Wednesday, October 31, 2012

this wheel's under fire

The follow up to yesterday's post:

Actual dialogue from the Greek consulate (regarding LK's dual citizenship process):
"As an American, you exist. As a Greek, you do not yet exist." (pauses to check email) "However, the local prefecture has erroneously classified you as a military deserter because there is no record of your military service."

LK now understands why the Greeks invented stoicism.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Greece the wheel

Below is a transcript of an actual phone conversation between one of SB's friends, LK, and the Greek Consul in New York City.

Consul: "Well, my predecessor had left a lot of citizenship applications pending..."
LK: "From 2008? I haven't heard anything since then, despite numerous emails."
Consul: "That does not necessarily mean that your application has been lost ... you may already be a citizen of Greece!"
LK: "Pardon?"
Consul: "In fact, it is possible that you have been a citizen of Greece since 2008, except that no one has let you know."
LK: (stunned silence)
Consul: "I have the sense that this conversation is not making you feel better."

Monday, October 29, 2012

writing on the wall

For the past decade the majority of my handwritten communication has been in architectural script.  I have acquired proficiency that would have received approval from the modernists, who were the last generation of architects to care about such things.  No one really hand letters their drawings anymore.  As fast as I am in laying out rows of slightly angled and canted text, I will never write as fast as I can in cursive. Additionally, grammar sticklers may not be so easy to overlook missives written in all capital letters.  I excuse my loud writing by stating that I am doing my part to preserve a dying skill.

Of course this is not entirely true.  The biggest reason I have for my script is that it is androgynous and neutral.  My block print makes me cringe.  I don't know how it is that boys and girls are taught the same writing skills and yet they write very differently.  My writing, like that of my sister and best friend, is horrifyingly "girly."  I have tried to vary my letters over the years but I still feel like my block print conveys immaturity.  It is like my hand has permanently retained the muscle memory of a ten year old girl and all that is missing is for me to draw little circles in place of punctuation dots.

My cursive fares only slightly better.  While I am only thinking of expediency when I lay down cursive text, I have discovered that handwriting experts see something entirely different.  Apparently the angle of my letters conveys high emotions while the size of my letters conveys tension.  Given the choice of presenting myself as a ten year old girl or a neurotic mess, you may be able to understand why I went for a new form of handwriting.  An advantage is that writing in capital letters makes it hard for lettering sleuths to glean personality traits.  If you want to learn about me, you will have to rely on the content of my letter as I exclaim my greeting in all caps.  Hopefully my letter doesn't communicate like a crazed pre-teen.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

geek stink breath

Having strained some muscles in my neck and upper back, I have been given a reprieve from all but light household duties.  This means that SB has had to provide our sustenance since Sunday.  On Sunday night he cooked rosemary crusted pork chops, one of his three go-to dishes along with penne alla vodka and spaghetti alla carbonara.  So by Wednesday, having exhausted his vast repertoire he scoured the refrigerator for something quick.  We ended up feasting on toasted bagels with cream cheese, smoked salmon, chopped red onion and capers.

After dinner we discovered that after six years of cohabitation there are still frontiers that remain to be crossed.  We puckered up for our habitual after meal kiss only to discover that no amount of mutual affection can overcome the aroma of salmon-caper-onion breath.  "You smell like a sea lion," said my beloved.  "But just think of how many essential oils and vitamins we can exchange," I joked as he fled from the table.  "You know, love is supposed to endure all things, even fishy onion breath," I called after him.  Because if anything is sexier than smelling like Sea World, it is quoting bible verses.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

make your own way

During our month-long US visit I was able to catch up with an old friend who I hadn't seen in 15 years.  Jan was the first friend I made when I started high school.  During freshman year we were two peas in a pod; I had nine earrings and was fond of braiding my hair in all sorts of interesting arrangements while Jan had waist length hair that was often dyed in all colors of the rainbow. The two of us began spending almost every waking hour together.  We spend lunch time painting and sketching.  We had sleepovers almost every weekend where we would go swimming at the beach or lie in my back yard and talk about all sorts of random things.  Then we started to grow apart during our sophomore year when I chose running as my drug of choice for school pressures and she chose...well, drugs.

When I last saw her she was mostly living out of her car, occasionally stopping off at my place or her sister's to do laundry.  She had a steady job at a book store that could have paid for a small apartment but she preferred the nomadic existence.  She told me that she was going to drive across the country to find herself.

Fifteen years later Jan and I ran met up in San Francisco, where she ended up after her long drive.  She still lives out of her car when not spending time staying with an older brother in Oakland.  She is still trying to find herself.  She showed me a large pile of books in her car that consisted of philosophy, psychology and mystical writings.  I don't know what she's looking for but maybe it's time to stop searching.  Maybe it's time for you to write your own book, I told her.  With all of this time that she's spent looking, I bet she has enough information to compile her own story.  Maybe it's time to start creating herself.

