Tuesday, December 31, 2013

dawn of a new day

Ok blog friends, I need your advice. I would like to watch the sunrise tomorrow morning. My backup plan is the Shek O headlands but I would prefer something that is more remote and involves exercise.

SB and I are experienced hikers with proper clothing and shoes. We will bring our GPS and headlamps so unless the trail is extreme, we should be well equipped for an overnight or early morning hike.

Monday, December 30, 2013


Did I recently mention how much I enjoy my morning goodbyes with SB? Hah! This morning I barely repressed to urge to yank the duvet off his sheet hogging body and whack him with a pillow. Repeatedly.

He said that he was going to dinner with some friends. Around midnight I decided not to wait up any longer and went to bed alone. At some time in the wee hours an elephant crashed through the bedroom door. I vaguely recall cracking open an eyelid at the commotion and witnessing him flailing about with his shirt half off.

Eventually he flopped into bed and tried to warm those gigantic flippers on my legs. I squeaked in protest and kicked him. Then I felt a cold flipper hook the hot water bottle that was warming my feet and drag it over to his side of the bed. I was too tired to fight back.

Hours later I awoke to find him impersonating a starfish and spread out across the middle of the bed. With a mighty shove, I heaved him over to his side. Not much later I awoke to find myself being pushed off the bed. Another shove got him back over to his side. No sooner had I fallen back asleep when he rolled back over. "Get oooooofffffff!!!" I shrieked. He finally rolled away, emitting an offended "hrmphh" and commenced with the snoring.

Yeah, he's not looking so adorable right now. And neither am I. I look like I feel, slouched over at my desk in sleep deprived misery.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

not for the books

While I had no problem with a friend of mine crowing over how romantic and wonderful her boyfriend is, I kinda wanted to punch her in the nose when she took it one step further and made disparaging comments upon hearing that SB regularly forgets my birthday. "What are you doing with him?" she had the nerve to demand. While I am annoyed at his forgetfulness, there are 364 other days in the year that are made more enjoyable because he is part of them. I don't understand people who measure the success of their relationships by grand gestures only. Maybe they read too many romance novels.

What I know is that every morning when I leave for work, I kiss him goodbye even though he is sleeping and won't remember. I do this because it makes me happy, because I adore him right down to his overlarge, Sasquatchy feet which I often tuck back under the duvet right before I kiss him. It is the best part of my day until I come home to see him in the evening.

SB will probably never feature in a romance novel despite being the rugged, manly man type that these novels like to feature. This is because unlike the schizophrenic romance men, SB won't suddenly fall on his knees and make a weepy declaration of love in front of all of the bitches who were mean to me in high school. Unless he suddenly suffers a stroke. Rugged men don't do that crap.

That doesn't mean that SB isn't romantic. He likes gardening and presents me with lovely, flowering plants. He shows me how much he loves and treasures me in other ways that sure beat public declarations and expensive, designer gifts (not that there's anything wrong with it if you like that sort of thing). This Christmas he bought me a ski jacket. Never mind that I can't ski and don't particularly like to be cold. The point was that he loves skiing and wanted to share the thing he loves with me. Many years ago I knew that he loved me because he dragged me on a long, miserable march up a mountain and at the top, he took my frozen, blue hand in his and told me that when he was younger, he thought that the wintertime mountaintop was one of the most beautiful sights that he had ever seen. I blinked back frozen tears of joy and sniffled with my cold, red nose at his thoughtfulness in taking me to the most beautiful sight.

Anyway, I once heard my friend yelling over the phone at her romance hero boyfriend because he hadn't given her flowers when she returned from a business trip. Sounds like Prince Charming ended up with the stepsister, I thought snarkily. Me, I prefer my hero to have a bit more backbone.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

zombie apocalypse

With all of the bacterial and viral mutations that are popping up these days, I'm not so sure that the threat of a zombie outbreak isn't conceivable. We already have toxins that destroy the brain, parasites that eat the brain, and diseases that infect the brain.  The only problem is how are we going to be able to identify zombies in Hong Kong?

From 6pm onward during weekdays the walking dead seem to roam through Central. I have the misfortune of having to attend a board meeting at an office in the middle of Central on certain evenings and it's an uphill battle against hordes of office workers who are stumbling around with their faces stuck to their phones. In my own office, most of my colleagues put on their headphones on the way out of the doors and join the masses that clog up the district by stumbling around slowly because no one can take the time to look up from their shiny phone screens to notice that they are walking into the side of a tram (yes, I actually saw a young lady step off the median into the side of a stopped tram).

On weekends, only the desperate or unfortunate will enter Causeway Bay because of the shopping zombies. There must be some sort of brain sucking transmission employed by dastardly marketing executives because mall goers tend to be rendered deaf and dumb once they enter a shop. How else can I explain why a perfectly normal looking couple will stop suddenly in the middle of a thoroughfare and then both of them will gape at a shopfront with their mouths open while pedestrians run into them? And what else could be the cause of a crazed pair of women in ugly, rhinestone affixed, velour tracksuits and dragging monstrous, pink suitcases trying to violently insert themselves in the front of the lift queue at Sogo?

Zombies are already here.

Friday, December 27, 2013

a good time was had by one

I was supposed to play in a boxing day lacrosse match but my Christmas day sniffles became something more overnight and I found myself huddled under the covers in a ball of misery. SB tried to cheer me up but by the afternoon I was ready to shove his head through his guitar.

Finally I caught him looking out the window at the women who were gathering for the game and came up with a plan. "There may not be enough people if I withdraw," I told him, "I think you should go to replace me."

"Are you sure?" he asked dubiously, "there aren't any other guys."  I assured him that it was fine and pushed him out of the door. I may have thrown the deadbolt for good measure. Then I laid back down and soaked up the blessed sound of silence.

Five minutes later, the phone rang. "Are you sure it's alright for me to play?" he asked, "because I told them that you said it was okay and they are looking at me weirdly."

"They're just shy," I responded and hung up on him.

SB woke me a couple hours later to tell me how much fun he had. "Once I dodged the first defender, I just started running and no one could keep up!" He also scored a bunch of goals until it occurred to him that maybe he should pass the ball to the women who were yelling at him. He may have run a few of the smaller players out of bounds but it was hard to tell since he was a foot taller and couldn't see.

He couldn't wait to play with the girls again. He liked using my stick because even though it doesn't have a pocket like a men's stick so he couldn't wind up, the curve at the head allowed him to really rip off a painfully hard shot. I'm sure that the goalie loved that. In fact, no one has contacted meyet  to let me know when the next match will be...

Friday, December 20, 2013

stair saver

Escalators must be different over in the mainland. I frequently watch Chinese tourists stepping gingerly onto them as though afraid of being swept away. Along with moving more slowly in China, escalators over there apparently work differently; it appears that some escalators only produce a limited number of steps.

At least that was the explanation that I came up with for what happened today. I was about to step onto the moving stair conveying machine when a woman barged in front of me. This is not a rare thing to happen when you share lunch hours with several million people on a small island. But then the woman stopped moving. I tried to walk around her but she had her arm outstretched and was bending with her ass out to block me like some ladies do when trying to herd children ahead of you to a train seat rather than simply saying, "excuse me."

I immediately looked down for a kid, but there was none. Then, three other women finally scurried over and they all got on, blocking the left side where where people usually walk. Of course. I was left standing behind them, bewildered. What was that lady doing? Saving stairs? I wanted to tap her on the shoulder and explain that escalator stairs are a renewing resource; they never run out. Escalators are magic like that.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

much merrier

After a brief respite I am back to the holiday feasting with a vengeance. I am double booked for tonight with an office party followed by a barbecue. The BBQ party hostess has not been dissuaded by the cold temperature and rain, much to my chagrin. I have to leave the office party and rush over to Yuen Long so that I can shiver over a small grill. 

There was a competition at the office for the work group with the most festive decorations. The group closest to me went all out. They are currently all wearing white beards and sitting in desks that are adorned with streamers and origami trees. The next group over has stockings and paper snowflakes. The company directors walked by and applauded their jolly efforts.  Then they stopped at my group and shook their heads.

So we didn't exactly do much. Okay, we did nothing unless you could the tree ornament sitting on Joe's desk but it is there because it fell off of the office tree and we stole it. Maybe we should have commandeered a couple more goodies. There was some tinsel attached to the coffee machine that could have adorned  a table or two. And I swear that all of us wearing black sweaters was a coincidence.

As I pointed out to my boss, the Grinch and Scrooge have their places in Christmas, too.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

merry making

We had our rugby club dinner and party last night. When the date was chosen, we were unaware that this was also SantaCon. We could have saved a fortune on booze because by the time dinner began, most of the Santas were already merry. We could have also saved a fortune in food because I doubt most of the party goers remembered the delicious meal. Having eaten many British Christmas dinners in my five and a half years in HK, I can conclude with confidence that British holiday desserts, or puddings, are pretty much SB and my childhood nightmares come to life. I despise raisins and candied fruit while he dislikes boozy dessert and most forms of warm fruit.

