Monday, December 29, 2014

good tidings and cheer

I was faced with a dilemma this week when I received a gift certificate to a local shop at my holiday party lucky draw. I detest shopping malls and have managed to avoid them entirely this year with the exception of entering them to access restaurants. I was tempted to let the gift certificate go but it was for a considerable amount of money so I decided to force SB to accompany me to Hysan Place for yum cha and shopping on Sunday morning. 

Once SB's belly was filled with delicious, dumpling goodness, I yanked him past the throngs of iPhone peddlers, around mainland shoppers who were using their hard shelled luggage as battering rams, and up the escalators into the mall.  Everything was going smoothly at the shop until a few minutes later when I felt something kick into my leg, followed by a loud exclamation. I looked up from the rack of shirts that I was inspecting to discover that a woman had managed to trip over me and was rubbing the front of her leg and glaring at me.

"Sorry," I said, though it came out as a bit of a question since I wasn't sure what had occurred. The woman continued to glare and at a loss, I turned back to the rack. Then the woman began to yell at me. SB came over to ask what was going on and I told him that the woman had tripped over me while I was stationary and somehow thought it was my fault. At this point the woman was having a fit over some invisible scratch on the toe of her fugly designer shoes (the ones that look like cheap plastic with spikes if you are in the know of really implausibly hideous, expensive shoes). SB is usually the moderate one in our relationship but something that the woman shrieked at us set him off. He wouldn't tell me what she called me but it resulted in him releasing his own stream of invective dialogue. Later he told me that he was impressed by how many insults he remembered from his days at Nanjing Normal University. I have never been to Nanjing but have noticed that many crazy tourists in the news of late hail from Nanjing, such as the hot noodle throwing, I'm gonna bomb the plane couple. I imagine that Nanjing is as good a place as any to learn the rudest, most obnoxious behavior.

Whatever SB said, coupled with the shock that some white guy was saying it, shut the woman up. Then she rushed over to her boyfriend and pointed at us in a gesture that can be recognized in any culture: I'm angry so now you must defend my honor. I responded by puffing up like a fighting bird in the equally recognizable 'bring it on' manner. SB, with his ADHD, had already moved on and was no longer paying attention. He was messaging a friend regarding creative Chinese insults. The woman's boyfriend declined to defend her honor so she flung one last insult our way (from a safe distance) and then stomped after him, her ugly, neon green, spiked Valentinos clacking away as she retreated with her luggage.

During the entire exchange, which may have lasted 45 seconds, the salesgirl managed to pretend that nothing was amiss and stood by my side like glue with her most helpful facial expression. I rewarded her single mindedness by spending all of the voucher and more. I can't imagine a more painful job.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

season's seethings

Earlier this year I was annoyed to hear that the US Supreme Court with its majority conservative justices had ruled that companies could exclude birth control coverage from mandatory health insurance if the companies claimed sincerely held religious beliefs against contraception. The Supreme Court also declared that a company claiming religious reasons to exclude parts of health insurance coverage didn't have to prove its sincerity but that they were to be held at their word. I read some outrageous comments from gleeful conservative groups basically announcing their intent to thwart 'Obamacare' by claiming religious exemptions to everything since their would be no burden of proof.

Another supposed win for a certain type of Christianity, which can only be described using the term Christian in the broadest terms, ruled that a Christian student could use school provided publication fees to print offensive pamphlets because when the state school opened a forum for freedom of expression it had to include even the most odious types of expression. More rejoicing sounded from the special Christians.

This is why last night I laughed out loud to read that the Satanic Temple was erecting displays in various state capitals. They and other groups decided to use the court rulings to their own advantage since two things were very clear: state funded forums had to allow even the most odious religious display if they allowed any at all, and the 'religious' organizations didn't have to prove that they even believed in the expressions of their odious display because they were to be taken at their word. So every state capital that allowed a religious scene to be displayed had to allow anything else also. In a state building in Tallahassee, displays ranged from the Satanic Temple's angel falling into a pit of fire ("Happy Holidays from the Satanic Temple") to a plate of spaghetti (from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) to a six foot tall, beer can adorned Festivus pole.

Various religious groups are protesting these displays as attacks on Christianity, having failed to appreciate the irony of the situation.

Happy Holidays to all of my readers, and I wish you all a season of good cheer and laughter!

Monday, December 22, 2014

change in situation

SB called me from where he was hiking with the pups to tell me that Tippytoes and Elsie had spotted a cat and took off after it. Elsie eventually came back but Tippy continued to fly down the stairs. After securing Elsie, SB ran down the equivalent of six flights of stairs, heart pounding. Somewhere down below he heard tires screeching and horns honking. He stopped running and phoned me. At this point either it was too late or if it wasn't, he didn't want to do anything to cause Tippy to react if she had somehow managed to cross the busy road. 

I was already in hell as I had somehow managed to end up in the middle of a packed shopping mall in Kowloon Tong. Then this horrible news. I hyperventilated while SB crept down the remaining steps to the road. Then SB hung up on me. I stood in the middle of the holiday shoppers and tried not to cry.

SB sent me a message a few very long minutes later. Tippy was waiting for him at the bottom of the steps. He called her and she came to him very slowly. She was wheezing. He checked her all over but found no sign of injury. She was just panting that way because she was exhausted and possibly panicked having lost track of where SB was as well as whatever had happened down below in the road. He wanted to strangle her for scaring him but he couldn't even punish her for running off because she had come to him when he called her and he didn't want to send mixed messages. He decided that the dominant emotion was relief that he would be returning home with two dogs. 

As soon as I finished phoning him to shriek at him because...well, there was no reason to shriek but I had to so I did. Anyway, once that was over, I returned home where I found Tippy asleep on SB and Elsie curled up by his side and snoring. I woke Tippy up to tell her how happy I was that she was still alive. Then I cuddled everyone and vowed that we would never ever leave the safety of our home ever again. Ever. I told SB to buy those doggy wee pads because the furbabies are never doing anything mildly unsafe such as walking outdoors again. I forgot the vow later that night when we took them for their evening wrestle with Buddy and then again when I took them on the morning walk with Raisin and Billy but I reminded SB as I was leaving for work that the furbabies can't leave the flat anymore. Ever.