On the plane ride home I thought a lot about the two of us.  She had so many dreams while I hardly thought about my future.  I didn't know what I wanted for myself and still don't in many ways.  So much could have gone wrong but somehow it all worked out.  I met my best friend, Tobin, only because she was interested in the boy who sat next to me in pottery class.  I was fortuitously exposed to architecture through a required arts elective.  I met SB during a small window of opportunity when he was walking by and saw me in my room unpacking my suitcase.  Aside from cruising the bars with my college girlfriends I can't say that I've really gone looking for anything.  But I am an opportunist and I have definitely snatched up anything good that has found me.  Maybe Jan was too busy looking into the horizon and she missed the good stuff.  Or maybe her happy ending is still yet to come.  I don't know.

Friday, October 19, 2012

it's a jungle out there

My friend Mike, who is not known for his grace and agility, broke his ankle tripping over a metal railing that was only shin high and placed in front of his bus stop for no apparent reason.  He had experienced a couple of incidents with this nefarious shin guard in the past and had become wary, but sadly he had forgotten about it as he was rushing to catch the bus.

I should have had Mike's downfall in mind when I was navigating my own stretch of Hong Kong's concrete jungle because less than five minutes into my errand I was hopping around on one foot.  Luckily I am better off than Mike in terms of grace and agility.  I even managed to hop on one foot while writhing in pain and swearing.

It seems that someone decided to remove the railings between the pedestrian area and the street along Blue Pool road.  This someone also decided that only one post needed to be ground to street level and left the other one protruding out of the ground.  I decided that Halloween is still too far away to be posting a photo of my mangled layer of skin but I assure you that it is a fright.  Even more frightful was the look on my face when I realized that my leather flats had a long gash along the entire side.  I just bought those shoes in July!

What kind of workmanship is that?!

After that I hobbled slowly along my way to my destination in So Kon Po, ever vigilant for other hazards.  I had to document these two beauties along the way.

Who needs a boundary peg when you can just stick a nail in the concrete in the center of the pavement?  Just paint the divot around it blue so people can see it.

 This new development at 1 Ventris road has concealed the unsightly, torn up sidewalk with a red carpet.  Or maybe this is on purpose as a clever marketing ploy for people to stumble into their lobby, which is conveniently located adjacent to the hazard.  Salesmen wait for their prey just beyond the doorway and then pounce, confident that the turned ankles will prevent escape.

Friday, October 12, 2012

In Memoriam: 10th Anniversary of the 2002 Bali Bombings

Today is a somber day as we mark the 10th Anniversary of the October 12, 2002 bombings in Bali that killed 202 people, including 27 participants of the Bali Tens rugby tournament:

I.S.C.I. Rugby Club: Scott Lysaght, Merv Popadynec, Ben Roberts, Nathan Swain, Robert Thwaites, Jamie Wellington

Singapore Cricket Club: Tim Arnold, Neil Bowler, Chris Bradford, Chris Kays, Dave Kent, Peter Record, Chris Redman, Charlie Vanrenen

Hong Kong Football Club: Tina Brandes, Tom Holmes, Anika Linden, Dan Miller, Stevie Spiers, Ed Waller, Clive Walton, Jake Young

Taipei Baboons RFC: Daniel Braden, Godfrey Fitz, James Hardman, Craig Harty, Eve Kuo

lower than low

There are bad people and then there are those bad people.  It is stomach turning to hear about persons who take advantage of vulnerable citizens and Joyce's recent posting regarding Ted Thomas' sticky fingers in regards to Clare Hollingworth's savings generates much disgust.  What kind of person loots the bank account of a centurion, I asked myself.  Mr. Thomas has his own blog if you want to find out.  You will have to find it yourself since I won't be directing any traffic his way.  In case you are wondering, he doesn't appear to be remorseful about those HK$2.2 million that haven't been paid back despite a court ruling.

I would like to thank Joyce for writing about Ms. Hollingworth.  One of my favorite recollections is the delightful shock I experienced in my younger days of talking to my neighbor, who had been a paratrooper, and realizing that I was getting a first hand account of the contents of my 20th century history reader.  Living relics should receive similar treatment as national treasures, in my opinion.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

to all the little people who helped me get here...

Having won the distinction of an Ulaca Award (Best PR for Cornell University Disguised as a Blog) and having further ignored my doubts about the message behind the award, I submit my gracious thank you speech.

I would like to thank the Hong Kong chapter of my university on the hill because they are the most active of all the university's alumni associations and they put on some really wonderful events.

I would like to thank all of those obscenely rich citizens of HK who have built private playrooms and clubs that no mere mortal can set foot in...unless members of aforementioned alumni association can arrange a private tour or meal for the rest of us riff raff.

