Friday, March 29, 2013

cookie cutter

We got a box of SB's favorite gingersnap cookies in the mail from relatives.  While holding the box cutter in one hand and frantically pawing for the cookies, SB almost disemboweled himself.  The mundane life is just not for him.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

commanding woman

President Obama has appointed Julia Pierson as the first female director of the Secret Service.  Many news outlets have discussed the move as showing his desire to change the male-dominated culture of the agency following that recent prostitution scandal in Colombia.  Or maybe she was simply the most qualified for the position.  SB's cousin was the first female deputy director of the Secret Service and her mentor.  This preceded any sex/sexist scandal and when BR, a thirty year veteran, was made the deputy director few felt compelled to make comments on why to choose a woman instead of a man.  When you look at Pierson's career, the advancement to director seems obvious, not some political gender based decision as some idiots in the media are trying to assert.  Almost all directors and deputy directors were once chief of staff, among other notable positions and so was Ms. Pierson.  It is poor to overlook all of her deserving qualifications and instead believe that the leader of one of the most important organizations of the United States was picked for any lesser reasons.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

caught out

The first big rainstorm of the year arrived as I was scouring the market for my Seven's costume.  I used to put a lot of effort into a clever getup but this year I'm going for comfort since it will probably be a very humid weekend.  I cowered under an awning with a couple members of the Cook Island team while lightning flashed and thunder roared.  Nearby, a few members of the France squad were looking wet and miserable since they were trapped in a shop with a rather aggressive peddler of vinyl bags.

It is not supposed to rain over the weekend but I am prepared for the worst.  At least the humidity will be advantageous for Asian teams.  Almost all of the import players for my local team experienced painful cramping and dehydration at the beginning of the season because of the humidity and I'm hoping that some casualties will slow down the teams that Hong Kong is playing against.

Of the three female players from my club who were part of the training squad, two have made it past the final cut and onto the national team.  The player who got left out is still a teenager and I imagine that she has a long and fruitful career ahead of her.  This year she will be cheering with me from the stands but next year I will probably be cheering for her.

Monday, March 18, 2013

the wheels fell off the chariot

The Six Nations match between England and Wales was surprising.  I had expected the match to be closely contested but instead the best performing team of the tourney fell apart.  I had to watch the match on mute because one can only take so many repetitions of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and I had hit my limit in under ten minutes.

Having the sound off meant that I missed hearing the joy and pain expressed by some of the announcing panel.  The next morning this screen shot was floating around Facebook:

Which one of these rugby commentators is the Welsh one?

This week marks the best rugby week in Hong Kong.  One Wednesday and Thursday at Hong Kong Football Club is the Hong Kong Tens, which I like as much as the Hong Kong Sevens.  The group stages on Wednesday are free to watch while the finals on Thursday cost $100 (for charity).  Along with former international sevens players, you can watch the likes of Tana Umaga, Marty Holah, Orene Ai’i, Hale T-Pole, John Carter, Seilala Mapusua and Todd Clever for much less than the cost of a Sevens ticket.

On Friday, Football Club hosts the Hong Kong Women's Sevens, a free event and the oldest women's sevens tournament.  Despite being overlooked as an option for the women's international series in favor of Guangzhou, the tournament managed to draw a diverse field including two teams on debut (South Africa and Ireland), four of the core IRB Womens' Sevens Series teams (Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and South Africa), two other teams who will play in Guangzhou (China and Japan join Ireland), and five other participating teams (Kazakhstan, France, Singapore, hosts Hong Kong and an International Select side)(source: Hong Kong Rugby Football Union).  I am disappointed that the USA women won't be attending because I naturally am a big fan and obviously don't get to see them in action a lot.  I will have to save my excitement for watching Carlin Isles play for the USA men.  I am interested to see what the 36th fastest runner in world looks like against traditional rugby players.