Monday, December 15, 2014

all things come to a halt

This morning I was greeted by the sight of stalled traffic in Causeway Bay due to the poorly planned and executed police operation to line up Hennessy Road with a dozen vans, seemingly without having taken into consideration the Monday morning commute. At the front of the traffic snarl, a police officer was arguing with an irate bus driver while other drivers milled about on the street complaining with each other or taking pictures of the police vans that were blocking the intersection. Several hundred people being made late to work is a small sacrifice to restoring order by being able to easily load a couple dozen protesters into on of the multitude of transportation vans. Possibly each protester could have their own private prison shuttle.

Friday, December 12, 2014

no such thing as privacy

In case there was still a person out there in the world who still felt like they were protected behind their double passworded, firewalled, anti-virus pro plus account, the Sony hacks were a wake up call. If someone wants to access your private online information badly enough, they will find a way. Personally, I feel moderately secure only because I'm just not interesting enough for anyone to take the time to hack me.

I have strong feelings about the publication of Sony emails. In a lot of ways I consider media reports of the private conversations between Sony executives, especially those relating to legal counsel, to be a gross violation of privacy in the same way as publishing private, naked pictures. No legitimate news agency wanted to touch the naked pictures for fear of being sued six ways to Sunday, not to mention their claims of being better people than that. Maybe it's due to my comfort level of my body but if I had a choice, I would rather the world know my personal grooming habits than know my personal discussions. I would much rather frolic about with everything hanging out than let my most private thoughts be hurled onto the public stage.

I start and delete a lot of blog posts because in the rereading I discover that they reveal too much. I share a lot of myself with my readers, more than I ever thought that I would share with strangers, but I draw the line at vomiting out all of my major malfunctions in detail. It is horrifying to think that someone could break into my account and share the crazy emails that pass between my family onto a public forum, and that news agencies could repeat it until only Gollum and his fellow hermits would have been excluded from the list of people who have invaded my privacy. 

And in case anyone has confused me for interesting, let me save the time of hacking my stuff and reveal my deep, dark secret that I am batshit crazy and have plenty of electronic proof of this. And if you look up the emails between my family members around the holidays you will find that I come by it rightfully.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

end of the road?

SB and I scurried over to Admiralty to bear witness to the clearing out of the protesters. As it turned out, they were not exactly being cleared out, except for the ones blocking the entrance to some government buildings. There was mounting frustration on both sides, but SB and I tend to back those who aren't armed with batons and clubbing people.

Over in our homeland, people are divided among race lines over several shootings of black teenagers and kids by the police.  There kids weren't exactly boy scouts and attempts by their friends to paint them as saints have largely hurt their cases as we are now skeptical of everything that was claimed by the friends, but I believe that the greater issue is that our peace officers have amongst their numbers, fellows who aren't so interested in diffusing a situation. All it takes is one hotshot with a gun and something to prove. I read somewhere that this may be about angry black people against the police, but it is just as much about angry white people against change.

Maybe, just maybe, the high number of black people being arrested isn't due to their high level of criminality as a race.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Peak to Fong


On Sunday I turned over my rugby kids to another coach so that I could accompany my furbabies on a dog themed event sponsored by Disney. It was a fundraising hike for the Hong Kong Dog Rescue, which was well attended by canines of all shaped and sizes. People walked, carried, and wheeled their pets from the Peak Galleria to Lan Kwai Fong, where a street carnival awaited us.

The walk wasn't anything special; in fact, it was a bit of a mess unless you were the owner of a small dog. For the rest of us, it was a painfully slow progression downward. There was a traffic jam due to a two meter rise in the trail at one point, if that gives you an idea of the fitness levels. It was a test of our dogs' social abilities, being crowded with so many humans and dogs. All of our friends commented with us that the dogs were pulling harder on their leads than normal and some were exhibiting signs of stress. The highlight of the walk was passing a busload of mainland tourists, many of whom were very displeased to be confronted by so many dogs. Apparently a few of  the tour groups did not know that this was the annual dog walk day or didn't care but their clientele sure did. I got a few chuckles watching several tourists retreating back into the bus with great haste. If you are afraid of dogs, this was probably the closest that you would get to your worst nightmare come to life. Heh.

Down in the Fong, we met a wonderful couple who had helped to care for Elsie and Tippytoes back when they were inmates in Tai Po. The woman was very happy that both dogs seemed to recognize her and greeted her. She kept asking if we were sure that they knew her and we kept assuring her that they certainly did. It's not like Tippy has every thrown herself into a random stranger's lap, although she has tried to enter other people's cars but that is because she knows that taxis mean fun destinations.

I was concerned that Elsie, being the more skittish of the pair, would not enjoy the festival but whatever reservations she may have had disappeared around the time that someone fed her a dog treat sample. She had so much fun that she went straight to bed when we arrived  home, her belly filled with two doggie gelatos, carob dog treats, organic dog treats, numerous other dog treats that were handed to her at the various booths, and half of a muffin wrapper.

Oh yeah, and ten pieces of chicken. There was a competition for catching chicken. We were standing close by and Elsie became very interested when the competition began so SB took her for a closer look. Most of the competitors were small, cute lap dogs. They didn't seem so enamored with the chicken. One owner had near perfect aim and the chicken pieces were literally bouncing off the dog's face. SB asked if he could enter the competition but was told that the entries were closed. After a few more minutes of Elsie bobbing her head back and forth watching chicken being thrown and not caught, the organizers took pity and let her enter the contest.

It did not start well. SB placed her on stage and she hunched over facing the wrong way and looked miserable. Then he got the chicken and she turned to face him like a plant following the sun. The sun being chicken, not SB. It was not SB's day to be accurate. His first pitch went wide right but somehow Elsie dove and the chicken never touched the ground. SB threw high and she jumped, clamping that chicken like she was performing at Sea World. This continued for eight more throws with SB lobbing bricks at her and Elsie making remarkable saves. She sure does love her chicken. They scored 10 out of 10 and tied for the win with two larger dogs that may have had a golden retriever in their family trees. You can't expect a golden not to win in competitions that involve food.

 Elsie going for the win (source: Hong Kong Dog Rescue)

 Elsie was displeased to discover that her prize was not more chicken.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

danger in every turn

One of our club's most valuable players was involved in a horrible construction accident. A person was killed and our friend was very badly injured. We are all thankful that he is alive. After several weeks in intensive care he has been relocated to a hospital very close to us so SB and I are looking forward to visiting him.

