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

Monday, August 26, 2013

on the move part 1

I began to bounce back after catching the office cold.  Or maybe more accurately, the Quarry Bay cold since my friend who also works in the neighborhood was similarly sick last month.  I couldn't wait to leave the sickbed and get out in the world but apparently everyone else in Hong Kong had the same idea.

On Saturday afternoon as I was leaving the Valley I noticed that the traffic police had manually taken over the traffic lights due to insane gridlock.  At almost every corner in Causeway Bay near Morrison Hill was a motorcycle officer leaning against an open signal box with a radio to his ear.

What I had never seen before was the officer standing in the middle of the highway directing cars in merging lanes.  It makes sense since so many people have been born with bad merging genes.  Any time I am on a bus or tram, I can experience bad merging genes in action as people hump the strangers in front of them for fear that the other people waiting on the stairs to exit might possibly squeeze in and actually be allowed to alight.

Monday, August 19, 2013

shared spaces

A negative aspect about working in an open office is that disease spreads like a forest fire.  I noticed a few snifflers in the area by the door and now two people behind me are blowing their noses and sneezing.  I am taking my vitamin C supplements but I am resigned to my likely fate.  I just hope that the air circulation system in my "grade A" office will prevent disease from spreading round and round the office like a merry-go-round.

Otherwise, I am still thrilled with my new situation.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Happy Valley to Quarry Bay transportation

My new job is in Quarry Bay, which is a perfectly agreeable neighborhood once I get there.  There are plenty of dining options and while my friends who work in the area complain about the queues for the popular joints, in reality they aren't as horrific as what I experienced in Wanchai. The network of connections between buildings are preferable to struggling down a narrow sidewalk among cars and vans.  Anyway, my biggest gripe was the transportation to Quarry Bay from Happy Valley.  I was spoiled by the ease of travelling on the 5S morning express bus, which picked up almost to the minute every fifteen minutes from the hour and got me to the front door of my old office in Wanchai within ten minutes, and to the client's office in Sheung Wan within forty minutes.

SB used to work in Taikoo and his method of transportation was to take the 30 minibus to the Causeway Bay MTR and then ride it to Taikoo.  It was a thirty minute trip from when he got on a minibus, but sometimes finding a minibus was an ordeal.  He would have to walk upstream to catch a seat.  I'm a rather lazy commuter and want to move as little as possible.  Each step equates to a drop of sweat trickling down my body.  This is why I am thrilled to have discovered a commute that requires the least amount of movement.

I can catch the 8x/19 morning express at around 8:15am and then transfer at Island Place to one of seven buses so that my wait is usually less than a minute.  If I transfer on the 2A or 2, the transfer is free.  The 85 costs an additional $3.70, the 77 and 99 cost $4, and the 81 and 82 cost $4.10.  I take whatever appears first so that I walk into the office between 8:55 and 9am.  Brilliant.  It's not a ten minute ride, but it beats the MTR rabbit hole, in my opinion. However, if I were to be running late, I could do the MTR route and save 15 minutes.  Or I could wrestle someone in the taxi queue but I shouldn't underestimate the aggression of someone who's been waiting in the taxi queue for twenty minutes.  I once saw a smartly dressed woman in four inch heels chase down and drag a queue jumper out of a taxi.  If she hadn't, there were plenty of others who looked like they would have done so.  Personally, I hate to start the day off pummeling someone.


Mangosteen is one of my favorite fruits.  I introduced SB to it and he loves it also.  Unfortunately he didn't understand the structural properties of a mangosteen, which is how we ended up in the emergency room again.

For the record, the easiest way to open a mangosteen is to firmly squeeze it until the hard, outer shell cracks to reveal the fruit inside.  Although the shell is hard and strong, it has few elastic properties and will crack under steady compression.

In other words, do not attempt to ravenously stab the fruit open with a butter knife.

Or you will end up in the emergency room getting sewn up by a needle and stabbed by another needle filled with tetanus vaccine.  Which will be a terrible ordeal if you are afraid of needles.  And Archi will not be sympathetic because you ruined her appetite for her favorite fruit and kept her awake until 1am on her first week at her new job, the dream job that she had been looking for since moving to Hong Kong and may have considered stabbing someone (only briefly (thinking of briefly, not stabbing briefly)) to gain access to the job.

So remember: squeeze, not stab.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

hand meet hospital

I am writing this post as we wait for SB to get stitches put into his hand (again) due to another kitchen accident.  Last week he broke a couple of dishes and burned himself but at least it's been a year since the last visit to the Accident and Emergency ward.  I am praying that he won't faint again.

I am also praying for my sanity because, excuse me but I can't just put wingdings in place this time; I am going to swear for real.