I was going to segue into a discussion of the upcoming British and Irish Lions vs. Barbarians match in Hong Kong this summer but I'll save that for another post.  Until then, ruck on!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dr. Feelgood

In the Old West days of the United States there was a period of time when traveling medicine salesmen were very popular.  The "snake oil" salesmen were usually part of an entertainment group of some sort (freak show, circus, magic show, etc.) and sold tonics and elixirs between shows that were purported to cure an array of ailments.  While these sorts of goods have been out of vogue in the United States for almost a century (darn those pesky consumer advocates and safety nannies), a decade ago SB was able to get his hands on an ointment in Nanjing that was prescribed for food poisoning but the label also claimed it as a cure for headaches, body aches and AIDS.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A miracle cure!

Recently a bicycle outing almost ended prematurely when a woman in our group experienced a nasty abrasion upon crashing.  We pulled over at the nearest village and did our best to wash out her wound and purchase some bandages.  The kind proprietor of the village bar approached us with a bottle of liquid that she told us to pour over the wound.  The bottle looked like something from another century and the only ingredient that I recognized on the label was turpentine.  I think that I read about its use in one of my civil war history books but I wasn't convinced that it was my best option for the 21st century.  I usually bring a few first aid supplies when I hike but I didn't think of the necessity for a leisurely ride.  Next time I'll be prepared.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

in context

Sometimes you have to step back to see things clearly.

When I first moved to South Texas, just below the cowboy capital of America, I experienced a culture shock.  Life was normal during the week, when I went to school and worked a part time job, but on the weekends time got slow.  Relax, said Uncle Jon, and so I learned how to relax.  Laying on the deck of his boat with a gin and tonic or sitting on the porch listening to him play his guitar, I relaxed.  Even my words left my mouth more slowly.

When I moved to New York life sped up again.  Relax changed into the activity you did when everything else wore you out.  You didn't set aside time to relax.  Hong Kong is similar to New York that way.  We try to relax but we're too damn busy.  Relaxation is what we do only when we leave on holiday.  It's not a bad thing that we don's fall into boneless stupor because we're having fun with our busy schedules.  I like the rugby/hockey/lacrosse/rowing/hiking on weekends very much.  It's just different.

Tonight I went through a list of words relating to happy memories that came up in my mind when I thought about life in Texas.  SB didn't understand most of them but for me, they are quintessential South Texas.

Guadalupe River
the rodeo
hill country
Gruene Hall
chili queens
Shiner bock
Blue Bell
the Alamo
6th Street
the river walk
King Ranch

Friday, March 15, 2013

the look

Has anyone else noticed that sometimes after doing something friendly, the reward is being looked at like you are an idiot?  More than once I have held open the lift or a door for someone and instead of a thank you I get an unfriendly look.  I wondered if somehow I had done something offensive in the process of trying to be polite, but then a colleague clarified the matter.  She is a very unpleasant person who has been nicknamed "Dragon Lady" for her habit of breathing fire and contaminating the space around her with toxic fumes.  Dragon Lady's motto is "why communicate when you can decimate."  Dragon Lady is one of the people who gives dirty looks in the lift, which I know because I saw her doing it.  I discovered that she views it not as an act of kindness to her, but an act of stupidity for someone to waste their time holding open a door.  She's really good at finding reasons to blame others; you should see her in action at meetings when she blames everyone else for project difficulties.

Now that I know this, I feel that I should bow to the superior wisdom of the ingrate who I was holding the lift door open for by pushing them out of the lift and closing the door so that I no longer am wasting time.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


The Official Google Blog has announced that Google Reader will be retired on July 1, 2013 due to their policy of diverting energy into fewer products and the fact that the use of RSS feeds is in decline. 

Oh crap.

Usually when Google kills a product, it is replaced by something better such as when Google Documents was supplanted by Google Drive (which, btw, is one of my favorite Google products).  Unfortunately there is no Google replacement for Reader because RSS is thought be be declining to an inevitable end.

Oh crap.

I gather almost all 100% of my news from sources that are fed into Google Reader.  I do not have the time or energy to surf through all the different sites that I enjoy so Reader has been a godsend.  I also catch up on my preferred blogs through RSS so this is a double burn.