In the meantime one of SB's hockey friends broke his leg very badly. From glancing at the X-ray I saw five to seven distinct pieces that were not attached to anything. He is having reconstructive surgery today. We are hoping for a full recovery because he is a skating instructor and needs his body for his livelihood.

While we were in the hospital visiting the hockey player we discovered that another rugby player from our club was being wheeled out of surgery for yet another freak accident. He broke his hip and almost severed a large nerve. He couldn't feel his foot before the operation but since surgery he has been able to slightly move it and we hope that physiotherapy can help him to regain his mobility quickly. He told us that the nerve is supposed to repair at the rate of 1 mm per day, so at that rate it will be healed in a year for a worst case scenario.

From there we discovered that there were two other rugby players from other teams in the ward, one who was undergoing neck surgery and one who also had some sort of leg trauma. When I requested the day off to visit my friends before and after surgery, I thought that my story sounded unbelievable to my own ears. Yeah right, my boss must have been thinking, you have three friends in hospital with broken legs. It's like those college students who ask for extensions due to dying grandmothers every semester before finals until by the time that they graduate, six or seven grandmothers have passed away.

And so this morning I could only shake my head in shock when I read an email from my boss, stating that he had fallen down some stairs last night.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

where's the fire

Today marked our annual office fire drill, a necessary evil for those of us in tall buildings. Each year, upon discovery that we have to complete the entire escape without shortcuts, the fire drill organizers are met with a disproportionate number of complaints and excuses compared the the actual inconvenience caused. This is some type of right of passage I believe.

Upon observing reactions to the fire drill, you can get a fairly accurate personality profile of colleagues. The younger ones who are probably the most physically able of the workforce are also the loudest of the complainants, but this is to be expected when taking into consideration that they are also the most likely to submit reports filled with hyperbole. The self important higher level staff are never seen during the fire drill because they have really important meetings and are excused. No one questions the sudden exodus of associate level and above staff ten minutes prior to the drill, nor that these meetings all adjourn within the hour. The colleagues less likely to carry their weight on a project are also most likely to be literally unable to carry their own weight. During the drill, they are excused from participating for sensitive health reasons and continue to sit at their desks playing solitaire. Of the actual fire drill participants, you can easily identify the colleagues most likely to miss deadlines and overlook urgent emails. They are the ones hobbling down forty two flights of stairs in wobbly high heels or pinching oxfords because they woke up that morning in their typical state of being and forgot one more thing in their list of things that they can't recall.

Unfortunately the hobblers tend to travel in flocks and one particular flock in the front of the drill caused a traffic jam by attempting to open the fire doors at every floor and re-enter the building rather than walking down the remaining flights. Due to those dodos standing about on the stairs and blocking other people from continuing down, we have been informed that our group failed the fire drill by not exiting the building in a timely manner and now will have to undergo a remedial fire drill.

You can tell who the Type A personalities of the office are by noting who is glaring laser beams of rage at the wobbly dodos on the elevator ride back up to our office.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

her life as a robot

Some of my friends asked me if it was really a good idea to be talking about my job in a blog. I asked my boss and he doesn't mind as long as I properly describe how brilliant he is. Besides, the person who I didn't want finding out that he was being called an ass was copied on the email so the worst case scenario has already occurred.

Today I will  highlight another project manager who has since left her job, probably to become a customer service representative at PCCW. From my numerous telephone conversations with equally numerous customer service representatives that have resulted in likewise equally numerous futile results, I can assure you that she would shine at that job. She would perform spectacularly.

During her time as a manager of a major interdisciplinary project, she performed her job as something akin to a poorly calibrated mail sorting facility. Information would be received and sent out for distribution. "Please arrange a meeting between the civil and drainage disciplines," an email would read, and she would forward the message to everyone. The end result was that the civil and drainage team showed up for the meeting so it was no problem in her mind that architectural, structural and building services were all receiving corporate spam. 

My rock bottom of working with her happened when the client asked whether a requested kiosk had been included in the drawings. I replied that the kiosk had been added and attached a file with the item circled on the drawing in red pen. The project manager added my markup to the queue of drawing amendments and later insisted that I needed to update the drawing to show a circle on the floor around the item because it had been in my markup. "We need to match the markup that was issued to the contractor," she insisted. This went on for a month. Every other day she emailed me to remind me that I had not yet added the circle to the floor tile pattern and that I was delaying the issuance of the drawing amendment. At my wit's end, I finally called her boss who apologized and confided that he sometimes wondered if she was a robot.

Monday, November 10, 2014

my life as a joke

My uncle Jon used to wave around Dibert comics on an almost weekly basis. While I thought that they were funny, I didn't have Jon's level of enthusiasm. And then I started working at a large corporation.

Last week I eavesdropped on my boss arguing with a client. They were having a very heated discussion because our site architect took a day off last month for sick leave and the client deducted 4.5% of his salary. The client argued that the contract did not include sick pay. My boss argued that the contract didn't specify that sick leave would be deducted, either. Be fair, my boss urged. There were days when the client had an urgent task or a tight deadline and the site architect stayed late to get the work done. It was expected that this type of thing would happen from time to time and we would not have tried to bill the client. Our client, taking his HR policies straight from Dilbert, remained firm that sick leave was to be deducted. As a result, the site architect is unhappy with his pay cut and I don't expect him to ever agree to work late for the client again without demanding cash.

Dilbert's boss reared his pointy haired head in the form of one of my project managers. He sent me an email bemoaning one of the consultants being a difficult ass. I replied that the consultant could be a difficult ass all he wanted but he still had to submit a licensing application for our processing. The project manager then forwarded his request that the consultant provide the application, and included the entire email conversation. We are still awaiting the application.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

royalty

SB's cousins were hosting a horsey event on their land when one of their friends asked if she could bring a guest from out of town. They agreed and the next weekend were introduced to a British woman named Anne. B used to be kind of a big deal with the secret service and knows stuff so she quickly deduced who Anne was. Her sister C had no idea until she was clued in afterward, at which point she was tickled at how she had rubbed elbows with royalty. They had only nice things to say about Anne, whose horsemanship was notable.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Jim

My sister's father in law ended his life a few days ago. He told his wife that he was going on a walk. She asked when he wanted supper and he told her maybe don't cook tonight. Then he drove from Sonoma to San Francisco, called the police, and put a gun to his head.

