Friday, November 30, 2012

doggone

The White House channel on Youtube released this heart warming holiday video and being a fan of all creatures great and small (and fluffy) I had to share it.  Really, I had to.  It's one of those compulsions.  SB, stop rolling your eyes at me.





Thursday, November 29, 2012

hello birdie

Like a phoenix arising from it's ashes...I'm baaaack!

Did you miss me?  No?!  You didn't realize that I was missing in action?  Well, I have been dormant for a spell because SB lovingly shared his winter cold with me.  But before I went into the sick room I had quite a few wonderful adventures to share.

Whee!  Little did I know that I wouldn't be feeling so bouncy in a week.

First, my undergraduate teammate was cleared to visit me for a couple of days coinciding with the American Thanksgiving holiday.  We both went to Texas A&M University back in the day.  And now for some shameless promotion of my undergrad alma mater: the Aggies have had the biggest winning season in football (that would be the glorious American football and not the Chelsea brand) in recent memory.  I have never experienced my team being the winning team and don't quite know how to handle it.  I hear that riots are a good way to celebrate.

My friend is a pilot but her employer doesn't fly to certain countries.  We were only given a small window to catch up on nearly a decade of separation but we made the most of it.  We hit all of the typical tourist spots in HK and added Macau as well.  I had never been to the newer areas since I don't have the least interest in gambling but I'm glad that we went because I enjoyed the spectacle.

Doing the tourist thing

The best part of the visit was that we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving together.  With our packed activity schedule I knew that it would be nearly impossible to do dinner at home so we joined a large group of friends for a meal at Blue Smoke in LKF.  Dinner comprised a delicious butternut squash soup with sage and carmelized chestnuts, smoked turkey, heaps of traditional side dishes such as garlic mashed potatoes and roasted carrots, and three types of pies for dessert.  I had not eaten at Blue Smoke before but I will definitely be back for seconds in the near future.  After stuffing ourselves to resemble the turkeys that we consumed our group waddled down to the bar areas for a long night of dancing and carousing as if no one had to work the next day.  I heard that few of the night owls wouldn't have passed a concussion assessment the following morning.

This was my favorite of all Hong Kong Thanksgiving events.  For my family, Thanksgiving has always been the most important holiday because we were all able to gather together and catch up on each other's lives as opposed to Christmas when my parents wanted us to be alone with them.  I was always more extroverted than my immediate family and longed for the rowdy, raucous Thanksgiving with extended family.  Since my friend's last Thanksgiving consisted of her eating a lonely meal at 11pm in an empty mess hall in Afghanistan with only a group of evilly staring contractors at the next table to keep her company I know that she had a good time.

On Saturday we found our way to another Thanksgiving feast, this time at a residence.  The place was around 6000 sq. ft., the largest home that I have entered in Hong Kong.  SB and I estimated that our entire flat could easily fit into the living room space.  So this is how the other half five percent lives.

Overall it was one heck of an amazing few days although I paid for it later.  I am thankful for good friends and wonderful company here in this home away from home.  As we enter into the holiday season I hope that everyone out there is safe, warm and in comfort.

We're only as old as we feel, right?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The FBI, the CIA and ghosts from the past

While the Petraeus Affair is playing out like an absurd soap opera (the CIA, the FBI, mistresses and sex under a desk, oh my!), author of Legacy of Ashes and NYT reporter Tim Weiner is questioning why the FBI has not been called into account for agent Frederick W. Humphries II's actions leading to the scandal.  Weiner points out that the agent acted not out of concerns for national security or breach of law, but because he believed that he knew better than his superiors and that somehow not reporting Petraeus' private behavior was part of a conspiracy to re-elect president Obama.  Humphries' "whistle blowing" was reminiscent of the backstabbing, CIA-hating, paranoid rule of J. Edgar Hoover.