After dinner our crew headed out for a pub crawl. There were four other women in the party but that was enough that I had dance partners; I hadn't gone dancing in a while and that was my goal. The women were dressed to the nines and looked hot while the men...well, they looked like what you would expect from men who had been drinking for twelve hours while dressed in white felt and red velour suits. Except for the one man dressed as a creepy Christmas tree. I'm somewhat sure that his costume was made for someone much smaller than he was.

At some point in the night, Creepy Tree flirted with a couple of women. One of their boyfriends appeared and tried to kick the tree where his Christmas presents would have been located. Creepy Tree is a lover, not a fighter, so he chose not to acknowledge the troll's drunken and unsporting attempts at branch trimming and walked away. We thought that was the end until about it ten minutes later when the troll suddenly ran over to try to kick our tree again. If I hadn't thought the guy was drunk, I was sure of it at that point because he didn't seem to notice that the tree that he was after was standing in the midst of a forest of large Santas. Two of the Santas were over six and a half feet. And wearing red. How you would fail to notice this while trying to assault their friend is beyond me.

There was a lot of pushing and name calling but nothing more, thankfully. The troll was barely upright and none of his swinging punches actually connected with anyone. His friends ran outside and called the Santas racists, which I am starting to notice is a common way for drunken Chinese men to try to win arguments when they haven't a leg to stand on. "Your friend is a slobbering moron." "That's because you're racist!"

The staff at the bar came over and threw the other people out. We went back to dancing. Then ten minutes later the troll and his posse were back, this time whining about how he lost his ugly baseball hat and demanding that we find it for him. Amazingly a few of the Santas obliged and looked about the floor area for the hat. Then the troll started yelling again and the bar staff once again arrived and escorted him outside. After that, we spent the rest of the night dancing without any more silliness. This dancing queen may have overindulged because I was feeling a rather strong beat pounding in my head when I awoke at an embarrassingly late time. I was never more grateful that the rain caused my lacrosse training to be cancelled. Last time I showed up hung over, I got hit in the head by a ball when I failed to raise my stick and catch it like I was supposed to do.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

the second night of Christmas dinner

Technically, the first dinner wasn't really a Christmas dinner, but I won a present so it counts as festive. 

Last night our rugby committee had dinner together at Carnegie's. Carnage is our team's oldest running sponsor and we have spent many a Saturday evening toasting successes and trying to forget failures at the bar. This was the second time that I have joined the committee for dinner. Last year we did not dine on a Friday night and sat in the corner tables but this time it was madness. We had a table for the ten of us right in the middle of the upper area of the venue. It was beautifully set with a fabric tablecloth, tinsel decorations and candles. Half of the table was occupied by our chairman's employees because they had finished their holiday luncheon nearby and had walked him, in his aviator costume, down to Carnegie's. Where they decided to stay for a few more. And then a few more after that. 

We sat down to eat an hour later than planned, to a full British style meal of delicious tomato cream soup, turkey, roasted parsnips and carrots, potatoes, brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce, and some sausage and stuffing tidbits. All around us, patrons were dancing and merry making..and someone reached over and stole my bacon wrapped sausage. Well, what did I expect, waving bacon in front of a bar full of happy hour celebrants?

All of the food was demolished, with the exception of the brussel sprouts. They were undercooked and hard to chew. SB placed one into his mouth and I saw him out of the corner of my eye as he gagged. We had a few tense seconds as I desperately passed him a tissue out of my bag and then he hurked out the offending sprout. I don't think that hurk is a word but it perfectly describes the sound and action that he made as he cleared out the bitter and crunchy vegetable. I knew that it was too much to ask that we could enjoy a few meals without him heaving up his vegetables.

By the end of the meal several of the club's players had found us and they helped us to eat our pudding and custard, and then empty the wine.  Then it was on to the dance floor. I love Christmas in Hong Kong.

Friday, December 13, 2013

It ain't over when she sings

I attended a contractor's Christmas dinner tonight. It was the first time that I had accepted such an invitation. The celebration was very much like a massive Chinese wedding, and I consider typical Chinese weddings to be grand scale events.

There were a lot of speeches. After every course several people at the table commented about how the food was so much better than last year. The food last year must have been spectacularly bad to have been mentioned repeatedly. This year's fare was okay; not bad and not especially memorable.

What was memorable was the entertainment. The company hired a bonafide local celebrity and a supposedly up and coming singer to belt out a few cantopop hits. The celebrity isn't famous for his singing and he wasn't great but he was very charming and the crowd loved him. The actual singer was even worse, as in karaoke bar at 3am bad. She shrieked her obligatory three songs and then went launched into a self promotional speech that went on and on. Just when I thought it was over, she began another song. I didn't recall anyone asking for the encore.

She was sexy, though. Furry minidress with high heeled, furry boots. It was almost worth listening to her to catch a glimpse of her little, furry hips sashaying across the stage. Almost.

Monday, December 9, 2013

taking a peek

One of my favorite things to do on Facebook is to look at the backgrounds of pictures that people post.  I enjoy what the pictures tell me about how other people live. I look beyond the subject matter, often pets or children, and try to peek into homes and yards. I like seeing how my friends decorate their living rooms or what staples are kept out in the kitchens. I take great delight in seeing what people frame on their walls. Yes, I am nosy but I won't apologize because I'm a designer so I will claim that it's in everyone's best interest that I pay attention to what people value.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

how to become useless

I've gotten myself into a bit of a pickle, but what else would I expect with my big, fat mouth?  I have a friend who is applying for a job at another friend's office and I have been asked to introduce them. In fact, I feel obliged to make the introductions because the applicant is trying to leave his current job in part due to my aforementioned big, fat mouth.  

I told him to leave.  Actually I told him to "get out now." In the past year he has been practically always stressed out with the job. He used to try to change workplace dis-function but eventually he realized the futility of it all.  His company only seems to care about profit and don't seem too concerned about the revolving door of employees, which is all but guaranteed when you under staff and overwork your employees. workers. There were too many similarities to my old job for me to keep my trap shut: the attitude of 'I was once an abused underling so now it's your turn to pay your dues', the boss showing the employee time cards on PowerPoint at the productivity monthly meetings with different color highlights to indicate how much overtime everyone worked as though over sixty hours per week was a badge of honor, the 'advice' that management frowns on people who don't volunteer to come in on weekends, the employee appraisals that seem to only focus on negative aspects of performance (how many minutes after 8:30am did you arrive to work even though there is no appraisal category for how many hours you worked the night before), etc.

After three years of that management style I was so bitter that it was a fortunate thing that I decided to take a few months off to decompress because had I tried to interview for a new job, I probably would have come off as mentally unstable.  Because I probably was mentally unstable.

My friend is no longer making sense. He displays a strange approach to problem solving, which is to let the problem fester while it is low on the radar until it becomes a major problem, at which point normal options are taken away. Case in point: his sink was draining very slowly. I pointed this out to him when I was over for a visit. A few weeks later I was rinsing my hands and noticed that the drain was barely working. Have you called anyone to fix it or called your landlord, I asked him. No, the landlord probably wouldn't care. He had no reason for why he thought that the landlord wouldn't care since he rarely speaks to the landlord, so I can only conclude that the attitude at his workplace has carried over to how he believes other people operate. He would use his sink in the morning, filling it up, then go to work. By the time he came home it would have drained. Except last week it didn't drain fast enough and the water escaped down the side of his pipes and somehow made it into his neighbor's ceiling. Now the landlord is involved and has to pay for the neighbor's ceiling along with fixing the drain. 

And I am introducing this guy for a job. He needs to leave his current situation but I'm not sure that he is fit for working in a 'normal' company right now. At least by observing him I have gained insight into how so many people in upper management are useless. If he stays in his current job, he will follow that path. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

thanks for your support

Yesterday at our top division's men's team, we saw our fly half chip kick past a defender, gather up his kick, and then side step the last defender to score a try.  It was a beautiful thing.

SB voiced his approval by yelling, "Nick, you'd better get the coach to sub you off right now!  You'll never play better than that!" His statement was followed by a chorus of other players shouting for Nick to retire immediately.

And that, my friends, is how rugby players support each other.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


This Thanksgiving I did a lot more reflecting than in previous years. I am going to be an aunt and I think that it has made me a bit softer than usual. I thought a lot about how thankful I was to have SB with me for better or worse, in emergency rooms or healthy. We had another kitchen accident that required emergency care so more on that at a later date.

This reminds me to be thankful not only for our usually good health but also for the medical services here in Hong Kong that allow us to seek care without stressing out over the cost of hospital care. We are living on my salary and a trip to the emergency room in the United States would have hurt.  I hope that Obamacare, as it is being called, works as it is meant to because one should never have to choose between one's health and one's financial solvency.