In February he bought the gun. In May, at the end of my visit, he surprised me with a huge hug after having taken me aside for a chat, which in hindsight I recognize it for what it was. In August he began trying to talk to his wife about how to take care of their finances; he was very well off but she had a habit of spending all that she had when he met her. Last week the news reported about a young woman with terminal cancer who elected to kill herself rather than be suffer a slow and debilitating death. A few days ago he gave my sister an even bigger than normal hug, cuddled his grandson for also a long time, and that was it.

My sister, SB and I all have had friends who have committed suicide. Each time, we replayed all sorts of seemingly insignificant details in our heads and wondered what we could have done to change things. SB still wonders if not having that $100 in his wallet to loan his friend set him over the edge. I blame myself for somehow not knowing how Mike was feeling even though he was 14000km away. And now C wonders if she could have said anything. Maybe if she had told Jim that she loved him more strongly...

This is what I told her, small comfort that it was. When I met Jim, he reminded me a lot of my foster grandfather, Stan. Stan was 82 years old and sharp as a tack. Over the years I realized that being of sound mind while your body became unsound was not a blessing. While I preferred hanging out with Stan because he could talk to me about everything, unlike my Grandma who was probably nuts long before she was old, I became aware that sharp minded Stan was all too aware that he was in decline. On several occasions he told me that he was tired. He wasn't depressed in the typical sense, but he wasn't all that happy. His body betrayed him constantly. He was exhausted just getting out of the car so those wonderful cruises that he used to take were a thing of the past. His friends were almost all dead. He was losing his sight and hearing no matter how much he still had to share, so when he got sick, he never tried to get better. He died of a cold but really, he died because he didn't want to live anymore.

In his note, which he had given a friend to deliver, Jim said that he was tired. He was sorry that he never got to do those things that he had wanted to do, but he couldn't find the motivation. He was done.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

my fellow Americans

I met a lovely lady at the dog park who invited me to join her dragon boat team. Unlike my team which trains seven weeks per year in preparation for for the one big race (and usually enjoys all day drinking on race day) this team of all female paddlers is serious. They train three days per week. Already I am at a disadvantage since I work and can only make it to Saturday training.  But they all friendly and understanding that I have to make my job a priority.

So that is how I spent Saturday morning surrounded by tall and/or blonde women with the exception of the coach who is short and Asian. I had gotten used to being tall among Asians and now I'm reminded that back home I'm a shrimp. At least SB will have no problem picking me out of the crowd. I'm not joking that everyone else is tall or blonde, or both tall and blonde in most cases.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

horsing around

We were planning to enjoy the opening night of the Happy Valley races from the comfort of our home but then we received an invitation to a private box. Looking out the window while cooking our own dinner vs private balcony with good friends and a buffet...it was a no brainer.

Though we had previously taken part in a tour of the facilities, SB and I signed on again when a tour was offered because we needed to stretch our legs after gorging ourselves on oysters (me) and roast beef (SB). No sooner had we entered the area where the horses are trotted around, the sky opened up. A few fat drops of rain quickly turned into a deluge. Our group ran in the direction that we had come from but three of us followed some people in the other direction toward a closer shelter.

It didn't take long to realize our mistake. We had blindly followed some horse owners to the area where the jockeys dismount after the race ends. We were surrounded by grooms who were quickly and efficiently removing tacks and escorting the horses toward waiting trailers. We watched a jockey violently throw his helmet across the ground and storm away, apparently disgusted with his performance (or that of his horse). Owners were shaking hands and retreating to their private boxes while we stood by awkwardly. We three interlopers plastered ourselves to the wall until the area was fairly clear again and attempted to exit out the nearest door but the guard refused to let us into the area, probably because it was an owner only area. We tried to go back where we came from but other horses were being trotted out and we would  have had to cut through them. We went back to the guard at the owner area asking to please let us just pass through and exit but he was an input only device. He only cared that he was checking for owner badges for entry into the room and it was not his concern if three people were tramping around with the racehorses five meters outside of his post.

Eventually our shenanigans caught the eye of a race marshal who had just returned from his shift and he kindly indicated that we should continue to tramp with the horses through the tunnel where we could either be loaded onto a horse trailer and whisked away or scurry out of the tunnel. We chose to scurry out of the tunnel and exit the racecourse. Then we hugged the building and avoided most of the rain until we found the correct entrance and arrived back at the box. Others in the tour group returned five minutes later, soaking wet after having had to walk around the perimeter of the building because they had lost our tour guide and were not allowed to reenter the area that our group had been brought through. The problem was evident: HKJC workers were doing their jobs and no one was willing to do more than his job. Without the tour guide as an escort, the entire group was literally tossed out into the rain.

The tour guide eventually returned with those who had managed to located him and apologized profusely although none of this was his fault. It was a near impossible task to gather the twenty of us together amongst hundreds of people running for cover. To make up for it, we were given lots more free booze so that by the end of the night no one cared that we were soggy and rumpled. My only regret is that I didn't take pictures of my up close and personal encounter with the horses. They were gorgeous.

Friday, October 17, 2014

so long and farewell

Two of my frequently visited Happy Valley restaurants are closing according to neighborhood sources who are in the know. St. Germaine is closing its doors after several years of operation. I occasionally ate there and more often visited for a drink or three when I fancied something a bit more upscale than the local pub. They seemed to do a brisk business on race nights and when French sports were being televised. I awoke from time to time to the sounds of La Marseillaise being bellowed from triumphant patrons. It was the trade off for choosing to live close to all of the amenities. If you want to live in the center of everything, expect that excitement will occur from time to time (nudge, nudge, horrible man who lives above the Happy Valley Bar & Grill and keeps calling the police on customers' children playing in the open space).

The Chapel is also closing after decades in this neighborhood. SB recalls gathering there twenty years ago after attending the funeral of a friend who died much too young. It had been the friend's favorite drinking hole. I know several people who religiously attended the Chapel's quiz nights for years. I fear for their spouses who may face some grueling months ahead, playing Trivial Pursuit and searching for a replacement quiz night to save their marriages. Yes, the Chapel served a higher purpose and will be greatly mourned.

