Wednesday, July 31, 2013

nectar and vinegar

I enjoy a glass of wine in the evening as I'm making dinner or simply relaxing with my Kindle.  Sometimes I need that glass of wine after a particularly memorable day at the office.. or since SB came home with a new guitar and is teaching himself how to play it by watching Youtube instructional videos.

The problem is that my preferred wine is red, which SB is allergic to.  I cannot drink a whole bottle alone, no matter how badly he plays, and after a couple of days my red is rendered undrinkable.  I have been told a younger, full-bodied red wine will last up to five days before turning south but that's still not a great solution since I don't drink every day.

I read about an interesting solution designed by a company called Coravin. Their Wine Access System 1000 (was there a 1 through 999?) has the same idea as some of the other systems out there that pump gas back into the bottle to try to slow down the reaction with oxygen, but they have decided to extract the wine through a needle in the corkscrew so that you don't have to remove the cork, and then the volume that you extract is replaced with argon to prevent oxidation.

The opener will probably retail for HK$2400, which is a lot of money until I think about the amount of wine that I have had to dump over the years. Coravin points out that the opener would make wine culture less of an elite hobby because we could spread the cost of an expensive bottle over several occasions.  Bars and restaurants could also charge less if the bottles that were opened didn't have to be thrown out after a day.  Or better yet, they could afford to stock better wines!

I'm getting very excited about this idea (why didn't I think of it?).  I could probably offset the cost by using my Wine Access System 1000 in the grocery store to sample the wines so that I don't need to ever worry about purchasing a bad wine ever again.  I'm sure that no one would mind me taking a teeny, tiny extraction in the name of quality checking.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

you learn something new every day

With no thunderclouds in sight, SB and I took off up out of the valley, over to Wong Nai Chung Gap, over the Violet Peaks (we refer to them as Violent Peaks because I frequently suffer knee pain for a week after scaling the stairs) and down to the South side of the island.  We went swimming at two of the beaches and noticed that both beaches were full of young men in small to tiny (as in string bikini bottom) bathing suits.

When we remarked upon the recent popularity of "bugdie smugglers" to a friend, especially in regard to the beaches we visited, she responded, "Oh, were you in Gay Bay?"  And so I learned something new.

Friday, July 26, 2013

what was old is now new

While strolling through the flower market (yes, I was back for more plants to add to my growing indoor garden) I was drawn to a very familiar pattern and color scheme being displayed in a shop.  Red, white and blue "amah" bags, or hung bak lam doi, were used to transport goods back in Hong Kong's heyday as a bustling port city.  The bags are very hardy which is why they are still very popular with people transporting goods over the border or, in SB's case, transporting the guts of your exploded suitcase from the hotel to the apartment when he moved here the second time around and packed like a chimpanzee.  Instead of a dragon emitting colorful tales, I think that the Hong Kong logo should be the hung bak lam doi.  Everyone recognizes it, which is why it was one of my most successful and popular Halloween costumes a few years ago.

You can still buy these iconic bags for pocket change but there are also plenty of designers who have been inspired by the bags, including Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton.  The artist that I think of is Stanley Wong (anothermountainman), and so I was delighted to find his goods on the shelf, and for a good cause, no less.  Proceeds from sales at the shop, rwb330, go to New Life Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association.

The saleswoman in the store was more than happy to take me on a tour of the goods, which also included a section by Chocolate Rain, if you are a fan of Prudence Mak as well.  She translated some of the clever and cute slogans that were stitched into the larger items for sale.

A bag states, "do not dread bearing weight."

The backpack wants us to "be able to shoulder."

The handbag tells us to "unload your mind."

The moon shaped bag urges positive thinking.

I was torn between buying a messenger bag and a tote. In the end I chose the messenger bag because I have enough totes.

tote bag

I love my new bag in old HK style!, 192 Prince Edward Rd W. 

 my new messenger bag 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

out of step

One of my friends, a young local, had a conversation with an expat that so infuriated her that she phoned me.  I probably should have known better than to pick up the phone after 2am but she's not usually one of those friends who goes on a bender and drunk dials.  I answered just in case she was in trouble and got an earful for my effort.