I also was reminded this year that I am at an age where I no longer consider myself to be young.  I experienced some trauma thinking that I am now closer to middle aged than teenaged, but then I thought about how much less awkward and dumb I am and that cheered me right up.  I prefer my sharper self even if it is in a less sharp body.

It must have been thinking about aging that caused me to look back on a poignant Thanksgiving more than a decade ago. A university tradition went terribly wrong before our annual game against the University of Texas and the bonfire that we had been building collapsed.  There were twelve trees planted alongside the rugby pitch to memorialize the students did not survive the accident; it was something that I am thankful for because I saw those trees every week and is eased my heart to know that I was not in danger of forgetting.

One of the students was an architecture student in my year.  I had never met her but I felt her loss anyway.  At my graduation, right before I hoisted the gonfalon and led my class into the stadium, I spared a moment of thought for this unknown woman as well as my dear friend, Robley, who succumbed to cancer one month before. It is times like now when I face down a milestone that I think about those who are no longer along on my ride.  They were bright and beautiful people and they should have had whole lives but sometimes things don't work out like they should. While I am saddened that they missed these experiences, I am very grateful for the life that I have had and for the gift that these people gave me: the knowledge of how precious our time on earth is.  

Monday, November 25, 2013


I deserved the glare that I got today while waiting to be seated for lunch. The middle aged woman in front of me looked like a cat and I was fascinated. Her skin seemed too tight for her skull while her neck and hands were soft and a bit lined like a normal middle aged woman. I wasn't trying to be rude but I was mesmerized by the complete lack of wrinkles anywhere on her face, even as she was glaring. It really was like a cat; their expressions rarely change but you just know when they want to rip your throat out.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

in a pickle

SB was on his way to meet friends and when the lift doors opened, the elderly lady from the commune who occupy the flat next door stepped out.  He told me that she paused as she was exiting and then paused again as he got into the lift car.  He held the door open, thinking that she might have changed her mind and wanted to go back down but she shook her head.  Then, as the door was closing, she called out at him.  He quickly opened the door for her but she shook her head and then started rummaging through her bag and produced a jar of pickled vegetables.  SB understood immediately. He is a very strong guy but he said that he struggled to finally open the jar, much to her delight. He and I had a chuckle imagining that she had been wandering around the building, trying to find someone to open her beloved pickles. He told me that it's always a great feeling to be able to do something useful for neighbors.

snip and tuck

It's a shame that SB has such an adverse reaction to needles because one of my awesomely useless skills, along with architectural hand lettering and colored marker illustrations, is the ability to sew perfect, little stitches on many materials including skin.  I shall never get the opportunity to practice my skills thanks to last summer's debacle.

Last night SB returned home sporting an impressive, little gouge in his elbow.  He was vague on the details but it appeared that he was involved in a scuffle with another player that (for once) wasn't his fault.  The other player received a double penalty and SB continued to play without realizing that he was bleeding all over the ice.

He needed stitches but it wasn't going to happen so I was very happy that I had picked up a handful of butterfly bandages last summer when we were in the States.  I haven't been able to find them here in Hong Kong.  You can make your own but I prefer the ones you buy at first aid stores because they are strong and adhere more than regular bandages.  This is important because you are using the butterfly to close a laceration in lieu of suturing.

Overall I think that I did a pretty good job.  SB will live to fight play another day.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

splendid voyage

This is the 1953 Timossi-Ferrari 'Arno XI' Racing Hydroplane.  It is one of the most stunning speedboat designs that I have ever seen.  I needed to share it with you.

(Image from Gizmodo)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

fare well?

Many moons ago, during my freshman year of university, our professor urged the class to carefully manage our personal credit ratings.  I was eighteen years old and had never considered my credit rating until then, so later that week I applied for a free credit report.  I received the shock of my life when I discovered that I had abysmal credit.  In fact, I was apparently being pursued by several collection agencies.  This began an ordeal that continues to this day.  

There was another woman who shared my first and last name, though not my middle name, and she was a crook.  She wrote bad checks, didn't pay off credit cards, and generally seemed to be a grifter who moved locations frequently. Somehow the collection agencies had confused me with her.  I used to think that this was because I spent my childhood moving on average every two years so maybe our patterns made the agencies think that we were the same person.  But after calling up the various collection agencies trying to clear my name and getting nowhere I started cynically wondering if they simply didn't care that my name was being dragged through the mud as long as they got paid. One particularly odious man told me that he could do nothing to remove my name from the list but since my poor credit would prevent me from opportunities in the future, I should go ahead and pay to repair the damage. He even offered me a deal of paying off a fraction of what was truly owed.

Collection letters even found their way to Hong Kong when I moved here in 2008.  I could only shake my head in dismay at the demand for payment addressed to me even though I was several decades younger than this other woman. I have stopped bothering to fight to clear my name but as it turns out, there are many credit card companies who apparently don't worry about such trivial things as a reputation for nonpayment because I still receive credit card applications. In grad school I nervously applied for a credit card and received it along with a $15,000 credit line. Idiots.

Last night I Googled my name for the first time in quite a while and discovered quite a few obituaries from two years ago. The person with my first and last name  happened to have been the same age as my grifter.  I would like to share with you that it is uncanny to read your name in an obituary. Along with feeling unease and maybe a spot of sadness because that's how most of us react to news of a death, I also felt some relief.  Unless there is another crooked person sharing my name out there in some horrible twist of fate, I imagine that my days of receiving rude and threatening phone calls from collectors are over.


I'm back at headquarters for a week and then I'll be over at another site.  I like returning to the office because I am starting to get to know other people around the office.  I am fond of my team but we are one of the smallest teams in the office and half of us are away at various sites so we don't have many opportunities to interact.  I am sometimes wistful when I see some of the thirty person work groups having beers together in the corner of the office but I like my directer too much to want to move to another group.

I also like the office a lot.  At first I wasn't too keen on the open office concept; you cannot have truly private conversations and sometimes the noise from others is distracting. Now that I have been at the firm for several months I have come to realize that as far as my profession is concerned, this open office layout has many benefits.  If I am not mistaken, IDEO was one of the drivers for other design firms taking up the open office layout and adopting a similar organizational structure. I have discovered that while I don't enjoy having the rest of the office hear me blundering through a phone call or arguing with my boss, being party to discussions going on around me means that I know what is going on in projects that I will most likely be asked to contribute to in the future. I have learned how to tune out conversations that don't interest me. Also, once I got over the whole pride issue of knowing that others could hear my conversations, I discovered that similar to how I have learned from listening to others, there are others who are learning from me. Recently a colleague from across the office needed advice on fulfilling a statutory requirement and was directed my way by another colleague who recalled a rousing (i.e. loud) conversation that I had with my boss. Likewise, I have noted which people around the office have expertise in various fields that will be helpful to me in the future.

At my last job, we had a hybrid structure with partial cubicles and it wasn't very successful in my opinion. I suppose this was because our attitudes never changed; we were just cubicle monkeys with the tops of our cubicles lopped off.  Rather than ideas and information being spread throughout the office, we hunkered down in our topless cubicles and conversed in whispers lest our ideas be exposed.  There was a gentleman in another studio who I somehow discovered knew almost every building code by heart.  I used to walk over to his area to ask for advice but after feeling self conscious from all the stares that his studio members gave me, I resorted to emailing him.  Looking back, I realize how silly our attitudes were. We were supposed to be one happy company but each studio was hoarding its resources.  Of course, since each studio was responsible for managing its own profit, this meant that we were sometimes competing against each other for projects.

Not everything is sunshine and rainbows at my job but this is the first time since school that I have observed people walking over to others and asking for help or an honest review of their work.  So far I am enjoying the collaboration even if everyone can hear me when I say something dumb.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

making it count

My company is matching whatever individual donations we give to typhoon victims.  We are donating to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.  As far as I know, there is no limit.  A friend's company was doing the same thing but with a limit so once the company had reached the matching limit, he started asking around for who else out there had a donation matching policy.  It's something that I wouldn't have thought of but due to his cleverness, his team has significantly increased the amount of giving by spreading the money.

While I am disappointed to hear about corruption and unfairness already affecting the aid process, I cannot let cynicism prevent me from reaching out.  By choosing a well known, international organization I am expecting that they will have experience navigating through the red tape and corruption to get necessities to those who need help.

As a Hong Kong resident I am fully aware that the Philippines' location means that it bears the brunt of a lot of storms that are heading this way.  If not for their position, it could have been us, and our outlying islands could have been ravaged.  I experienced a couple of hurricanes when I lived in Florida and it was enough to convince me to move away.  I loved the beaches but I couldn't afford to rebuild when mother nature swept my home into the ocean. I don't think that there is anywhere in several pacific nations that you can move and know that you are fully safe.