I would like to thank the way of life here that has me spending so much time in the office that the last thing I want to talk about is anything job related, thus freeing up time to wax poetic about...other things.

And finally, I would also like to point out that I am an alumnae of Texas A&M University as well, and joined their alumni association but it has sadly been radio silent all these years.  And we know that Texans aren't usually known for their reticence.  If there are any Aggies out there who would like to watch football, barbecue, and drink beer with me, I would love to hear from you.  With any luck I will be winning my third (!) Ulaca Award next year in the "Good Lord, can't she stop talking about Texas" category.

So to start off on my quest for that third award...

About a month ago I applied online for my Texas absentee ballot and this week I finally received it, or so I thought.  Actually what I received was another absentee ballot, this time the "official" application as opposed to my apparent application for an application.  In the month that it took the Office of the Secretary of State to send this application to me, they somehow did not find it necessary to include the return address.  While searching online for the correct address to apply to, I shared my frustration with several friends.  Being the sympathetic sort that one would expect out of my friends, they immediately responded with the following:

  • A fellow Texan informed me that any Texan who leaves the lone star state could be unfortunately influenced by liberal, hippie foreigners and therefore measures should be put in place to impede contaminated Texans from voting.  
  • My friend from Oregon, who had forgotten to register to vote, went online and registered, voted, and received a receipt of his vote in less time than it took me to affix a stamp on my second application and walk to the post office.  He then proceeded to rub it in.  
  • My friend from Washington informed me that registered voters form her state automatically were mailed ballots.  
  • SB suddenly realized that he wasn't registered to vote and applied online for the New York ballot.  He will probably receive his ballot before I do.  I just hope that I receive it with enough time to telegraph my choices back to them. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

the new Gestapo of big lies

SB heard something to the effect that the first party to bring out the Nazi accusations is going to lose the argument (Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies). I hope that this is the case.  A few years ago you couldn't watch news programming without hearing the word "hero" being bandied about.  Everyone from the driver who braked for a deer to the dog who barked when it smelled smoke were being hailed for their courageous actions.  Now I can't seem to watch the news without images of Nazis dancing marching across the screen.  For example:
  • Angela Merkel was greeted on her trip to Greece by protesters dressed in Nazi uniforms, waving swastika flags and chanting "Out with the Fourth Reich!"
  • Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, compared gay marriage opponents to Jews in Nazi Germany who were persecuted by a totalitarian regime (source: The Telegraph).  
  • Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, likened Republican Governor Nikki Haley to Hitler mistress Eva Braun (source: USA Today). 
  • John Burton, chairman of the California Democratic Party, accused Paul Ryan of using the Joseph Goebbels' “big lie” technique of propaganda (source:  
  • Republican Maine Governor Paul LePage, an opponent of the Affordable Care Act, called the Internal Revenue Service "the new Gestapo" (source: Politico).  
  • Liberal blowhard Keith Olbermann has made Nazi references in comments relating to Obama’s surrender to Republicans on taxes as well as in comparison with individuals like Bill O’Reilly, Kenneth Starr, former President George W. Bush (and his cabinet) and even Democrats who were willing to compromise with Republican (source: Mediaite).  
  • Conservative blowhard Glenn Beck has an even lesser grasp of Nazism, having compared President Obama to Hitler. He has also compared Nazi Germany to global warming, Al Gore, the United Nations, ACORN, the Peace Corps, and even the National Endowment for the Arts, as highlighted in a hilarious video clip by Lewis Black on the Jon Stewart Show (source: the Daily Show).
Who needs history books when you can learn so much about the Third Reich in current media?  Move over, Sir Richard J. Evans.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

pain and suffering in Hong Kong

One of our friends suffered a horrifying leg injury yesterday on the rugby pitch.  The ambulance arrived within fifteen minutes and the medics were all you could ask for in promptness and professionalism.  But once they assessed that his condition wasn't life threatening things got very slow.  Bureaucratically slow.  He was given a questionnaire to answer, which from my rather unfortunate familiarity with sports related accidents appears to be the standard.  While answering our friend became more and more pale and began to breathe heavily due to his tremendous amount of pain.  The medics could do nothing about the pain because they didn't carry any pain relief medication and possibly weren't qualified to administer it.  So all we could do was try to hurry the questionnaire along while pretending not to notice that our friend's knee cap was located four inches above where it should have been.

Last year I accompanied one of SB's ice hockey teammates to the hospital when he dislocated his shoulder.  The situation was very similar and the poor man had been moaning in pain in the Accident and Emergency department for twenty minutes before I finally resorted to practically prostrating myself upon the nurse's station and begging for help.  After an hour of excruciating pain the man earned a morphine injection.  And after that he didn't care that his shoulder kind of made him look like Quasimodo.  In fact, he offered me his wallet and told me to take whatever I wanted as compensation for my good deed.  I was nervous about leaving him in the hospital overnight with no one to guard him from his generosity.

