responsibility of organizing her funeral.  A fundraiser to offset funeral expenses will be held at 5.00pm on Saturday 5 May 2012 at the Nairobi Railway Club .

There will be a memorial service celebrating Aberdeen’s life at 2.00pm on Monday 7 May 2012 at the Friends Church, Ngong’ Road. All her friends as well as members of the rugby fraternity are requested to turn out and honour Aberdeen.

Aberdeen’was injured during the first leg clash of the Women's Elgon Cup against Uganda in Kampala on Saturday 21 April 2012 and immediately airlifted to Nairobi for specialized treatment at the Nairobi Hospital where she remained admitted until the time of her death.Her requiem service will be held on Thursday 10 May 2012 at the Friends Church, Maringo, at a time to be advised in the coming days and she will be laid to rest on Saturday 12 May 2012 in Ikolomani, Kakamega County, Western Kenya.

From time to time there have been tragic spinal injuries reported, including Ben Kende's here in Hong Kong.  In my two decades as a rugby player I had never heard of a women's injury, much less a fatal one.  My heart goes out to Aberdeen's family, friends and teammates.  I cannot imagine the devastation from such a tragedy.