Friday, November 15, 2013

capable hands

C was able to check in with me today. I figured that he would be busy because he is part of HSM-77 (Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron Seven Seven "Saberhawks") and helicopters that can carry tons of weight will be very useful in distributing aid.  He told me that the squadron refitted the helos from their military purposes. I was impressed by how quickly the team can frame, fit, paint and assemble parts but I guess that's what rapid response is all about. We complain about the portion of our taxes that goes into the US military but this is an example of money well spent, in my opinion. I am darn proud of him and times like this make me proud to be an American.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Put out to sea

C's visit with us was cut short because a humanitarian mission has come about for the USS George Washington. I wish him a speedy journey. Two nights ago we were watching the Typhoon's path toward the Philippines on television as we were sharing a few beers and around now he must be arriving there.

We had a last dinner and then a beer at Dusk til Dawn, which was packed with other servicemen who were enjoying their last hour of liberty. The waitress took my money and never returned with my change.  Then C bought a beer for someone that he knew and that waitress never returned with his change. This isn't the first time that this has happened so I will never buy a drink from a waitress at this establishment again. I've never been ripped off at yhe other bars.

We took a taxi to pier 10 since Fenwick pier is under construction. As we were driving up, the taxi driver took a sudden left. SB immediately questioned why he didn't drive straight and turn right but he started yelling at us and drove all the way to the Macau terminal before turning back around and then into the other side of Central piers. Then as he was nearing pier 10, at the roundabout that he originally should have gone to, he then started driving away, telling us that he was taking us to Fenwick pier. We made him stop at pier 8 and got out. I didn't want to pay that a$$hole but it was more important not to cause a problem as C was needing to leave.

After saying our goodbyes, we found another taxi to take us home; the first taxi driver was waiting at the taxi stand to rip off more servicemen but he knew better than to complain when I got into the taxi behind his. Our fare when we got home was $46 and the driver took my hundred and then said bye bye. Hah! I politely reminded him that he owed me change. I gave him the benefit of doubt that his omission of change was a mistake but then he started driving before we had fully exited the taxi, taking off with the door still open. I kinda wished that I had cut through the footpath to the taxi queue on the next street though I have no idea what I would have done had I found him.

It's disappointing to see how poorly behaved some people can be when they perceive vulnerability. I imagine that had I been drunk as they had assumed, I could have been taken for quite a ride.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

It was a good weekend

C's visit has been so far so good.  We stayed up until 5am on Friday night gossiping about old friends and enemies.  I only returned to my former home a couple of times since graduating and moving away but he's been back once per year and has kept in touch with our classmates.  We laughed about how many of our classmates married each other or at least reproduced together.  I'm not sure if other schools had similar outcomes but we thought that it seemed unusual how incestuous our old classmates have been.  If I played the Kevin Bacon game (which by the way SB is 1 degree) then within six degrees C and I are connected to most of our school and definitely everyone in our social groups.  It reminded me of a demonstration in sex ed. class where the teacher showed us how a couple of students with an STI could infect half of the class within a few exchanges.

On Saturday night after my rugby match we made our way to the Fringe to catch some live music.  SB's friend and fellow hockey player is part of a band called League of Gentlemen, and they are probably my favorite band in Hong Kong.  The show had three bands playing: The Bollands, League of Gentlemen, and the Fat Jokers. It took me a while to finally hear League of Gentlemen because they didn't play very frequently and when I tried to see them at the Wanch, it was packed and a busted speaker made the music a bit excruciating.  When I finally made it into another show I was blown away.  Saturday's show was probably the best performance that I have seen from them.  They opened with some newer, more melodious music, which I won't bother trying to describe since I am a buffoon but it was exciting to hear a slight departure from their last album and I loved their previous sound. The album was ridiculously easy to buy from their website, which I appreciate.

We arrived in the middle of the first band's set and I wish that my rugby game had ended sooner because the Bollands were a revelation.  Have you had one of those nights where you go to catch some live music, expecting something decent because you have gotten to know who you like and know which groupings should produce a good vibe, and then you walk into the venue and the music is so much more?  We walked into the Fringe and I was immediately taken by the Bollands.  You can sample their music on their website.  We signed up to their mailing list first thing in the morning. Oh, they were fun to hear and watch.

I quite liked the Fat Jokers as well.  We weren't able to hear a lot of their set because we had to get C back to the ship so I hope to hear them again soon.  One of the musicians was extremely good with a harmonica.  The band had a small brass section as well as various other props that made for a really fun show.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

port of calling

My only ex who I am still in contact with (unlike SB's harem) is coming to visit. He is about to retire from the Navy and is on what I am calling the goodbye tour, upon the USS George Washington.  SB is possibly more excited than I am for the visit because the ex is part of a helicopter squadron and SB loves all things mighty and military, especially those things that fly.  While being quizzed by my girlfriends about my expectations for the SB and C's first time meeting each other (frankly, I don't see any problems other than SB trying to monopolize C to talk about helicopters), word got out and now their boyfriends are also begging to meet the ex and get a tour. Try to imagine a 6'5" ginger haired man who is jumping up and down while clapping his hands and begging to be invited on the boat.  I hope C doesn't lose my number after this visit.

Monday, November 4, 2013

spreading good news

My sister randomly emailed me three months ago to tell me that she had been dating "the one" for six months. We're not a family that keeps in touch regularly so this was a big deal.  She was bringing him on a trip to Europe with my parents. I was invited but couldn't make it so instead we met over Skype.  Then I didn't hear from my sister again.

After a few unanswered emails she contacted me to arrange another Skype chat.  She was acting really strange and then finally as she was getting ready to sign off she said that she had something to tell me.  Immediately I knew.  Then she stood up and lifted her shirt.  "Oh my gawd, you're fat!"  I exclaimed.  SB came rushing into the room.  "Holy cow, look at that gut!" he chimed in.

"No!  I'm pregnant!"

"Oh.  Well then, congratulations!" and then I danced gleefully around the room and bounced about in front of the computer, probably contributing to her mounting nausea.  She's already in her second trimester and her boyfriend is becoming a bit concerned that she hasn't told anyone.  She felt like she couldn't tell her friends without telling my parents first but she is afraid to tell them because they are very traditional.  I'm sure that my poor sister is remembering that time when our close friends' son knocked up his girlfriend and even though they couple married, my father was a judgmental jerk.  To the wife, not the husband.  Because that's how conservative people roll sometimes.

I chose to go the way of levity because I knew that there was a reason why she looked really pregnant and was just now telling me.  I wanted her to laugh and I succeeded.  Then I told her seriously that she needed to tell the parents because she was getting on in her pregnancy and they would need time to adjust.  It was wrong that she couldn't share the joy with her friends because of her fear of our parents.  I also wanted to tell our aunt so that when my father called to complain, she could knock some sense into him.  SB and I won't be reproducing (we can't even get our acts together to marry) so this is his only chance at grandchildren.

I'm over the moon for her.  She isn't exactly a spring chicken anymore and she always wanted babies but with her crazy job, she wasn't able to date much. It's all been so fast but I don't find myself having any trouble at all accepting the new man and the baby.  This is what she has wanted and I'm delighted for her.  I just hope she breaks the news before the baby arrives.

Friday, November 1, 2013

home and heart

I grew up as a homebody but that is not who I am; I like traveling and can make myself comfortable in almost any location.  When I was younger, before my friends and I started settling down, I often spent the weekend away from home.  My friends and I always carried weekend bags because you just never knew where you would end up.  After going out on Friday, we would all migrate to one of our homes and fall asleep there. Saturday, after the rugby match, my teammates and I would head over to another teammate's home and would usually remain through Sunday.  Then I would wake up on Sunday morning and visit my Aunt and Uncle before returning to my home on Sunday night.  I liked this lifestyle.  I liked it a lot more than what I grew up with.

My mother is a very private person who keeps the locks on the doors at all times. I sometimes wonder if that is her personality or if she was more affected from growing up in wartime than her older and younger sisters, who are more open and outgoing. My father has never cottoned to the idea of sharing his girls with others so he was happy enough to spend my childhood weekends hiking with my sister and me or staying in.

When I was ten or so, we visited my father's youngest sister in Texas and I was exposed to a whole new world. My teenage cousin was an only child, but she had a dozen friends over at any time of day or night. My aunt and uncle were hosting not only my family, but another family who came over once a month to go sailing with them.  When you added neighbors stopping by to chat (that didn't happen with my family, with the doors being locked and all) it became one, boisterous flurry of a week.  I loved it.  I loved meeting all sorts of interesting people and learning about them.  It was very sad when a few days later my father packed us up for an impromptu weekend hiking trip.  "I miss spending time with my girls." he said happily as we drove away.  As though we didn't spend every weekend having family only time.  And my mother didn't even like to hike!  She spent the weekend alone in the hotel room, watching television with a Do Not Disturb sign on the door while my sister and I went hiking in the oppressive Texas heat with our father.