At least the real estate office boom seems to be over. Those were dark years when every street in the valley seemed to feature wall to wall real estate offices. Unfortunately nothing seems to be slowing the emergence of wall to wall banks. While we HK residents have great fondness for money, it is inedible and does not provide satisfaction at mealtimes.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

it's been a rough week

It's been a rough week for me - deadlines, revisions, pitchfork waving - but this week was even rougher for one social worker and the Hong Kong Police Force.

Monday, October 13, 2014

sharing

On an island with millions of people crammed along flat areas, we are bound to encounter land use and sharing issues. I join thousands of fellow residents who jostle along the sidewalks on the way into the office in the morning. Almost every day I see someone cutting into the bus queue or shoving to be the first person to board the tram. I've had colleagues close the elevator doors on me as I have entered the lift car. After six years in the HK rat race I can't be bothered to care most of the time.

On several mornings I wake up early to have a quick exercise session at the local sports ground. My routine hardly ever changes: I run a lap around the grounds and then do some calisthenics. There are far fewer runners in the morning than in the evening and those annoying people who can't stand being passed don't seem to wake up early so I don't have to be stuck trying to run around someone for 100 meters while dodging other runners going in the opposite direction. 

Lately I have encountered a new problem: exercise classes. Most of the outdoor fitness classes choose to operate in areas where they can peacefully coexist. the Tai Chi groups practice in the paved gathering area near the children's playground and in the hockey pitch while several circuits groups take up corners at the rugby and football pitches. Unfortunately a new exercise group has cropped up at the calisthenics area. This is annoying. The area isn't particularly large so fifteen people very easily overwhelm it. They often attach TRX suspension equipment on the bars and benches so that sharing is impossible. The trainers used to wait impatiently while I did my exercises. Then they began setting up as I was exercising, slowly cutting down on the area that I could use. Now they arrive before I do and cover the entire area with their gear. I am seriously considering helping myself and using their equipment.

I don't want to complain to the recreation ground management but I'm not sure what other options I have. These trainers have made it clear by their actions that they intend to take over the calisthenic area for their income generating purposes and to the exclusion of others. I just don't want all of the other groups that don't create friction to be booted out because I complained about one bad group. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

cancel everything

SB and I had nice plans for the long holiday but we've canceled them. There are more important matters to attend to, such as supporting our friends. We discussed what we felt comfortable doing. During the protest marches earlier in the year we were careful to be observers and not join the marches because we wanted it to be clear that these protests were by Hong Kong citizens. We were able to show our support by standing at the sidelines and bearing witness.

This time we are joining our friends to support them. SB and others have taken turns sitting with and delivering  nourishment to several friends. The weather is not ideal, ranging from sweltering heat to thunderstorms. A little moral support goes a long way.

I try not to think of the end and my own pessimism and feelings of futility. I am no longer young and idealistic, which is a sad thing. I wish for that young woman who thought that she could change the world. On the other hand, ten years ago I was advocating for another futile cause and today three of my former teammates are legally wed and raising families. In the words of Chuck Berry, you never can tell.

Monday, September 29, 2014

and it might be ironic

Reporters prevented from entering China to report bad news were stuck waiting for visas in Hong Kong. Bad news was reported.

Does anyone else have a contribution to share regarding the law of unintended consequences in action?

more things that make you go hmmm

After watching public reaction around the world to police forces using tear gas on peaceful protesters, even someone as admittedly politically ignorant as myself can manage to draw an obvious conclusion.

Don't deploy tear gas on peaceful protesters.

But someone even more politically idiotic than me did not arrive at the same conclusion. This person may have said to himself, "But this situation is completely different than what happened in (insert any of the multiple examples of what happened when police tear gassed students), because reasons."

And so the police fired off tear gas at the protesters to rather obvious results. Other people heard about it and became offended. Offended people poured into the city to join the protesters. More police were deployed. More people became offended.

Really, why did anyone think that the results would be any different?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Occupy Central

Unless you are here, it is difficult to imagine what thousands of protesters look like, and we are nowhere near the epicenter. That area has been blocked off for a while. People trying to join the protests were queued up peacefully at side streets, highway crossings, and backed up on the stairs of Admiralty station.

This is one of our less impressive pictures but we didn't want to upload any that showed faces. At this point in the day people started entering the highway in attempts to reach the protest. They want choice. They want the freedoms that were promised.  They want to be heard.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

exceptional

A few years ago I listened to a discussion regarding the exciting and sweeping changes to history textbooks that were being put into practice by the Texas Board of Education. It was exciting as in got my blood pressure to rise to literally dizzying heights. The new curriculum presented a revisionist version of the founding of the United States that purported her to be created as a distinctly Christian nation "chosen by God as a beacon to the world." As Thomas Jefferson's historical papers clearly showed him to strongly advocate for clear separation between church and state, the Texas Board of Education sidelined him in the history books. Ditto Ben Franklin (in fact, he's a bad man and burning in hell with Plato). I can't quite form a well structured response right now because dozens, literally dozens, of thoughts are banging around my brain, scrambling over each other to be heard over the clamor of other thoughts. So this is what a teeming brain feels like.

The school board that oversees Denver made the news today after teachers staged a sick in and shut down two high schools, followed by students walking out and protesting the board's plans ensure that materials "promote citizenship, patriotism...benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority..." and don't "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law." And now I will take a deep breath before one of the louder thoughts slips out of my brain and I lose my argument through Godwin's Law.

Back when I was a bubbly, young student, I wrote an essay, probably the only good essay I ever wrote, which was why my professor subsequently stole it and published it under his own name. This is why you don't sleep with your professors, people. Anyway, that's another story. The essay came about after much introspection in the wake of 9/11. In almost all of the conversations that I had with fellow students, professors and friends, I noticed that Americans held some very out of date positions which contributed to our shock and disbelief. We believed in black and white, good and bad. Life was easy in the days of the Soviet Union because the world was comfortably divided into them and us. We struggled with the emerging multinational, poly-ethnic world where there was no good or bad, but gray tones everywhere. We still struggle with political complexity.