I have signed a petition begging Google to keep Reader.  You can also tweet to BringGoogleReaderBack. In the meantime I have downloaded my subscription though Google Takeout so that I will be able to import them into another RSS feed program if Google really does follow through and break my heart.

So far the best options for Reader replacement have been Feedly, NewsBlur and The Old Reader, but none of them is quite as good.  Another option is to give up on RSS and use something else like Twitter.  My problem is that Twitter is much more prolific and the content is different because of its social media bend.  

Readers and fellow bloggers, how are you gathering your news and blogs?  Is there something better out there?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

just saying

Do you know how when someone says, "I don't mean to sound ___ (elitist/sexist/racist) but..." and then it is followed up with a statement that is just that?

Well here I go.  

Asia accounts for the majority of demand for threatened, endangered and exotic species.  I was about to say that I don't want to single out a specific culture but actually I do, especially when this culture defends its illegal and unethical practices as "cultural."  And how is it that the panda is being rigorously protected while sharks, rhinoceros, snow leopards, tigers, etc. are being fished and poached into near extinction?  Why is the government supportive of one conservation effort while being despicably lax in enforcing the other?  It seems like the only way for authorities to catch protected species being smuggled into China is if they were wrapped in "free Tibet" posters.  Is it because the panda, with its extremely low sex drive, is not under threat of being consumed as an aphrodisiac?   

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

brain busted

SB's sister and brother in law are both teachers. Our visits usually include some sort of learning related games.  Two visits ago they brought some puzzles consisting of knotted ropes and wood blocks.  Upon entering the kitchen for breakfast, I was presented with a puzzle to disentangle.  I got it apart almost immediately and was mystified over the point of the game.  SB was miffed to tell me that it took him half an hour to work out.  I've tried a few more of those disentanglement puzzles with similar results but my talents do not extend to other types of puzzles.  I can only take things apart with ease.

Last summer SB's sister quizzed us on an almost daily basis with a flag game.  We not only had to identify the flags of countries, but we had to spell the countries correctly.  Have you ever tried to spell Kyrgyzstan or Azerbaijan?  And that wasn't the worst of it; way too many flags look very similar to each other, such as Mali, Senegal, Cameroon and Guinea  It was interesting to learn some of the flags that belonged to places that weren't countries but disputed territories such the the Caucasus areas of Abkhazia and Nagaro Karabakh. She kicked my butt at every continent.

During the latest challenge, SB decided to test his own intelligence and dragged the three of us along with him.  The challenge was to not only name all fifty states, but to draw them.  Our attempts were hilarious and woeful.  It didn't take long for me to realize that I have no idea what's going on in the Midwest while SB has clearly not spent a lot of time in the South.  I wonder what would happen if we asked our Chinese friends to do the same with provinces.

Monday, March 11, 2013

sweet tooth

According to the Original Tooth Fairy Poll, and published in the L.A. Times, tooth fairy payouts have increased 15.2% over the past year.  Nowadays the tooth fairy leaves an average of US$2.42 under the pillow, which sure beats that quarter I got back in the late eighties.  But my parents were well known for being frugal and my best friend's $1 haul was probably more accurate of the times.

Years ago my cousin became persona non grata in the hood when her daughter lost her first tooth and my cousin discovered that she didn't have any small bills in the home so she improvised with a $5 note.   Her six year old daughter was very excited about the visit from the tooth fairy and shared her haul with the neighborhood children, who in turn asked their parents why the tooth fairy liked my cousin's child more than them.  Six years have passed and the neighbors still tease her about the Tooth Fairy Incident.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Oftentimes when I wake up before SB, I just lie there staring at him because he is so cute, wrapped up in all of the sheets because he is a sheet hog even if he is cute, with his big flippers sticking out at the end of the bed.  Sometimes I try to capture all of that cuteness on my phone camera but the image isn't near as good as the living, snoring breathing reality.  Sometimes the shutter sound effect on the camera wakes him and he tells me to stop being weird.  I tell him that I can't help myself and he sighs and flops over to take up even more of the bed and sheets.  I usually forgive him because of aforementioned cuteness.  Yep, I am a dork.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