I had experienced a taste of how other people lived and I wanted it.  It took seven years but I finally became old enough to leave home and live with unlocked doors. Apparently I am too welcoming because SB has lectured me a few times about how there are times to lock the door, like when you leave for a few minutes to buy milk or go downstairs to chat with a neighbor. Of course, now that I have settled down, staying in is not all that bad.  There is a moment when I walk through the door of our little flat when I can feel the stress of the day slipping away, followed by the anticipation of seeing my beloved waiting for me.  Or at least sitting on the couch, scratching himself and waiting for me to feed him.  It feels like home and I like that.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

too much

While I'm not squeamish about all the fake blood and guts that are being used to mark Halloween festivities, the same cannot be said for the real thing.  A friend who felt the need to send graphic images of the Boston bombings found out exactly what I think constitutes gratuitous gore and violence in media.

It's a slippery slope to be sure.  Graphic depictions have changed how a lot of people view fighting and war.  Sometimes we need to be shocked into realizing how bad something really is.  On the other hand, splashing private and agonizing moments of peoples' lives in full color can be insensitive and needless.

I may have been living under a rock, but I was unaware of the Facebook controversy regarding a beheading video.  The first I heard about it was last week when my news reader highlighted a story about Facebook's policy stating that the beheading video was allowed because of its newsworthiness.  I clicked on the story, thinking it had something to do with terrorists, and instead was treated to still shots of a woman who had been beheaded by her husband for supposedly cheating on him.  I almost threw up.  I had to lay down because I could feel the physiological signs that I was about to faint: palpitations, lightheadedness, sudden drop in blood pressure and full on distress.  If you want to publish those horrible images and feel like there is some sort of newsworthiness, then fine, but like R rated movies, there should be a warning on the web site for people like myself who wanted to know what is being debated without a full graphic representation of the offensive material.

Now a popular HK blog has posted a beheading image where I did not expect to see one. I don't care if the images are from last week or from 1891; I don't want to see it.  If you had given me the choice to click for the image or at least scroll down, I could have had the choice to not look.  I'm disappointed but I'll have to remove another news source from my list because I can't be passing out on my way to work in public transportation. I may fall and crack my head open and then I would be the one sickening people on a news site.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

reality bites

At the end of summer, I noticed that there was a trend of recipes for heirloom tomato jams.  Food bloggers were raving about the deliciousness of ripe, homegrown tomato jams and the sweet and acidic flavors being imparted.  I am a big fan of the sweet and sour combination in jams so I was sold. I imagined something similar to raspberry jam but with more of a kick.

So last weekend I picked up some ridiculously expensive organic tomatoes from City Super and downloaded a popular jam recipe.  Hours later I had a lovely, reddish-orange jam.  I grabbed a slice of sourdough bread, smeared on a healthy portion of my jam, and took a bite.  It tasted like sweet ketchup.  Well, maybe it tasted like a really lovely ketchup that someone had poured a cup of sugar into.

I went back online to check other recipes but they were all very similar to the one that I had used.  I then did a search for things to eat with tomato jam and came back with bread or bread and cheese.  I then cut a generous slice of Gouda and placed it atop the bread and jam and took another bite.  Yeah, still sweet ketchup.

I'm pretty disappointed and now I'm stuck with a couple of jars of insanely expensive and sweet ketchup.  If anyone can think of meals that can be made out of a pot of sugary ketchup, please let me know.

Monday, October 28, 2013

all together

I signed up for a company outing recently in a bid to make friends with some of my work colleagues.  It was a fairly successful outing in that regard and if I ever return to HQ from the site office I will call a few of my new acquaintances for lunch.

On the other hand, if not for needing to make friends, I would have run screaming from the trip.  Imagine 100 people descending upon two remote HK islands, complete with three megaphone waving tour guides and a group leader with the company name attached to a stick like one of those dreaded mainland tour groups.  That was my outing.  One of the megaphone ladies seemed to be in love with her megaphone and squawked into in nonstop for the entire seven hour trip.  At one point I saw her talking into the megaphone at a couple where were not even two meters away.  When we were back on the boat on our way to the second island some people from our seating area wrapped newspapers around the boat speaker so that we could drown out the noise.  The volume was so loud that I imagined our boat could be heard at half a kilometer distance. At least the villagers had time to prepare for our imminent arrival.

The situation finally got to the point of horrified amusement when we were led to a lovely campsite overlooking some bluffs.  SB and I had broken away from the group and were the first to arrive upon an idyllic setting.  A couple were sitting at the opening of their tent, strumming a guitar while other campers were flying kites. Then, suddenly the tranquility was broken by the shrill squawking of three tour guides trying to be heard over one another.  A minute later a horde of 100 overwhelmed colleagues came charging over the hill, trying to escape the incessant volume while the cows that had been sunning themselves ran into the brush.

Never again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Just when you think that you know everything, you are proved wrong. With a few exceptions, my reading material is more intelligent than my conversational vocabulary and when I was younger, it was fairly common that I would mispronounce a word that I frequently read but hardly ever spoke out loud.  Amusingly, some of my friends thought that I was using exotic or foreign words when I was simply mispronouncing common words.

For example, I used to mispronounce gross but everyone thought that I was speaking French. Then there was my best friend who spent four years telling me about her cleavlage before I realized that she wasn't trying to be cute.  There are also words that I simply can't get right.  I can never say drawer without sounding unnatural. It is either slow like molasses: draw-wer, or unintelligible: droor.

It's been so long since I can remember being corrected that I was floored by a recent discovery.  Remuneration.  I am pretty sure that I have never heard it pronounced correctly and when I discovered my mistake after being caught out by a spell checker, I tried to say it out loud and couldn't.  I contacted my friend who works in HR and she confessed to me that like me, she didn't realize the word was remuneration until she started working.  Also, she pronounces it "renumeration" because trying to do it the correct way causes tongue twisting as in my case.  Interesting.

What other words cause us problems?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Usually if traffic is heavy in one direction in the morning, it will be the opposite in the evening as people go to and from work, but this is not the case with the Aberdeen tunnel.  It seems to only be slow in one direction because traffic out of the tunnel into the Wanchai district is impacted by backed up traffic from Causeway Bay and the Central tunnel, which are busy at almost all times. My bus ride to my site office takes ten minutes in the morning but the ride home takes from thirty minutes to an hour. This morning was the first time that it was slow going to Aberdeen but the reason became obvious when we emerged from the slow moving tunnel: three very nice, black luxury cars had gotten into an accident at high enough speeds to do some damage. The BMW no longer had a trunk and the Lexus was crunched up like an accordion, though only in the front and back so I hope that he driver escaped safely.  I didn't see what happened to the third car because the police van was blocking my view.  Then the car in front of my bus ran into the one in front of it and that pretty much closed down the remaining lanes of traffic until an aggravated officer walked over and told the two rubberneckers to stop taking pictures of the scratches on their cars and pull over.

Last week my Friday ride home was unusually bad; it took one and a half hours to go home.  As far as I could tell, there were no accidents but Causeway Bay was so congested that traffic had become backed up all the way to Wong Chuk Hang.  But like I said, it was an extreme situation that will be somewhat alleviated when the stations that I am working on open. There's nothing like experiencing ridiculous gridlock to and from the office to motivate the site team into a high work rate.   The usual procedure is to play hot potato with an issue, passing it from Civil to Structural to Architectural to Building Services until someone finally has to bite but we don't have time for that crap. While we are solving issues at a fast rate, I am also under extra pressure because I need to make decisions with less time to recheck all of the supporting documents or call up the HQ team. If the station is really ugly, it is probably all my fault because I approved the alternative finishing material. If it is nice, then it was probably because it was done according to the drawings.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

the burn list

SB's sister has an exit plan.  If anything happens to her, her neighbor has been instructed to pull up to the home with a large dump truck and start filling it before her mother and family arrive.  Her sister in law has been instructed that if the neighbor fails to clear the clutter in time, she is to walk into the home with family members and exclaim over how surprised she is by the mess because it's usually immaculate.

My exit plan is more simple.  I am Type A personality through and through so there isn't any mess to be left behind.  Everything is compartmentalized, thus making my burn list easier, though no less critically important.  SB has been instructed to first find my Kindle and delete the section labeled "Lilith" which contains Gothic romances (oh, Heathcliff!), the Sookie Stackhouse series, the Charley Davidson series, and a few other books that would reveal how common my reading tastes can be. Then he is to open up one of the Booker prize novels in my Kindle as though I was most recently reading it.

SB claims that he can't think of anything that he would need to have removed if misfortune befell him.  I suspect that what he really means is that he is uncomfortable thinking about death and won't be making jokes about it any time soon.  I've tried to have a serious conversation about his intentions should anything happen but he hasn't wanted to discuss it.  I don't want him to be that guy who passes away and leaves the family at loose ends but that's how it will probably be.  Without a legal marriage, I have no rights as far as his estate is concerned, so I guess that it won't be my problem.

Monday, October 21, 2013

the flying fool

A few weeks ago SB was talking to his sister on the phone when their call was interrupted by a loud crash.  His sister then ran next door to the scene of a boat crash.  A speedboat had run hit the dock, skittered down the boardwalk, torn through a sidewalk, crossed the street, plowed through a small yard, and eventually came to a stop in the side of a house.  Amazingly, no one was injured.