While these agencies have the extraordinary power to access emails, eavesdrop and survey targets such as Broadwell for as little offense as sending catty emails to the agent's special gal pal, they can't be counted on to share the most basic of materials with each other when more important interests are at stake.  Anyone who read the 9/11 commission's findings could see that the failure of the CIA and FBI to cooperate with each other led to the major failure to protect our citizens.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

work in progress

Several weeks ago I was flipping through the complimentary newspapers on offer during brunch at my favorite local pub when I glanced at the political cartoon.  Hey, I thought, that looks a lot like my old boss!  Then I read the accompanying commentary and discovered, that the subject was indeed my former director.

source: SCMP

I will admit some surprise that an architect was chosen to be the Secretary for the Environment but then again, he has vast experience in issues relating to ventilation and building related matters, which I think make up the majority of Hong Kong's environmental concerns.  Or at least its addressable issues since we have limited means to affect pollution that is carried over in the air or by sea onto our shores.  K.S. has been a long time collaborator with other environmental experts and has co-authored many studies regarding mitigation measures and building standards.

In the waning days of my tenure at the old firm the highlight of my week was not so much the design work but when I was asked to look over various abstracts and presentation materials for him.  The papers appealed to the part of me that also pursued a planning degree.  In a career that more often than not had to cater to wealthy clients and unscrupulous developers it was refreshing to know that my studio's director was a good man.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

moral obligations

Before I entered Texas A&M, my uncle, a proud Texan, felt obliged to explain the difference between conservatives and liberals to me.  In the simplest terms, liberals hold individual rights as the most important virtue, followed by obligation to the country and then obligation to God.  Conservatives inversely believe that God is the most important factor of all, followed by obligation to our country and that individual needs are the last consideration.  My uncle advised me not to debate about which set of beliefs was correct, but to accept the viewpoints of liberals and conservatives to better understand their mentality.  My uncle was all too aware that his idealistic, left leaning niece was entering one of the most conservative universities in the nation.  His advice paid off; I thrived at school despite holding almost entirely opposite views from my friends.

I believe that David H. Petraeus is the best man to lead the CIA despite having had an extramarital  affair.  I think that it's a shame that he had to resign but the military institution espouses conservative beliefs.  Honor, integrity and loyalty are part of the foundation that the men and women who serve our country are built up upon. Petraeus believed in these virtues and has lost his position for violating them.  According to the conservative values, failure in morality means that you are no longer honorable or trustworthy.  I don't agree but I understand.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

wedding season

It's that time of the year when the weddings start picking up after a summer/rain season hiatus.  I have two weddings this weekend and one next weekend.  On Saturday I'm playing an afternoon match against that team whose player previously went at me like a wolverine.  It should be an interesting time.   SB suggested that I wear some sort of a gimp mask to avoid any unwanted facials.  My hooker is part of the wedding party but has been given special dispensation to attend our match between the ceremony and reception.  She will play in full hair and makeup.  What a tart.  Hooker jokes will likely abound.  We won't be able to help it; as forwards we are inherently lazy (I prefer to call it energy efficient) and we will always pluck low hanging fruit.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

the tally

The 2012 US presidential elections weren't as close as I thought they would be.  I was going to meet some friends at the FCC for tea but by lunchtime the race had been called by a few news outlets.  All the states that I thought would vote blue did so while some of the states I thought would go red surprised me.  I was more interested in the Illinois congressional race between Joe Walsh and Tammy Duckworth.

I thought that Romney's concession speech was short, sweet and gracious.  I thought that Obama's speech was...weird.  SB was disappointed and wished for better manners from the supporters of both parties while I thought everything went as expected.  Mitt's supporters were unhappy and can be forgiven for not clapping for the winning team considering that they had pulled in marathon hours to have their hopes shattered.  Not the best of manners, but not unexpected.  Barack's supporters were euphoric and celebrating their victory so they can also be forgiven for not giving appropriate applause to the beginning of Obama's speech that said nice things about reaching across the aisles.  It was also the last lucid part of the speech.  Caught up in the moment and possibly functioning on only adrenaline at that point of the night, Obama went on an on about hope, dreams, and happiness ever after..and possibly rainbows and unicorns.