I am also praying for my sanity because SB's constant misfortunes are causing me to lose my fucking mind.  SB and neighbor Daphne thought it was pretty funny when I told SB that he can no longer be trusted at home alone and I would like to put him into an elderly daycare but I wasn't trying to be funny.  I was expressing my frustration for the escalation in his forgetfulness, distracted behavior, and breakdown in any ability to maintain a schedule. Tonight I called him repeatedly but he had forgotten that he had put his phone on silent mode three days ago, so all I had to go with was a message from him saying that he had cut himself really badly.  I called Daphne in tears, asking her to check on him.  She found him and he called me back to say that he was going to the hospital and would call me from the A&E except that he forgot and still had his phone on silent mode.

I'm thankful that the office was almost empty because I had to lay my head down at my desk and silently lose it for a few minutes before collecting myself and leaving to find him at whatever nearby hospital I thought he had gone to.  Good thing I found him, because he somehow forgot to mention his extreme aversion and reaction to needles to the staff and I can only imagine how that would have turned out.

One of his exes that I like (I only dislike the one) suggested that he may be depressed from the past year with his father dying of cancer and then losing his job because the company owner has the compassion of a gnat, and thus no company policy to deal with illness or bereavement.  She said that depression isn't always sadness but can manifest itself in selfish or odd behavior and distraction.  Not that I want him to be depressed, but it's a much more palatable alternative than my fears about dementia from too many head knocks.

Physically, he will recover in a few weeks, for which I am grateful.  I can only hope that we get his head on straight as well.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

head meet wall

I blame it on the heat; I was too miserable to deal so for almost the whole summer I have been running all of our errands and completing all of our tasks rather than waiting for SB to do anything at his maddeningly slow pace.  Boy did I eff up.

I had to go out of town for the weekend and I really, really needed him to do two things for me.  I needed him to invite his teammates for a mixed lacrosse tournament in a week and I needed him to arrange a hike with some friends who we've been promising to see for a month.  I sent him two very explicit sets of instructions including the date of the tournament and my available dates for the hike.

This is what he did:

Friday: nothing (why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?)
Saturday: went on a hike and then hung around with friends until 10pm while missing my phone calls to check up on him
Sunday: dinner at 7:30 with friends; nothing else for the rest of the day.  Including not completing his two tasks.
Monday: listened to an irate rant that evening when I asked who was going to the tournament to find out that he hadn't contacted anyone about anything.  Apologized and...did nothing.
Tuesday (today): Received another reminder from me at lunchtime and sent back a response asking for details.  I sent back an ALL CAPS message telling him to refer to the f#&king instructions that I had sent to him.  He then emailed one (yes, one because sending to multiple contacts is just too damn complicated) person asking him to ask others to sign up.  Not to sign up for my team.  So a few guys emailed the organizers and are being placed on other teams that need players, and I don't have any men on my team.  He then emailed the hiking group and arranged a hike on the day of the tournament.

I am so mad right now that I can feel my pulse in my forehead, and I know that it's partially my fault, which makes me even madder.

**Update: SB made lasagne.  Pasta goes a long way toward soothing rage.  I am happy again, albeit without a lacrosse team and unable to go on a hike that SB organized.

Friday, August 9, 2013

the bomb

The recipe for NYC's Momofuku Milk Bar's Everything Bagel Bombs has trending on several sites but I decided against trying it because the recipe list and instructions seemed lengthy, but yesterday morning as I was parsing through a saved recipe folder for something to make for dinner, I saw the recipe and decided to take a closer look.  As it turned out, while the recipe was wordy, it was not difficult.  The only hindrance seemed to be the time it would take for the dough to rise.

I used the recipe found in the Amateur Gourmet website with some modifications.  I usually don't go about altering a recipe until after I have made it according to instructions but I was pressed for time and ingredients.   First, I want to stress that you should use bread flour or high gluten flour for the recipe.  While it is sold at most large grocery stores, I picked it up very inexpensively at Twinco (1/F, 137 Johnston Rd, Wan Chai). There is another baking supply store, Sweet Decorations on the 13th floor of the building. My other go to baking stores are in Causeway Bay on 22 Yee Wo Street (Ichi-Cake on the 8th floor and Sweetie Baking on the 10th).

For the cream cheese centers I skipped the scallions and instead used sauteed onions that I had in the refrigerator along with 2 oz. of shredded cheddar and chopped jalapenos.  I skipped the sesame/onion/garlic coating because I already had onions in my stuffing and forgot to buy sesame seeds so I sprinkled poppy seeds over the top instead.

So here's my version of the bagel bombs, which I did to save time in the morning: I mixed and kneaded the dough when I arrived home last night and then left it to rise as I made dinner. I also took the cream cheese out of the refrigerator to soften and make it easier to mix.  After dinner I mixed the cream cheese with the cheddar, onions, and jalapenos.  I did not place the plugs in the freezer.  I simply assembled the bagel bombs with unfrozen cream cheese centers and then placed my assembled bombs into the freezer and went to bed.