There were a man, a woman and a small girl in the boat.  The woman was shrieking at the man for crashing the boat.  She and the man kept telling the small crowd who had come to offer help that they hadn't been drinking even though no one asked if they had.  SB's sister was disgusted that the woman seemed to be more concerned with yelling at the man than checking on her terrified child.

They were very lucky.  It turned out to be a good thing that the man was driving at a very high speed because it had caused the boat to go airborne when it hit the dock rather than crashing into the sea wall, which probably would have killed them.  They were lucky that no one was sitting at the neighboring dock or in the porch of the house that they hit.  They were lucky to be alive.

The man was arrested for being intoxicated.  The woman was allowed to leave with the girl and go to the hospital for a checkup instead of also being arrested for public intoxication. This may not have been a fairy tale ending but I would chalk it up as a very happy ending considering the circumstances.

SB's sister sent us the local news story to show us the damage.  Lucky fools.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

people are weird

When my friend Lauren came to visit, she made an effort to try and locate other black people in the landscape.  During the four days that she stayed with us, we located six black people, two of whom made contact with her.  It's not like I seek out other white people, though I do take note when I hear other American accents in a crowd, but there is a difference between being a minority and an extreme minority.  She doesn't try to make friends with every other black person back in the US but since she moved to Japan, I guess she started feeling very isolated and wanted to find similar looking people. Here in Hong Kong I have five black friends that I see on a fairly regular basis.  Now I wonder if they share Lauren's sentiments.  Maybe I should ask them if they know each other.

When Lauren and I went to Macau, things got weird.  In Hong Kong, she was unusual but I doubt that she was the first black person that anyone had seen.  There is an African community here after all, and it is a cosmopolitan city.  But in Macau she apparently went from an extreme minority to exceptional. When we walked into the Venetian, a group of people who were dressed like Mainland tourists literally stopped in their tracks and gaped at her with their mouths open.

Now, I remember being nine years old and seeing a set of albino, Chinese twins at the playground. That was a rare sight, but did I stop in my tracks and gape?  No, I did not.  I definitely did a double take but even at nine I knew how not to be rude. As nonchalantly as a nine year old who is attempting to be nonchalant can be, I strolled past them on the swings and climbed up the jungle gym, where I could discreetly inspect them from a distance while hiding behind a tire. After a few minutes I discovered that spying on kids on the swings was boring so I lost interest and went on my way.

So, back to the tourists in the casino.  This gaping with open mouths happened several times.  We even had to walk around a couple of morons who had stopped in our paths and were staring.  I gave them the most potent of my stink eyes but it didn't seem to have much of an effect. At least on the adults; I did manage to get a teenage girl to flinch. If I had it all to do over again, I would have jumped at them while yelling, "boo!"

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Isn't it not ironic?

When Alanis Morissette's song, "Ironic" dropped, it caused a sensation amongst literature teachers who debated whether or not the situations in the song were actually ironic.

"Isn't it ironic," sang Ms. Morissette, only to be replied with a resounding "no!"  As it turned out, the song itself became ironic by its lack of irony.

The situations described in the song, such as dying after winning the lottery or experiencing rain at your wedding, were unfortunate in an opposite of serendipity kind of way.

I experience this zemblanity on the mornings when I go to my site office. Four or five buses will pass my stop, all with 'Out of Service' signs, as they are going off shift. Un-serendipitously, the bus parking lot is right next door to my site office. We share the same entrance. Instead, I have to wait for a bus that will drop me off five minutes' walking distance from my destination.

Monday, October 14, 2013


I saw two elderly ladies crossing the street, arm in arm. One of the two was in much better physical shape and was helping her friend to walk. They had matching, fluffy orange hair and big smiles. They were dressed up and wearing sparkly shoes. It put a smile on my face to see them together.

My best friend and I once joked about how we were looking forward to the day when we both would be old. We would move to Florida and spend our days sitting by the pool in leopard print bikinis and leering at the lifeguards.  Now that I think about it, I would like nothing more than to be closer to my loved ones once I am done with the rat race.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

off the grid

Our various utilities have been shut off for periods of time. I wonder if this is due to roadworks and drainage works in the area or if it's normal for flushing and fresh water tanks to be serviced every few months. We also lost elevator usage, not that I minded too much because I like knowing that someone recently checked the cables and mechanics.

We didn't think too much about our internet going out on Friday night because it does that for half an hour or so from time to time, but on Saturday morning we noticed that NowTV wasn't working and the internet was still down. We called PCCW to complain and won't get anyone out to assist us for another two days. We have requested a refund for the days without internet or NowTV but it probably won't happen since it's not like we can threaten to switch to the practically nonexistent competition.

Meanwhile I am awake and missing out on my beloved TAMU football team taking on Ole Miss. And that is a tragedy. Ask SB; if I whine one more time this hour he may chloroform me with his smelly hockey glove.

Friday, October 11, 2013

nuff said

My friend Stephen is an architect with an undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics.  On one of his school projects he used fractal geometry to determine gaps and spaces between objects and walls to allow for views and provide a feeling of continuity beyond rooms.  It was really well done.  The chair of the department walked into the studio, glanced at Stephen's project, and then informed him that his work was strikingly close to Mies.  Mies van der Rohe was a giant in the field of architecture.  On the other hand, he died in 1969, thus beating Stephen's ideas by half a century.  Mies didn't use fractals as far as anyone knows but his design sensibilities were similar.

While Stephen enjoyed order and logic in his designs, the same could not be said about his self.  He created cognitive dissonance almost everywhere he went, and still does. You see, Stephen's parents were part of a group of Hong Kong residents who left prior to the handover and settled into Britain or one of her territories.  This is why Stephen, the brainy, brilliant mathematician/architect, is likely to greet you with "Wha'appen!" or "Wha'up!" when you speak to him.  Stephen was raised from the age of four in Jamaica.  He has a certain limping swagger to his step and he walks even slower than a typical Hong Kong teenager who is watching movies on his/her mobile phone in Causeway Bay.

We once traded iPods and aside from David Gray, all of his music is Reggae.  All. Of. It.  

He has risen in the ranks of his international firm faster than anyone else in our graduating class, much to the surprise of several instructors who previously despaired that he would ever stop pontificating on equations and actually build something before the term ended. He is very, very precise and accurate in his practice but he is also the guy who discovered his car under a foot of snow in the faculty lot after he had parked it days ago and forgotten where it was. Probably the only reason it wasn't impounded was that no one wanted to deal with removing the snow.

Stephen visits HK from time to time for his job but during his last visit, he was part of some sort of reunion of his parents and their friends. For a week, Ma On Shan was inundated with a group of thirty-something Chinese men all doing the homey limp and speaking in Jamaican Patois. Stephen said that it caused a lot of heads to turn.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

deer in headlights

The bus stop facing home from my site office is across six lanes of traffic.  The first night that I tried to get to it, I attempted to find a legal crossing route, which led to me climbing up some stairs to a not so large pedestrian sidewalk along a very busy highway, then climbing back down and still having to rush across a lane of exiting cars because there was no crosswalk to be found.  The second night I walked down the six lane road until it became obvious that there was no crosswalk and then I ran across the six lanes as fast as I could with my heart beating loudly in my head.  I was lightheaded from the adrenaline rush.

I looked at all the other people at the bus stop and thought to myself, surely they know something that I don't because they can't all be dodging fast moving traffic like I just did.

As it turns out, that is what they do.  I now know that there are small lulls in traffic that allow you to rush across the roadway. Also, at certain areas there are medians that you can use to break up the six lane rush into three and three.  While I still scurry across, the locals here are much more relaxed to the point that I wonder if they are stupid or suicidal.

I often see people strolling leisurely across as though the speeding cars will stop for them.  When it becomes obvious that the speeding cars are not slowing down, they hustle the last few steps, missing the cars by only a few meters. It is like they are playing chicken, but I'm fairly certain that I know who will win.  People here like to walk slowly and even a minibus bearing down on them will only cause a marginal increase in pace.

Today I watched a woman walking across with her dog.  The dog was some kind of small, shaggy lapdog and it barked at everyone that it saw, almost startling me off the median when it started yapping at me.  It also lunged at a couple of construction workers who were eyeing it in a way that made me nervous if the owner ever took her eye off of it.  There was a small break in traffic, but we could see headlights not so far away.  Despite the approaching traffic, the lady did that shuffle that some people do- the one where you don't actually pick your feet up off the ground.  The headlights were getting close enough that even dumb dog was trying to run away from the lights and pulling at the leash in the other direction.  There would have been a collision if the taxi in her lane didn't hit his brakes.  I was standing there, frozen in horror and thinking that I was about to witness something terrible.  The woman finished shuffling across the road while the taxi driver laid on his horn.  She looked absolutely unruffled. Suddenly I understood why the dog was such a freak.