The aforementioned evil expat compared Hong Kong office workers unfavorably to Singapore office workers.  His entire reasoning was based on how people dressed.  I guess that some people never need to get past first impressions and perceptions.  So my friend then went on a rant about how she thought that Hong Kong people were more accepting of various styles and asked me if I thought that fashionable people were unprofessional.  Well, if you put it that way...

I should have known better than to let SB pipe in.  2am was not a good time to tease her about the fashion disasters that occur at every wedding reception that we have gone to.  There are always a group of people in T-shirts, a couple women dressed like they are going to work the streets of Wanchai later on, a couple old ladies with glitter in their hair, and one dressed like the bride. But who am I to complain when the bride and groom don't mind.  ...And I digress, as did SB.  My friend was not happy but magnanimously conceded his point while I apologized for her hurt feelings.

A few days later she phoned me and broached the subject again.  She was clearly more bothered than I thought and since she was sober, I told her this: If you work in a more traditional office environment, for a conservative firm, then you would be perceived as unprofessional if you didn't conform to the white shirt/black suit formal dress code.  On the other hand, showing up in a traditional suit would look silly if you worked in a more creative, "organic" environment.  SB has commented on several of my clothing choices (there is a fuzzy top that looks like I killed and skinned Elmo that comes to mind) but he also appreciates my uniqueness as long as I remember that he is boring when I go shopping for him. I work in an open office (no walls with everyone sitting together regardless of rank) and while everyone dresses nicely, black suits would look out of place.  We are more of a beige, linen suit with knit tie and green socks type of environment.  The only times we pull out the black suits are when we meet with developers in traditional offices.  You know those offices, the ones with marble entries that boast large, glass sculptures.

My friend was happy with my admittedly neutral response and I was happy that I was on the phone so she didn't see me staring at the dress style of the woman in front of me as I was walking down the street.  It was a toss up between snapping a photo of her off-the-shoulder pink mesh top with yellow bra, or the shoes.  Then I got closer and saw the yellow toenails peeping out of the front of the shoes and I had a winner.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

the opposite of hoarding

Years ago when I was visiting my parents, my mother fondly recalled a story that I had written to my grandfather about a murderous dinosaur.  My parents had received my sister's and my letters back when grandpa passed away. My mother expressed regret that she had thrown out the letters along with pretty much every other item from the past.  With the exception of photographs, there is not much left.  What my parents do have are two ceramic items and a doll that I had sewn, all of which had been in my keeping until I recently gave them to my parents.  I also had a beloved batik monkey gifted from my best friend in Indonesia that I mistakenly gave them which somehow ended up being used as a doorstop in my aunt's house.  Binti, the monkey, has been bleached to bone white in the Arizona sunshine and every time I visit my aunt I look at Binti and feel like weeping.

My mother could be said to suffer from the opposite of hoarding.  She is a minimalist who later regrets some of her purges.  She and my aunt of the bleached monkey are not speaking to each other over some salt baskets from my parents' time in Kenya that my mother wants back.  Meanwhile, several beautiful carved tables from Kenya disappeared to make room for some generic oak end tables.  I brought some batik pillows to my mother from a trip to Bali because they matched a couple of framed batik designs that my parents had from the eighties only to discover that they were long gone.  Every few months I make sure to remind my parents that if they ever feel the urge to get rid of two large photographs of my grandfather with his mounted cavalry or the civil war era gun that belonged to great, great, great grandfather, I would like them.

I don't consider myself to be anywhere near as extreme as my parents but SB sometimes complains of my massive clean-outs.  In my defense, he comes from the opposite situation and though he is nowhere as bad a hoarder as his father, who had books stacked meter high against every wall in his lake house along with decades expired cans of food and whatnot, but SB is a bit of a pack rat.  SB has a habit of stuffing his pockets with all sort of items and then depositing them later on multiple surfaces from the bathroom counter to the bedside table.  I find tissue and spare change everywhere, which causes my biggest blowups. SB has also never encountered a "gift bag" that he could say no to.  He stuffs his free swag into drawers with full intention of sorting through them but that never happens until I embark on the dreaded clean-out session.