The Bible is the good book so we want it to always be true. The Constitution is part of the foundation of our great nation. These two are not allowed to be exceptional in our purview so the Texas and Denver school boards are attempting to reconcile the difference by making some tweaks to the history books. There will be a lot of bending and tweaking to frame the Bible as the driver behind principles of free will and self government but in the long run it will make us more comfortable to have God and the United States comfortably on the good side rather than our heads exploding over any dichotomies. I look forward to discovering how these issues are resolved.

Similarly, there is too much critical thinking involved in understanding how one can be a patriot and also criticize perceived injustices by our great nation so criticism is to be removed. We can't have our young and easily influenced children hearing anything negative about our country because it will lead to civil disobedience and next thing you know they will be writing a Declaration of Independence and speaking in the tongues of the beast.  

We should take exception to all these bad things being taught in our American history books and I am happy to support efforts to suppress bad thoughts about our good country. I, for one, will be relived to finally open up a history book the justifies my country in all ways, under God. I look forward to hearing about how the Vietnam war was a bad dream, how the trail of tears was really happy tears, and how Martin Luther King lived to the age of 90 and anyone who says otherwise hates America. USA! USA!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

walk this way

Now, this is something that China has gotten right:

Special pedestrian lanes for people using their mobile devices.

Source: Wall Street Journal, China

I especially enjoy the disclaimer to walk in this lane at your own risk.

I have lost count of how many times I have been trapped walking behind a couple of slow moving individuals who are watching movies or playing games. I even ran into one on a jogging path at the Happy Valley Recreation Ground last Saturday. He was not jogging.

If Hong Kong were to adopt such lanes, they should also include couples who hold hands and form impenetrable barriers while stumbling along in the thralls of their young love, and tourists with wheeled luggage. The tourists are a unique hazard because aside from bobbing along slowly in their caravan formations, they are also known to change direction without warning and then become indignant when their designer baggage risks damage from collision with your knee. Their special lane should be combined with the bus only lane.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

lunar letdown


We humans have evolved greatly, but the primordial connection to our environment has not changed much. What child is not fascinated by fire, water, wonders of nature, and the stars at night? As an architect and engineer, I have great enthusiasm for the built wonders of the world: the pyramids of Giza, Brunellschi's dome, the Empire State Building, London Bridge...the list goes on and on. But nothing can compare to the vast wonder of the universe above us, the ocean below us, or the landscape the that rises around us. I had a friend who vehemently stated that she hated nature; show her to Champs Elysee for the spring fashion clearances and she was in heaven. I questioned where her humanity went. We barely talk anymore. What's there to talk about when she shudders at the thought of the world beyond luxuries and I judge her for being materialistic.

SB has barely grown up from the boy that he once was so on a recent trip to Macau, he was delighted when I suggested that we stop by the Exhibition of China’s Lunar Exploration Programme. What is there not to love about machines engineered for extreme conditions and outer space? Well, as it turns out, there is a lot not to love. I've been to Cape Canaveral when the shuttle launch wass imminent and many of the visitor areas were restricted, but could still find plenty of wow to be experienced. I've been to Johnson Space Center when the lunar rover exhibit was shut down for renovations but the Gemini capsules provided plenty of consolation. I have been disappointed and recovered, but I have never been bored like I was at this exhibit.

In comparison to the materials that have been invented since the first moon missions when everything was hand sewn or welded and riveted, I am aware that our generation has come to expect a level of precision that wasn't achievable back then. I recall staring in shock at that humans actually volunteered to be placed in some of those early Gemini capsules and rocketed into space. However, there ain't no damn way that the Chinese lunar modules really looked like that, is there?

SB: less than impressed

I can only surmise that the person doing the reproductions of the Chinese lunar vehicles was given a very low budget...and spent half of it on liquor. Some of those explorer reproductions looked like they were fashioned out of baking foil and bicycle parts. I could have forgiven the shoddy craftsmanship at least a little bit if not for the utter lack of imagination of the exhibit. The exhibit went in chronological order, and read like an itemized checklist: once upon a time there was a moon and then we used an interferometer spectrometer imager and CCD stereo camera to take pictures of it, and then we used this lunar probe to go probing, and then zzzzzzzzz.

This stylized calligraphy poster was probably the highlight of the exhibit.

Since China landed on the moon in 2013, I have been waiting for a press release showing the updated map of China's strangely bloated territorial borders. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

very idiotic position

Having been nominated, unbeknownst to myself, for a chairman’s position in one of my industry related clubs, and voted in by a gaggle of gleeful committee members (after all, this will look good on my CV), I attended my first meeting in the larger organization. The meeting began on a Monday night at 6:30, which I had to send apologies for missing the beginning of since I had a meeting that would not end for another hour. By the time I was able to arrive, most of the important business had been covered and the rest of the scheduled meeting went on for an hour more. Then we got to the part of AOB and it all fell apart. The majority of chairmen from the other organizations felt the need to say something, or in a lot of cases, lots of somethings. Two more hours went by as issues were brought up, noted for future resolution, and then brought up again by another chairman. I was reminded of the story regarding blind men feeling up an elephant. In the end, I went home hungry and feeling vaguely violated.

I was assured by the previous chairman of our club that this meeting was probably abnormal, being the first of the season. So, you didn’t have this experience, I asked. *insert the sound of crickets chirping*

At meeting two, we were informed that various bodies representing various bodies wanted to make presentations to us as part of our going forward plans. I looked around and counted six unfamiliar faces. Six! Sure enough, each man had something important to say, illustrated by his PowerPoint, or in two cases, multiple PowerPoint presentations. Two and a half hours ticked by. At some point I felt a silent scream building. It became an audible moan when my foot tapping caused my toes to go numb, followed by the pain of tiny, stabbing pin pricks when feeling returned to them. My forward leaning posture as I attempted to regain feeling in my feet caused my butt to fall asleep next. At some point my folding chair started to resemble an iron maiden and it was all I could do to not writhe and flop like a dying fish. Not that anyone would have noticed, as most of the chairmen were sporting glazed, unseeing eyes. The man next to me seemed to be focused on the light fixture above our heads as though it would give divine inspiration. Or at least advice on how to end the torture.

Finally, the last important body had finished his illustrated speech and it was time to…get down to the meeting. Whaaaaat?! There was more?! And that, my friends, is where the story ends. Because I faked a Very Important phone call and ran off into the night. And the only thing that I’m ashamed of is that it took me so long to think up my escape plan.