Sometimes I wonder about other humans.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Behold, an animation that may be even better than the previous one I wrote about.

Via The New York Times.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

twinkle, twinkle

Right before I go to bed, I would like to present this lovely video recording the birth of a new star in the Vela constellation, which is about 14000 light years away from us. It was captured by the folks at the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-Millimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, where my friend Henry the Astrophysicist worked. He's the guy who kindly directed me to an animation that finally made the Higgs boson understandable. I figured that on the day that Higgs and Englert got their prize, how better to end the day than with a visible display of the might of the universe.

rattle and roll

The entire three storey site office was rattling and rumbling today as foundation works were going on outside.  While it doesn't feel as disconcerting on the second floor as it did when I was on the 33rd floor a few years ago and felt the tunnel boring that was going on nearby, it's never okay for me to feel vibration underfoot when I'm not safely planted on the ground. None of the dozens of engineers surrounding me seemed bothered so I felt reasonably certain of my safety.

I had a discussion with the lead structural engineer about the incident of a few years ago.  The worst part for me was that no one else in the office seemed to notice, which made me feel crazy.  The small seizures that I've experienced from time to time over the years don't feel like a vibrating floor does but I was beginning to second guess myself.  The engineer told me that I was right, but my colleagues were correct as well.  Apparently a lot of people can't feel small tremors so he didn't think it was unusual that no one else noticed. He said that it was more unusual that I felt it.

Of course today the ground was really shaking so everyone noticed.  I guess it's a normal occurrence when major ground works are being conducted a few hundred meters away.


You know how there is a genre of comedy films that focuses on weddings?  There almost always are certain character types ranging from the sexy bridesmaid to the drunken uncle.  I have been to enough actual weddings to realize that stereotypes exist for a reason.  The combination of high emotion, booze, and too much family for too long together makes for a potentially explosive situation.

At my cousin's first wedding, the DJ got drunk and started spouting not so subtle sexual references using baseball terms (the groom was a professional player), followed by inappropriate music that led to the groom's cousin choosing to hump a member of the wedding party on the dance floor, complete with nipples popping out of her teeny, tiny dress.  I was twelve at the time and found the whole situation more interesting that horrifying.  I did not feel the same way about my grandmother stumbling around and finishing other people's champagne that they had left on their tables.

Eventually the rowdiness caused my young self to be banned from the ballroom so my uncle took me to the pier of the yacht club and together we launched one of the ice swan sculptures into the gulf of Mexico.  He figured that he would get his money's worth out of them. Then my uncle handed me his checkbook and said that I could use it for kindling. 


One of the two weddings that I attended this weekend (and I had thought that wedding season was finally over!) could have been scripted by a wedding comedy writer.  The cousin of the bride, who has been married three times and has seven kids from four different fathers, jostled the other single women out of the way to catch the bouquet. A bridesmaid became vomiting drunk two hours into the event.  Another drunken guest revealed that the groom had slept with his sister.  Later, as the groom's mother was regaling us with a tale of how concerned she had been that he had lived in Hong Kong for six years and hadn't met anyone, a table full of women who worked at the groom's restaurant started tittering.  There was a story there, I am sure.

Apparently this kind of wedding is the best kind...for the guests, at least.  On Sunday morning a dozen of us met up for brunch and compared notes on all of the incidents and revelations.  I was laughing for hours.

SB and I later had a chuckle about how our wedding would go off.  We are close to two of his exes and friendly with another three, along with me still being friendly with my first boyfriend so we could probably fill one table at our reception with only exes.  Then we would have to invite some of our rugby teammates.  Okay, we would probably need to invite lots of them since many of the friendships span over a decade.  They would sing those songs. My father would probably have a heart attack looking at the lesbians on my team.  And my mother and father aren't on speaking terms with my aunt, who happens to be my godmother, and my other aunt, who is my sister's godmother.  Yep, we should probably elope but I'm kind of curious to see what happens if I throw everyone from each aspect of my life together and then add booze.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

for goodness' sake

I first heard the phrase when a teammate was trying to decide whether to stay with our club or to try something different.  Our captain contacted her to persuade her to remain.  She ended her missive with "I look forward to the good news."

My teammate shared it with me because she was under pressure and felt like she was being manipulated.  I told her that maybe it was a language thing and the comment wasn't meant to sound so heavy handed.  I was partly correct.

Apparently this is a popular phrase here along with "add oil!" and "support you!"  Maybe this phrase is used in the UK as well; a lot of popular HK phrases have British origins.

Today I was handed a convoluted set of documents by a contractor, which I was somehow expected to sort out.  "I look forward to the good new," was scrawled in the corner.

I am still in my office trying to work out the good news.

Monday, September 30, 2013

I had a bad day

I had a bad day.  It was one of those days where everything that can go wrong, does. I had to go to a site in an area that had almost no amenities (i.e. no places to go for lunch).  I forgot my umbrella. Nothing got resolved at any of my meetings. My bus was full and wouldn't pick me up.  When I did find a bus, I was trapped in traffic for over an hour.

I'm lucky that I don't have a goldfish or who knows how badly the day could have gone.

I came home, hugged SB and then turned on my laptop so that Elmo and the Roots could end my day on a bright note. And then I got out the ice cream.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


My uncle used to say that people were often guilty of "knowing enough to be dangerous." He once made me angy by using that phrase on my sister but in hindsight he was correct.  She was most of the way through her medical school rotation and felt fairly confident about her knowledge but as it turned out, she still had a lot more to learn and experience.

I was first certified in basic first aid and CPR when I was sixteen but after I moved to Hong Kong I was unable to find a re-certification course that was feasible with my schedule and need for English medium.  Recently though, I decided to make an effort because while my team has its own physio, some of the other teams for our club do not and there have been a few situations where I have filled in.
I signed on for a course that began today (Sunday) which may have been a day too late.  Yesterday I watched a serious neck injury occur to a front row player.  As a front row player, I am aware of how badly things can go wrong when your eight guys are pushing against their eight guys and you are in the middle, arms pinned behind you, and then suddenly something becomes misaligned and everything wrenches sideways on your neck.

I was upstairs viewing the match and the team had two physios who immediately went into action, initially supporting the player's neck and spine.  Then a couple things happened that I was not comfortable with.  Unfortunately I suffered from a lack of confidence due to my lapsed first aid certification; also physios are much more highly trained and people with higher skills can employ techniques that a basic first aider would never attempt.  Still, there are some things that don't change no matter what the skill level, and I should have remembered that keeping a person's spine stable is one of them.

I took the course today and was regretful for what I should have, could have done.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

bears gone wild

I haven't uploaded a cute animal video in a while so without further ado...

We all like a good back scratch and what could be a better combination that back scratchers, bears and banjo music?

Friday, September 27, 2013

rock revival

When I got SB Guitar Hero a few years ago, I didn't figure that I would derive much enjoyment from it, other than the enjoyment of having something to distract him while I snuck away to read a book.  As it turns out, I really enjoy the game.  While I don't actually play it (even if I wanted to, good luck tearing the guitar out of his arms) I have been enjoying the discovery, or rediscovery, of rock music spanning over several genres.

I forgot how much I liked the Vines and the memories of listening to a less stellar version of garage rock in my boyfriend's garage when I was young.  I relived listening to all of those big rock bands with my neighbor while staring at his prized poster collection on the wall.  And I never would have discovered Band of Skulls.  So thank you, Guitar Hero, for reminding me of what I love about rock n roll.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

full sail

After an awful start, the USA team for the America's Cup has made a stunning turnaround. There have been more highs, crashes, twists and turns than a Mexican telenovela and the race series is stretching into the history books. Will the USA come from far behind to win the series or will New Zealand prevail?

SB will wake up at 4am to watch it. It's quite a turnaround from the teeth gnashing of a few weeks ago. We wish that his father was alive to enjoy the spectacle with him. It was something that he had in common with my uncle, the other thing being that they died too soon. While my uncle never raced professionally like SB's father, he sailed a larger boat and reached many more exotic destinations than JR did in his racer.

I bet that they could have exchanged stories.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

summer's over

In this part of the world the temperature is still in the thirties and the oppression of heat continues but I just know that any day now, it will all change.  There are already fur coats in shop windows and before long we will see middle aged ladies hiking around the Peak in their minky and beavered fineness.

For now, I will be thankful that I won't be raking leaves anytime soon.  But if it would bring joy as in the below video, I would rake leaves.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

brace yourself

While everyone else is either praying for a huge storm so that we get Monday off or freaking out in the case of a few new residents, SB is trying to find people to go on a hike.  I am not amused.  He will only make it as far as Shek O and I will go with him to ensure that he doesn't scale the headlands.  I am a killer of all things fun for him when it comes to big storms.