Every few months I empty out the drawers in his nightstand as well as search through his closets and backpack.  I make a giant pile of paper to recycle from the brochures and programmes that he brings home.  He sometimes fights me and gets to keep his sentimental programme of the hockey/rugby/lacrosse tournament.  I end up with a large bag full of trinkets and gadgets that we don't need and he wouldn't even remember that he had if not for me trying to get rid of them.  My teammates and their kids are happy to take most of the crap off my hands.  I just don't foresee myself regretting getting rid of that flashlight advertising allergy medicine when I am older, but who knows; people with these disorders rarely admit to them.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

don't you hate it when

Don't you hate it when you ask a question and the respondent feels that "I don't know" isn't an option when that is really his/her only answer?

Last week I questioned a candidate for a position on a local board and rather than saying that he didn't know (he could have offered to get back to me) he proceeded to take me on a diversionary journey that lasted for five minutes and changed my simple yes or no (or I don't know) question into an oration on vague things that aren't working in the board, not that he had any answers to those either.  He repeated numerous times that he was a lawyer, which made me wonder if he was trying to tell me that lawyers aren't allowed not to know everything all the time.

Today I asked the sales woman at a furniture store if a rattan chair that she told me was discontinued, despite being featured online, was possibly available in remaining stock in the Ap Lei Chau warehouse, or if not would the store be bringing in a similar item to replace it.  She told me to look for furniture on their website, somehow missing the role that the product on the website had played in my wasting of time traveling to the store to place an order.  So I reminded her that she had just told me that the chair was discontinued and then repeated my question.  When she handed me a catalog (actually she wanted me to buy the catalog) that featured my discontinued chair on the cover. I was able to answer my own question: I don't know and now I'm going to lead you in circles until you give up so that I don't have to admit that I don't know. And she won.  I gave up.

Now I know why everyone has black, fake leather furniture.  They were going to order something beautiful but pleather was all that was really for sale when they got to the shop.  Because everything else was discontinued.  Years ago, probably.

In other news I inherited a bottle of Bombay Sapphire from a neighbor who moved away and we're going to get acquainted now.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mutiny on the Shandong

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

While China regularly makes it into the international news by going after small islands and territories while claiming that by virtue of its name, the South China Sea is theirs, the naval exploits of the crew of the Shandong have not garnered the attention that I think this story deserves.

This high seas tale has the makings for a Times bestseller, if not a Hollywood blockbuster.  I am in agreement with Beijing Cream's Bernd Chang's analysis of film worthiness: a plot involving 33 sailors leaving port to return eight months later with a crew of only 11.  It is a tale of greed, betrayal, murder and mayhem involving a foiled kidnapping and ransom plan.  But wait, there is more.  There were counter-betrayals, multiple stabbings, a stoning, and breataking displays of heroics and idiocy.

You can read about it here: Horror On The High Seas: 22 Crew Members Of Shandong No. 2683 Trawler Murdered Or Missing


I halted SB in the middle of shoveling breakfast down the hatch to instruct him to savor it, or at least chew.  I can't abide seeing a meal that I spent half an hour cooking go down in two minutes, if that.  He used his usual excuse that it was so delicious that he couldn't stop eating quickly but I noticed that he was watching the morning news program while automatically inserting food into his mouth.  Then he tried to explain that he was on the accelerated savoring program. Great, I thought, I have become his mother.  That's the risk you undertake when hitching your wagon to a high energy, low attention span person.  You end up gently or not so gently reminding, reproaching and recovering from that nervous breakdown that you had when he ran through traffic to chase the bus that he wouldn't have been chasing if he had left home when you told him to.  Repeat of reminding, reproaching and recovering.  