Is it too early to resign my position?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

drizzle and fizzle

Last night and this morning's T8 was one of the sorriest storm warnings in memory, not that I am complaining. I was appreciative of my four hour reprieve from the office. I enjoyed answering emails from home with a pup licking my feet while the other was trying to help me type despite knowing that she isn't allowed on the sofa. SB is so mean; even his sister, the dog whisperer, lets her dog onto furniture but at our household I have to crawl onto the floor to get my cuddles. It's not like we're sitting on an original Chippendale, we own a simple Muji design in forgiving and sturdy wool. Anyway, it's a losing battle since the pups stage multiple invasion attempts over the course of a day.

We went for a walk last night when the T8 was hoisted and it was like a ghost town in the valley. The wind was the only thing moving out there. Around the racecourse I could see that the Jockey Club had attempted to batten down the hatches by tying plywood around siding and other finish work that risked being banged up if a tree branch hit. Whoever did the tie down job clearly failed the scout knot tying course and instead of creating a barrier, had created a series of soon to be flying missiles. Sure enough, on our morning walk we stepped over shards of plywood boards that were strewn all over the entrance area and as far as 150 meters away. By 10:00 am there was a disposal crew collecting the evidence.

On our way home I noticed pieces of a Valley rugby kit lying about on the street. From the size of it and the location near a certain second floor balcony, I surmised that B was missing the laundry that he had hung out. I wasn't in a hurry to touch it since I didn't know if it was hung clean or simply left out after training to dry so I didn't object when Elsie sniffed at the shorts and picked them up. I let her drag part of the sopping clothing back inside our building. I had to carry the jersey and socks since Tippy rejected my entreaty for her to help out. Ingrate.

truth

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”
 - Neil deGrasse Tyson

Thursday, September 11, 2014

beautiful people, skin deep

SB and I were invited to a friend's charity night party at a club in LKF. The theme was white (clothing, not people). When we arrived at the unfashionably early time of 10pm, the club was already packed due to the all you can drink for three hours limit. It's a good business model because the club can gain patronage for the earlier portion of the evening and then open its doors for regular business after midnight when most of the LKF patrons start migrating from cocktail lounges to dance clubs. As for the music, the DJ started out with a fantastic set that very quickly became mediocre. It was a disappointment.

The white party attendees were stunning, at least the female population. 80% of the women were wearing one of two outfits: lace micro-dresses with sky high heels or tiny, tiny shorts with sky high heels. The men in white called to mind fleet week. "Hey, sailors!" I called at the group who had elbowed me out of the way to the bar. Yeah, beautifully dresses people aren't necessary beautiful on the inside, even while drinking for charity.

In fact, at one point in the evening I felt myself being pushed as I made my was through the crowd to the dance floor. I turned around but the gorgeous blonde woman in a pair of white shorts and beaded top didn't seem to notice me so I attributed the push to be accidental. Then a few steps later, I felt it again. And again but this time hard enough for me to stumble in my own sky high heels. I whipped around to find the same blonde woman behind me and still averting her gaze. "Excuse me," I said loudly, "why are you shoving me?" She then looked at me as though she had just noticed that I was there in front of her and said, "Oh," Then she fell back and I was able to continue moving without her hands on my back. Later I pointed her out to SB as we watched her shove a tiny, Chinese woman on her way to the bar.

I hardly ever went to LKF and Wyndham Street anymore; as much as I used to enjoy frequenting beautifully designed bars and partaking in exotic cocktails, I grew to despise the clientele of bitchy, skinny women (I have a theory that their attitude is fueled by hunger pangs) or posturing, vain men. Case in point, I was chatting with a friend when a fellow banker colleague of his interrupted, stepping literally in between us before putting his arm around my friend and trying to walk him away while telling him that he wanted to introduce him to someone. My friend, a master of diplomacy, managed to politely disengage with the colleague and I managed to paste a pleasant smile on my face and hide what I really thought of Mr. Important Banker. My efforts were wasted because Mr. Important Banker didn't appear to notice my presence while standing directly between me and my friend. Despite his lack of stature, he managed to look over me when facing my direction.

Later in the evening SB and I dealt with a situation when a woman tried to climb up on the stage and fell. She sustained a very deep, nasty cut on her leg. No one else moved to assist her, not even the jerk men who had just a minute previously been dancing with her. The two of us escorted her and her wobbly friend to the door and made the friend promise to go straight to the hospital because the woman needed stitches. The woman kept dabbing at the huge cut with a tiny napkin and staring blankly at us. I eventually got her to stop fixating on the cut and she told me in a shaky voice that she was a model. "It's going to be okay," I assured her even though I had no idea what a scar would do to her career,"but you should go straight to the hospital so that they can close the wound as soon as possible." She finally seemed to comprehend what I was telling her and they left in a taxi.

One thing I will concede is that these (pretending to be) fabulous people raised a lot of money for charity. Every few minutes, a waitress was seen carrying a bottle of champagne with a lit sparkler in it to call attention to the big spender who had ordered it. Similarly, special trays of shots were leaving the bar as quickly as the bartender could pour them. In the end, the event was a massive success for the charity and SB and I enjoyed catching up with our friends surrounded by a sea of white lace and champagne bottle sparklers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

believe it

My first email of the morning after the Autumn Moon holiday was a missive to the new drainage engineer, named...Turkey.

"Snarf, cough cough," I said into my coffee mug.

I can only hope that this company next hires a Chicken to complement her, similar to the duo of building services engineers at another company named Dreammi and Liaison. 

By the way, did anyone see this magnificent harvest moon? SB and I saw it on Sunday night in its almost complete glory but our location at a low lying beach for Monday night meant that we mostly saw clouds. I guess it's another 17 years before we get another chance.

The Washington Post has published some lovely images here:
Grand finale: 2014′s third supermoon – the Harvest Moon – shines

Monday, September 8, 2014

another day

Last Monday SB's friend was morose. She had dressed up her brand new, shiny baby in a matching Green Bay Packers themed clothing only to be confronted with an ignominious defeat. SB gave her his sagest advice: do what he did and convince yourself that it never happened. In fact, SB is still annoyed that they canceled the Superbowl and the Denver Broncos never got to play. And I am annoyed that I only thought that SB cancelled my birthday, dinner, gifts and all, because of a crushing defeat that put him in a foul mood for almost a week. Or maybe that didn't happen at all, either and I am still a year younger.