If there are any readers who have recently moved here and are worried about the storm impact, let me direct you to an earlier post regarding Hong Kong's superior storm water management system. With nature, we can only predict so much but we are prepared well enough that as bad as things may get, they won't be Katrina bad, or even Sandy bad.  I was going to purchase a couple of 5 liter water jugs for an upcoming junk trip so I went ahead and bought them early; this is pretty much the extent of my storm preparation. If the Hong Kong Observatory issues a more severe prediction I have the ability to tape my big window.

I directed a friend who has recently moved to Hong Kong to the Hong Kong Observatory app.  I think that HKO, Studio Kuma's junk call filter, and the Citybus NWFB apps are the mandatory for residents.  Does anyone have another app that they think is necessary for Hong Kongers?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

everybody, all at once

My office graciously allowed all of the staff to leave early for the holiday.  With time to kill and no big urge to rush home due to all of the chores awaiting me, I decided to take the bus home.  Bad idea.

Apparently every other office was as gracious as mine and I packed into my bus like a sardine.  On the road, our bus had to share the road with school buses and tour buses as we all jockeyed for position in two lanes. Basically the people who you don't usually run into during regular office hours were still about.  I got home only an hour earlier than if I had left at my usual time. And then there were the chores.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

between the sheets

This week has been a difficult one. Reading condolences for a dear friend's death on social media was mind blowing, the internet's speed so much faster than the speed of the news being passed through softer, more thoughtful forms of communication.

I retreated to my books; it occurred to me that perhaps my affinity for reading versus listening to music or watching a movie is due to the control that I can exert while participating in the story.  My imaginations paints in the mood and imagery after the words have set the scene.  I can choose the speed of how quickly I absorb each word, whether I am flying over the pages with words jumping at me or rewinding and repeating a phrase until it is absorbed and permeates the soft tissue below my skin.

I was going to read "To Kill a Mockingbird," the first gift Mike ever gave me, and one of the possessions that I will probably carry with me for the rest of my life. But I am not yet ready to confront the ghost resting in his script on the inside of the book. Then I thought, "The Catcher in the Rye," but I'm afraid that I may be tempted to join all of the amateur sleuths who are currently picking at Salinger's bones and trying to rebuild him as Holden, minus a testicle.  Who would have thought that the one testicle theory that was once so popular in explaining Hitler's behavior would reappear in a reclusive author?

I settled on "Pale Fire."  Thinking about the Salinger controversy led me to the Nabokov authorship controversy.  You can tie yourself in knots trying to sleuth that book.  I tie myself in knots, happy knots, just reading it without any theories of authorship.  I'm looking forward to the knots.

Friday, September 13, 2013

September 11, 2013

We say about someone - he would give you his last dime, but Mike, he really would and maybe he really did because I never asked him if he was okay, what it might have been costing him to patch me up. He just kept giving and I kept sucking him dry to fill the void inside of me with what he had to offer.

He was my lifeline and I was an anchor.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

50 shades

'50 Shades of Grey' has become Britain's best-selling book (egads!), and who knows how many more copies will sell when the movie version comes out.  But being the most sold does not mean that it is the most treasured.  Apparently charity shops are reporting that hundred of copies are being offloaded to them.  The books are not recyclable because of the binding glue.

My own neighbor Michelle tried to offload her trilogy onto me but I already had been gifted a set.  I suspect her of eventually convincing some poor sucker at the pub to take them home to his wife.  Maybe she will become one of those readers who had made spanking a mainstream sexual activity.

I used to wear skintight, shiny, vinyl pants to work when I was a bartender.  My tip jar could attest to the fact that there are people out there who really, really like shiny, black, vinyl clothing.  Those pants payed my undergraduate tuition.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

take it easy

On Friday morning I woke up to enjoyable, mild weather and decided to attempt riding the tram to the office since I was up earlier than usual and had time to spare.  The tram took ten minutes longer than the bus route to get to the office at around 50 minutes.  I was at an engrossing part of the book that I was reading when I boarded the tram so I continued to read as it set off, against my better judgement.  That's when I discovered that for some reason, trams do not bring on my motion sickness.

My Asian genes really come through in terms of strange quirks like lactose intolerance and motion sickness, though I have thankfully missed the bad driving genes and directionally challenged genes.  I get horribly sick when travelling in cars, minibuses, buses, and occasionally on boats and planes.  I almost never take a taxi because of the strange habit of pumping the accelerator instead of maintaining a constant speed.  You will never see me below deck or in a closed space on a boat if I can help it. When sailing, I used to drink ginger beer before bedtime or dope myself of Dramamine before heading below deck.  I am the person who makes sure that she has an airsick bag before takeoff; I have never had to use it but I came really close once and there were some terrifying minutes as the plane was landing when I got out of my seat and started frantically pawing through other passengers' seat backs.

Anyway, while riding the tram and finishing my chapter, I looked up to see that I had been in motion for ten minutes and there was nary a quiver in my stomach.  I continued to live on the edge and kept reading until suddenly we were in Quarry Bay and I was several chapters along.

This retelling may seem pointless to my readers but let me assure you that for me this is a game changer.  I love reading and this newly discovered ability to read on a tram means that I can get in some prime leisure time on the way to and from work as long as the weather allows.  I have a massive backlog of recommended reads on my Kindle that I can now address since I will have 50 minutes each was that I don't have to spend cooking, cleaning, taking SB to the hospital, etc.  Oh joy! O Fortuna!

Friday, September 6, 2013

ride share

The bus was packed early this week, as it usually is when it rains.  I am not sure where all the people come from but I suspect that taxis which might look for passengers in the valley get picked up in Causeway Bay so that regular taxi riders have to look for alternate forms of transportation.

This would also explain why some of the unfamiliar riders this week also were unfamiliar with how to behave when sharing public transportation with others.

Here is a man who decided that rather than sitting next to another passenger (the horror) he would sit in the priority seating.  The priority seating is marked by not only a sign posted right in front of the seat, but also by red seat covers stating "PRIORITY SEAT" in yellow font.  Mr. Businessman not only sat in a seat that should have been offered to special needs riders, but he placed his backpack on the seat next to him so that no one else would try to share his perch.  After observing several women and their pre-school children boarding and look over at the seat while he pretended not to notice, I saw an elderly man stand next to the seat and try to gain this man's attention only to be ignored.  I got up to tell the businessman to move his bag but the elderly man waved me off after correctly guessing my intentions, probably by the purple tinge to my face as I headed over.  The elderly man was too shy to accept my offer of my own seat and rode the bus standing, gripping the railing right next to Mr. Businessman.  Mr. Businessman actually had to lean out of the seat to look around the elderly man for the bus stop signal but he managed to avoid noticing that someone could have used the seat. What an ass.

And here is a woman who may look like a normal human being but what you can't see in the picture is that her bottom is so wide that she needs to take up two seats.  And she's clearly embarrassed by this fact, as you can observe in her defensive posturing.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

on the move part 2

After the mess that was navigating through Causeway Bay on Saturday I decided to get far away and visit the remote beaches of Sai Kung.  Boy way that a mistake.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have turned around when I encountered the minibus queue out of Choi Hung to the Sai Kung pier, but I convinced myself that it was some kind of a fluke to do with maybe a few buses breaking down.  I didn't want to think that everyone else, like me, was taking advantage of the clear-ish skies.

Choi Hung's minibus queue wrapped into the MTR station.

It took almost an hour to get to Sai Kung.  Once there, I encountered another massive queue to taxi to the Sai Wan village pagoda so I decided to get to the beaches via the trail near Wong Shek pier.  This was not a solitary hike; I ran into so many people that I might as well have been back in Causeway Bay.

I did verify a previous hypothesis while on the trails.  A few years ago while hiking in the Adirondacks SB and I observed different groups of hikers.  The peak we were hiking was known for being grueling and a lot of people training for events would climb throughout the day.  In the mornings when we began our hike we noticed that everyone else on the trails were friendly and appropriately dressed in light layers that would be removed as they warmed up. Everyone said "good morning" to each other.  Interestingly, even as if became afternoon, most of the hikers would greet us with "good morning."  This was probably due to us beginning our hikes that way and just using the same greeting throughout the day.

As we were on the return portion of our hike we noticed that the later hikers were a different kind of hiker.  More of the later hikers were overdressed, under-hydrated, and some even had on jeans.  Can you imagine anything more uncomfortable to hike in than sweaty jeans?  This probably had something to do with how grouchy some of the later hikers were.  As the day wore on, fewer and fewer hikers returned our greetings, or even made eye contact. Later hikers were also less likely to move aside when passing on a narrow portion of trail.

I noticed similar behavior on Sunday.  The first hikers that I encountered were friendly.  Even as it became afternoon, most of the people on the trail said "Jo San."  Later in the day the groups of hikers were less friendly.  I went by entire groups where not one person returned my greeting.  There are definitely different types of people who hike in the morning as opposed to later in the day.

My day ended as it had begun: in a massive queue.  I took a bus to Tseung Kwan O, not because I was planning to go home via that route, but because it had the smallest line of people.  Sunday was not the relaxing day that I had imagined.

The queue for the Mongkok & CWB minibuses