This morning I woke up, grabbed my bagel bombs out of the freezer, placed them on parchment paper, and popped them into my toaster oven at 160 Celsius for thirty minutes.  Then I showered and got dressed.  At twenty minutes in, I took a look at my bagel bombs and they were pale and fluffy.  Very near to the thirty minute mark I looked in on them again and some cream cheese had burst out of two of them just like what was described in the recipe.  I removed the bagel bombs, scooped the filling back into them, and served SB breakfast.  He loved them.  I loved them.

These had side explosions of cream cheese

One was intact while the other had a top explosion

The bread is chewy and delicious; It doesn't taste exactly like a bagel, probably because the dough doesn't get boiled before baking so they don't achieve the extreme density of a bagel.  But they are delicious and I will be adding this recipe to my permanent collection.

I also skipped the egg wash on top so they were pale in color but nonetheless tasty,

Thursday, August 8, 2013

fish tales

A woman asked SB for help removing her luggage from the baggage carousel.  "I recently had surgery," she explained to him. "Did have shoulder surgery?" asked SB, remembering his AC separation.

"No," she replied, "I just had breast augmentation surgery."

SB then did his best impersonation of a goldfish.

"What should I have said?" he asked me later, after I had finished rolling around on the floor in laughter.

I had no idea.  I would probably have said something dorky like, "I have no idea what to say to convey how happy I am for you."  Because his typical "nice!" with a thumbs up might not have worked.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

the horror, the horror

Until experiencing the vexatious aggravation that is the biting midge, I thought the mosquito to be the bane of my life.  Blood suckers love me and I'm not sure why.  Some people say it's because of my blood type (O-) while others have theories of my pheromones.  The only thing for certain is that SB doesn't need to wear insect repellent when we hike as long as I am nearby.  It is uncanny how I usually am to first (or only) person in a group to be bitten.  Trips to the beach can end in misery for me as dusk approaches and I become covered in dozens of bites.  I hardly leave the home without my trusty, little bottle of 100% DEET spray.

If you hate skeeters (mozzies if you are Australian) then you will join me in being fascinated, horrified and possibly a wee bit nauseous watching this extreme closeup by National Geographic featuring my most hated adversary.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

the existential beast

I really enjoyed reading "Revisiting John Gardner’s Grendel, the first book that blew my mind", which is part three of Dan Kois' Mass Market Marathon for Slate.  Like Mr. Kois, I was overwhelmed (in a good way) by Grendel when I first read it in AP English class as a high school junior.  I was as passionate about the book as I was inversely dispassionate about Beowulf.  Apparently I have been good at spreading my joy for the book because I have loaned out three versions and have never gotten them back.  The first and third Grendel included the Emil Antonucci illustrations while the second version had some cheesy, cartoonish depiction of a green monster.  I am happy to say that the Kindle version includes the wonderful, original illustrations at the beginning of each chapter.

I'll be honest: I barely had a grasp of existentialism, and an even lesser grasp of post-modernism when I studied the story but I didn't need that understanding to feel every awkward, angsty, ludicrous moment with the monster, and my subsequent lessons in philosophy have brought even more enjoyment of the book.  

I had a classmate who carried a tattered copy of Ulysses (the one with the fantastic Ernst Reichl cover design) almost everywhere he went.  No matter what the discussion was about in any of our courses, he managed to wave the book around while proclaiming that it was by far the best book ever written, and his most prized possession.  And it was the greatest influence of his life also.  In case no one figured that out the first fifty times that book made an appearance.  A discussion of physical changes occurring to land art evolved into how every time he read Ulysses it evolved in his mind into something different.  A discussion about virtual reality became a lesson on Joyce's use of stream of consciousness in his writing.  And so on.

My dear readers, I suddenly understand how my Ulysses loving classmate went over the cliff edge.  I, recently pondered how to introduce Grendel to a conversation with a young friend who was complaining to me about how badly her life sucked.  I feel like we could really take that "my boyfriend dumped me" conversation to a whole other level.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

that kind of place

A good friend is leaving Hong Kong after ten years here, to follow his dream girl back to the States.  Almost everyone who knows him is shocked but not displeased with the whirlwind romance and sudden big decision.  He is happier than he has ever been and she is lovely, but we shall definitely miss him in the Valley neighborhood and at the alumni association events.

They invited a group of friends to join them for drinks at a location on Wyndham Street that I had never heard of, which is not surprising since I'm quite removed from the posh nightlife scene.  Our last foray into the land of beautiful people was a couple months ago when we attended Wet at the W Hotel and the strongest memory I took away was of standing in the toilet queue for almost half an hour, which gave me enough time to notice that I was the only person in line who wasn't in dry clothing, which then led me to wonder why none of the swimmers other than myself needed to use the facilities. Maybe beautiful people have superior bladders along with superior genes and don't need to queue up for the venue's seriously under-provided toilets.  But the small possibility that this wasn't the case led me to refrain from getting back into the pool with all of those lovely people.