Our friend of the curiously mislocated knee cap was fortunate in that his wife is a nurse and was on shift when he arrived at the hospital.  There was no wait between arrival and oblivion.  By this morning he had already been operated on and was recuperating in a nice, private room, and apparently with enough meds to leave him in good cheer.  His heavily pregnant wife could use some of that cheer herself though I suspect that she would be happy enough if someone could look after their toddler while Daddy is in crutches for the duration of her pregnancy.

These may be famous last words but I have never had a truly bad injury.  My broken nose didn't really hurt and the finger deformity was pretty bad but not to the level that I was about to pass out.  The Achilles rupture of 1997 was probably the worst but I received a cortisone injection before even being stretchered from the track.  After witnessing the long wait for pain relief I am seriously considering bringing my own meds with me when I play.  We still have an unused bottle of painkillers that SB never took after his ACL surgery.  If I do myself in, I wonder if I would be brave enough to wait an hour for relief.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

meet, greet and eat

Don't you love those times when an average day expands into something more?

Today SB and I had only one activity planned: to attend the “Three Chefs Abroad” Q&A, one of the events of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival. We specifically went to see Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, who was joined by Fuchsia Dunlop and Tracy Griffith. As well as being a writer who recently published "A Tiger in the Kitchen," about her journey to rediscover (and learn how to cook) her childhood foods from Singapore, Cheryl is the sister of our friend Daphne.  Even if I hadn't liked Cheryl's book enough to gift it to SB's epicurean favorite ex-girlfriend (that's another story, and she loved the book btw) I would have gone to the event because SB and I simply adore Daphne.  She's a fellow Cornellian, neighbor, hospitality specialist, and simply one of the friendliest people around.  And she loves to cook and entertain which is everything SB could ever want in a neighbor.

But back to her sister, Cheryl.  As I'm beginning to suspect from encounters with mom and Daphne, there is a strong adventure gene in the Tan women.  In the middle of a career as a fashion writer for the Wall Street Journal, Cheryl took a sharp turn into the world of book writing, with a relatively unknown subject no less.  Cheryl explains in the beginning of her book that she had barely adequate cooking skills before deciding to fly back to Singapore and learn how to cook her grandmother's dishes.  What follows is a heartwarming story of family ties, shared secrets, and celebration of life through communal meals.  I will be making those pineapple tarts in the future.

Our day did not begin auspiciously. The event was held at Hong Kong Polytechnic University's School of Hotel & Tourism Management, which is located near to the main campus but not within.  Unfortunately when I downloaded the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus map, it appeared to show the School of Hotel & Tourism Management to be in the center of campus.  SB and I arrived with fifteen minutes to spare at what was really the school's recreation center.  When we asked where the School of Hotel & Tourism Management was, the two staff members at the recreation center shrugged their shoulders at us.  Then they turned away. I was so sure that they misunderstood our question and weren't really brushing us off so I asked again and was reassured that both of them didn't know where the school was and weren't interested in helping us find out.  Well eff you very much.

Luckily we located a campus map five meters from the entrance to the recreation center.  During the ten minute walk I ranted to SB about how at Cornell or Texas A&M (my undergraduate university) people would have actually tried to help out.  I may have waved my arms a bit.

The “Three Chefs Abroad” Q&A is over but if you are interested, there are more events going on as part of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival, which you can find here:

Afterward SB and I managed to be in the right place at the right time and were invited to tag along on a tour of the hotel school's kitchens.  This led to us being invited to join Daphne, Cheryl, and another woman for drinks at Ammo, the restaurant/bar at the Hong Kong Asia Society.  The Asia Society is located in a former explosives magazine, and well worth a visit.  I have heard that I would have an easier time adopting a panda than successfully completing a reservation at Ammo unless I sit at the bar so I stuck to the Tan sisters and their reservation like a barnacle.  The other woman in their party was a journalist who had recently moved to HK from Paris.  What is it about journalists?  Is there such thing as a journalist groupie?  Because I could see SB's face turn rapturous at the speech cadence that seems common among journalists. The evening only got better because it turned out that Cheryl was meeting several more journalists from the Asian American Journalists Association.

 the bar where you don't need a reservation

Ammo's overhead decor

We will probably join AAJA, even though we aren't journalists.  I am barely a blogger and barely Asian but we are assured that that's okay.  SB and I are telling ourselves that we're doing it because of our interest in journalistic freedom in Hong Kong as well as current affairs but maybe we're just wanting to hear politics and social media being discussed by people that sound like Walter Cronkite.