Among other issues resolved last night: potheads can relax in Colorado and Washington but surprisingly not in Oregon.  My rugby teammates can get married in Maryland.  Elizabeth Warren beat Scott Brown, and not because she is an Indian.

Perusing the Facebook comments I discovered that many of us are obnoxious in victory or defeat.  I give a special shout out to several of the residents of Florida.  To paraphrase my friend Danielle (speaking to her Floridian relatives), losing an election is not the same thing as losing your liberty.  Your racist comments are still protected under the first amendment, though your threats are not.  And you are free to move out of the country as you keep threatening, and I wish you would.  Just don't move to Hong Kong.

In case you were wondering, I voted for a third party candidate.  As a Texas voter I can afford to do so.  And no, it wasn't the Objectivist party.  I remember thinking that The Fountainhead was the bees knees when I was fifteen but then I reread it in college and discovered that the hero was a rapist, the plot was dazzlingly single minded and the author was a narcissistic hypocrite. So I went with the party that was closest to representing what I believe in.  It's good to know that my vote may not have been the most relevant, but it was guided entirely by my principles.  In previous years I joined the circus of two party hype to protect the one or two principles that were most important to me even though the rest of the party stance was opposite.  This year I went with my conscience.  It's nice when you can do so.

Monday, November 5, 2012

battlegrounds

SB and I conducted a small experiment last week.  We changed our Facebook profiles to indicate that we lived in heavily contested states.  SB moved back to Denver, Colorado and I moved to Ohio.  I originally chose Cleveland but upon closer inspection we noticed that it was very racially and economically segmented so I instead chose Toledo, Ohio.  Within days we notices that the Facebook ads went from Chinese to English.  A few days later we started raking in the political ads.  In Denver, there were a lot of ads that featured friendly cowboys in pastoral settings.  Upon clicking on one of the cowboys SB was redirected to a survey that asked questions where the only answer choices were conservative and right wing. At the end of the survey he was asked for his email address.

My Ohio ads were more forthcoming about who was sponsoring the ads.  Overall it seemed like the ads were overwhelmingly right leaning.  I would have thought the opposite because previously the left seemed to be more adept in utilizing social media.

Years ago an especially unsavory law office was attempting class action litigation and sponsored internet ads seeking others to join the suit.  It was reported in the media that this company was paying over a hundred dollars for each time a person clicked on their ad.  Anytime SB was on a different computer, he would look for this company's ad and click on it.  I don't know how much these political interest groups are paying Facebook but I was more than happy to click on some of the more extreme statements.  Repeatedly from my phone and laptop.  I wanted those statements to be as costly as possible.

Overall it's been interesting to observe who is using Facebook to reach the voting audiences in the battleground states.

Friday, November 2, 2012

ecce too Brutal?


This year I dressed SB as the Spanish masterpiece, Ecce Homo (not the original by Elías García Martínez, but the restoration by Cecilia Giménez).  Overall it was a success, though we noticed that a certain segment of the population was more likely to recognize the costume.


I had to work really hard to top last year's Star Wars theme, which was a revelation on many levels.  While SB revealed his fantastic gams to most of Wanchai, it was also discovered that while quite a few men and women accused him of destroying their Princess Leia fantasies, others were strangely attracted.  One particular gentleman of discernment could not control himself from repeatedly attempting to lift SB's skirt and catch his eye to show off some dance moves.


The two costumes had surprisingly similar reactions across Facebook.  Horror, fascination, speechlessness and quite a lot of loss of appetite.  We have been asked to refund the cost of two lunches and one chocolate bar as well as provide the ability to un-see things.  

I was worried that I wouldn't be able to outdo myself next time but then I remembered that truth is indeed stranger than fiction and I have faith in my fellow mankind to provide some other outrageous fodder when the next costume party rolls around.  I shall have to keep a keen eye on the goings on in North Korea, Iran, Italy, and certain landlocked regions of the United States.