I am thankful for every day we have together that doesn't end up in the Darwin Awards.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

mince master

I needed some finely minced beef for an Australian pie that I was attempting to make but there was none to be found in the local grocery stores.  Then SB had an idea.  I bought some nice looking beef that was leaner than what I can buy for mince (and cheaper, too!) and brought it home where SB demonstrated the skills he learned in a restaurant in Nanjing when he was a student.  I will have to ask him for the story on what he was doing working in a kitchen of a local restaurant, but anyway he saved the day.  And the mince looked fantastic.  I was so impressed that I had to share it with you.  The end.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

let down

I have been closely following the trial of George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin, which wasn't hard to do because the media has been reporting every angle; with every accusation; and every truth, misconception, and assumption. Did he get away with murder? Was it a racial attack? Was the prosecutor incompetent? Will the DOJ get involved? Did the boy deserve it because he had been in trouble at school for smoking pot?

From my understanding, in Florida you cannot lawfully kill someone if you have opportunity to turn away or remove yourself from a situation. Since Zimmerman went after an unarmed teenager while in possession of a firearm, in my opinion something unlawful seems to have occurred. So yes, I believe that the prosecutor was incompetent and the DOJ should intervene.

As for whether it was murder, manslaughter, or criminal negligence, I can't figure it out because the Florida Stand Your Ground law blows my mind. What is for sure is that an teenager went to the store to buy candy and was killed by a man who was following him with a gun.  And a lot of people think that it was legal.


I know a woman who is the mother of a ten year old boy. Until recently I had not met the son but heard all about her custody battles with his father. While I have never made replies to her discussions, I felt sorry for this woman because it seemed like she was struggling with her ex-husband's ability to provide a much more luxurious lifestyle that what she could do as a single mother working part time, but I didn't agree with her machinations to prevent her son from being able to go on vacations with his father because she couldn't compete.

Recently she brought her son with her to a couple of gatherings and boy was it eye opening. First, the kid was rude and argumentative to everyone who tried to engage with him. Everyone. When I asked him about a course he was taking, he responded by mimicking me. It was weird. I quickly changed the subject and began talking with another child to avoid any awkwardness, not that it mattered because mom didn't seem to notice.

Even stranger, he was baby talking with his mother. May I repeat that he is ten years old? He was talking like a small child and mom was cooing back. He never stopped baby talking during both of the occasions that I saw him.

On the second occasion, children of all ages were playing together but he wanted to stay with his mother. She eventually went with him to play but then a six year old boy asked him why he was talking like a baby and he had a meltdown. He was screaming and shaking and completely out of control which caused the six year old to start making fun of him until I thought he would pass out from hyperventilating.

Am I wrong to think that this is not okay? While the child may be keeping up with his peers academically, are there tests for emotional development?

Though I am careful to remove references that will identify the mother to anyone other than people who were with us, part of me is hoping that this woman reads my blog because I'm too cowardly to tell her face to face that her relationship with her son worries me. This is my compromise between minding my own business and feeling compelled to say something.

Monday, July 15, 2013


I can't believe that a news station fell for this.  How is it not so freaking obvious?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Isn't it ironic?

I was asked by my teammates to attend a union meeting for the women's committee on Friday.  We were casting votes for upcoming elections and the women's committee members were choosing the candidates that our committee would support in the election.  The woman who usually represents my club was feeling a bit stressed and asked me to join her.

When I got to the meeting she showed me an email sent by the president of our club, telling her who to vote for.  No reason why she was to vote for certain candidates, just a directive from him to vote for them.  I could feel facial muscles twitching as I read the email. I may have muttered a few things about puppets and irony.

One of the candidates he told our rep to vote for does not support placing first division women's rugby under the performance classification for referee assignments with first division male teams and seems to think that we are just fine being treated like a social club.  The other candidate was the president of a team that has a very poor record with supporting female and youth players.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

good, grammar

An online gripe from a friend concerning his weight gain, "94kg, c**k!" was misread as a brag for having a 94kg rooster.  Hilarity ensued.