Anyway, I Googled the name of the bar and discovered that the reviews were either short statements about how fantastic it was or lengthy rants over how snobbish and rude it was.  I figured that it was one of those places where the supermodel manning the door would look at your shoes and then tell you that the place was too full to let you in. I wasn't wrong.  There was a very pretty woman watching the door but she wasn't tall like the one at Dragon Eye, and she told us that the place was too full.  I was horrified because I had actually put on what I thought were sexy shoes and having them rejected just hurt but then she explained that they really were at capacity though if we knew someone inside she would let us in.  We gave our friend's name and were admitted into the bar, leaving behind a group of crestfallen young women in stiletto heels who didn't know anyone inside.

The interior was very well done and sleek, with white leather couches that were thankfully comfortable.  The drinks were very creative and tasty although I'm not sure if they were amazing enough to warrant $200 per cocktail.  I was unimpressed with the tiny, silver goblet that my very expensive drink was served in and wondered to SB if I got to keep the goblet.  Amusingly, when we were leaving a woman swooped over to our table and grabbed the little goblet, and I am fairly certain that she wasn't a server. And I'm also fairly certain that we weren't supposed to keep the goblet.

How could anyone dare to disallow these shoes from entry?!

Friday, August 2, 2013

an ending to the story

Today, to foster better appreciation of the conversation, I am using GIFs to tell my story.

Once upon a time (as in yesterday during dinner) SB told me that an ex-friend contacted him at the start of 2013 to try to restart their friendship that she had ended four years ago.


So, how were we going to do this, I asked of him.  "Wait, wait," he told me, "you're getting ahead of yourself."  And what the heck, he was laughing at me.  But then he told me to hear him out.

During their conversation she said that she wanted the friendship back and he reminded her that she had been very hurtful toward me.  She reminded him that I had sent her that email.

Oh yes, that email which justifies everything.

I sent the email in 2007, asking her to give SB and me some space.  It was polite, but when she responded negatively I apologized.  She pretended to accept my apology, even sending me a response with smiley faces, and then spent the next two years personally attacking me, giving SB ultimatums, and telling him that all of their mutual friends thought that I was a (insert your choice of a rude word) and he should dump me. Despite me never communicating with her since the one set of emails exchanges, she kept going.

Disproportionate response?

SB told her that he would think about it (their friendship, not about dumping me), which he apparently has been doing since their conversation was months ago. He decided that he isn't sure that he wants to be friends with her; the benefit is limited because when they ended the friendship, she had demanded that he give up contact with "her" friends so there aren't a lot of mutual acquaintances left to bind them now.  And of course there's that thing about her un-remorseful non-apology.

It's about damn time he actively stood up for me.

 He laughed at me because he had expected a stronger, adverse reaction.  I wasn't too thrilled that he wanted me to turn the other cheek all those years ago.  I may even admit to resentment that he did little while the one sided behavior went on and on.

He asked me not to respond, even as he did nothing.  Grrr.

He felt that I should at least know what was on the table (typical businessman reaction).  So what was on the table?  She offered that she was agreeable to meeting me.  Yup, that was it.

Gee, after putting it all behind us, that sounds like reason enough to risk bringing drama back into our lives.

Maybe I'm secretly a masochist?

I struggled to understand her logic.  When I tried to befriend her all those years ago it was for SB's sake, not because I had any desire to get to know her on my own. If she offered a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi then yes, but what kind of concession is this?

I did not share my inner cynicism with SB. Instead, I told him that if he changes his mind in the future, I would be willing to work with him. I shocked myself when I realized that I meant it, and it wasn't just lip service.

Did I just make a concession?!

I would have thought that we couldn't surprise each other after being together for so long.  I never thought that bighearted SB would walk away from the chance to renew an acquaintance (he said that lack of remorse was "unattractive") and SB didn't expect rational behavior from me on this subject.  I didn't expect me to be reasonable about the possible reemergence of someone who spent years her venting her spleen all over me (and him, but mostly me).

Now it's my turn. Well, at least on the blog.

I guess in the end, we all got what we wanted.  She got to attack without reprisal, I got SB, and he got me, which I happen to think is a fine choice indeed.  All is well with the world.

The end.  Basta Cosi.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Snowden has reemerged in my news compiler, having been granted refugee status in Russia.  He chose some interesting destinations to his escape to from the tyranny and authoritarian policies of the United States.  Maybe the CIA World Factbook is skewed in their analysis of Russia's government and it's really the land of freedom and rainbows.  Otherwise I would start to wonder about Snowden's intelligence, among other things.