once there was a secret chord

When SB was a young student at Colorado Academy, Mrs. Jordan, the music teacher, once discussed minor and major key composition.  Similar music composed in minor keys and major keys had different effects, with minor key music seeming to be darker while major keys gave off brighter attributes.  Since I was booted from the music room following a series of failures with the recorder (I still swear it was because my little fingers couldn't cover the holes and not because I am musically retarded) I never advanced to a music class that would have taught this to me.

Which is why I was blown away by the recent NPR All Things Considered Podcast, Can You Make Sad Songs Sound Happy (And Vice Versa)?, which discussed how Oleg Berg took several samples of popular music and changed the inverted the keys.  Suddenly Hey Jude became strangely peppy and Losing My Religion was downright happy (if you didn't pay too much attention to the words).

You can download and listen to the podcast from the NPR page.  

SB and I were so tickled by the weirdness of our favorite songs in inverted keys that we had to look up Mr. Berg on Youtube for more.  He has a page called MajorVsMinor on the site.  We had a giggle over the inverted Another Brick in the Wall but we really lost it trying to sing along to the new Beat It by Michael Jackson.  SB, who sings nicely, was intrigued by how his head tried to adjust to singing in a different chord while I, without a beautiful singing voice, couldn't hit a note out of every four.  In the end I'm not even sure if SB was laughing at the weirdly familiar yet strange music or my attempts to sing along.  Mr. Berg should make a karaoke edition of these songs; I would love to mess with a couple of my die-hard, way too serious, karaoke singing friends.  Their heads would explode.

Friday, March 8, 2013

bon voyage Frenchie

The second Frenchie who joined our rugby club is being relocated to Shanghai after eleven years of settling down.  Most of the club thought that he was the original Frenchie but SB remembered one other who played with him in the late nineties.  Now we have enough Frenchies to fill out an entire squad with room on the bench for the three Quebecois.  But J is one of the originals and most beloved so I will miss him greatly.

We decided to meet at the rooftop open space at IFC for cocktails.  I have enjoyed drinks from the various rooftop bars in the past but it never occurred to me to take advantage of the free facilities and bring my own spread.  The very comfortable furniture is part of the public space.  We set up our spread to utilize the concrete side of a planter as bar.

The IFC space is especially convenient because of the location of City Super right downstairs in the mall.  The only drawback was that I had to skip over to the ferry pier to buy ice to chill our wine.  Next time, and there will be a next time, I will remember to buy ice on my way over for rooftop cocktails.

I was told that all of the outdoor furniture is for public use 

 A great view of the harbour to the North

Looking up at the city around us

Friday, March 1, 2013

terrorists, fascists and parasitic species

SB and I had a lively debate over former basketball player Dennis Rodman's visit to North Korea.  SB said that maybe the effusive Rodman could do some good with his goodwill while I thought that he had truly earned his nickname of "the worm."

I requested special dispensation from Godwin's law and then compared Rodman's visit to how we would regard a friendly visit to Hitler.  Then I thought more about it and amended my comparison to Stalin.  Yes, I see a lot of similarity between the "Supreme Leader" and the "Brilliant Genius of Humanity," and I would (and do) condemn any worm who would befriend the leader of a state with that kind of human rights record.

We then moved the debate to why I felt justified calling Kim Jong-un a terrorist.  SB says no but I say that the country's incompetence with missiles and nuclear weapons doesn't exclude it from being labelled as a terrorist state when the intent is to use threats of violence for coercion.  That guy who failed in his attempt to blow up a plane by lighting his shoes on fire may have been an idiot, but he was still practicing terrorism.

SB thinks that the goal of North Korea is not to sow fear and therefore it isn't a terrorist state.  He had more to add but it's my blog so I get to give myself more space for my argument.  However, if you would like to back up SB, you may do so in the comments.