What sage advice indeed, responded his friend. Her next social media post was to state how excited she was that football season was about to begin in another week.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

ignorance

When we were kids, my older sister got bullied by some preppy boys whose fathers were big fish in the swampy Florida town where we were living at the time. She was very firmly a nerd, being quiet and studious as well as being dressed in hand me downs that were very fashionable when my cousin had worn them ten years previously. She would come home from school crying and my mother would tell her to just ignore the bullies and they would go away. When I pointed out that wearing a brown dress with ruffles wasn't helping the situation, my mother took her own advice and ignored me. That problem did go away somewhat in the form of my aunt buying us fluorescent pink and black outfits that were the height of fashion in the late eighties. So one day a week, we would be cool and the other four days we struggled. I didn't struggle quite so much because I was a better athlete than all of the girls, with the exception of the competitive gymnast, as well as most of the boys, with the exception of those who were starting to go through puberty. I had occasional snide remarks about my 'Little House on the Prairie' ensemble but nothing like the shoving and taunts that my sister experienced. Then one day I punched one of the preppy boys and that quickly ended all forms of bullying.

When I hear people give advise to ignore troublemakers I can barely contain the urge to roll my eyes. I want to ask them, how did it work out for you when you ignored your other problems? Years ago my company HR told me to ignore a colleague who I reported for harassing me. When he noticed that I wasn't responding, he upped the behavior to daily lewd comments until one day he groped me while pretending to walk by...and I punched him. Do you see a pattern here? After that, another colleague who had been comfortable ignoring what was going one finally was spurred to take the a$$hole aside and warn him to leave me alone. Now that I have a respectable career, I obviously cannot solve my problems in the manner that I used to. Something about maturity, professionalism, blah blah don't punch people in the nose. Of course I also have managed to avoid these unseemly situations, which comes with maturity. The lessons I have learned are to be confidant and strong so that others are not inclined to take advantage of you, but if there is a situation, resolve it head on. Damsel in distress is another term for wimp and that's no way to go through life.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

barking at the moon

On Monday night, SB and I will make our annual pilgrimage to the beach with my little, fish lantern to celebrate the mid autumn festival by lighting fires and moon gazing. This is probably the final year for the fish lantern, having barely made it through the drunken Frenchman flattening of 2010 and then the cellophane on fire incident of 2012. Maybe next year I will pick up one of those cute, highly flammable, pink, paper bunnies for a change. I have only used fish lanterns since my first one in 1988.

I wanted to take the pups since I have become one of those people who wants to drag their pets everywhere: on dinner dates, to sporting events, weddings, circumcisions, etc. Then I calculated the risks of two inquisitive mongrels + lanterns + open barbecue pits with delicious meat. Tippytoes and Elsie will have to celebrate with a early morning hike instead. The full moon is scheduled to be at peak phase at 9:38am on the 9th, anyway, so they won't be missing out.

Back in 2009 I bought a little moon cake mold with grand plans to churn out little gifts for all of my friends. Then I remembered that I had to work on Saturdays and that was the end of that. Five years later I am happier and with a more stable schedule so I am ready to try again. Not being one to start small, I have planned an triumph of snowy mooncakes in three flavor combinations: pandan skin with coconut mung bean and an inner layer of kaya, almond skin with Advocaat cheesecake and an inner layer of marzipan, and a more traditional white lotus paste with golden lotus in the shape of an egg yolk in the center. I actually like the egg yolk in the moon cake but I may be the only person on earth who does so I will forgo them. I predict that I will be reporting back on Sunday with either a grand success or a sticky mess. The canine cleanup crew will be standing by.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

reading between the lines

One would think that graphic communications would, as the name suggests, communicate ideas graphically. Am I too much of a dumbo to understand the below image, put forth by the rugby union, on page one of their strategic plan, and aptly titled "Our Vision"? This does not bode well for my ability to comprehend the rest of the strategic plan.


So my thoughts...I may be mistaken but I believe that the Championship league is also known as the Community League. On level two we have officials, colts, minis, schools and women. There appears to be some sort of mysterious correlation to level one of 7s, U20s, U18s and U16s though I have yet to figure it out. Perhaps the 7s players are going to be further developed into match officials while U16s, being still young, will be castrated and used to feed into the women's league. That is a rather lofty five year plan.

Monday, September 1, 2014

still searching for intelligent life

I subscribed to the Discovery Channel package due to my fond memories of programmes such as bridge engineering marvels or space exploration. Imagine my joy to discover that they have kept up their standards with such scintillating shows as 'idiots trying to vacuum gold out of the Bering Sea', 'celebrations of people reproducing like rabbits', or my favorite, 'psychic cats dictating whether you should abandon your home to a ghost'. When I shared by delight with my online friends and acquaintances, I was greeted with a barrage of #DiscoveryChannelIsShit instances. One friend informed me that sadly, I would never have the opportunity to catch their gun fantasy show since the host had recently been arrested for raping an 11 year old.

Don't be so quick to judge, said another friend, as I had not yet viewed 'Amish Mafia,' which I am assured is a brilliant, in depth yet culturally sensitive window into the social practices of the traditional Anabaptist community. 

Even if you find that multiple children bearing family to be objectionable, there are three other, similar themed shows that may offer up your desired level of fecundity and philosophy. After all, a reality show is a documentary of sort, isn't it? 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

the police

My first interaction with a police officer happened during my first year living in the United States when our class was visited by the D.A.R.E. program. While I always remembered their slogan, D.A.R.E. to keep kids off drugs, I never actually thought about what D.A.R.E. stood for (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). I also don't recall learning anything about drug resistance but even at the tender age of ten I was a cynic and repeating catchy phrases didn't sway me to believe. What I do remember is that the officer was young and friendly, and his props were a police horse (who had a racing tattoo on its inner cheek) and a tricked out corvette that had been confiscated during a drug raid.

Unfortunately that was the last time that I had a friendly, personal interaction with the police. It was a decade later that I started working at a bar to pay for school and I became unfortunately involved. My colleague was dating a deputy sheriff and he was a piece of work. He abused her and did so blatantly and with impunity. He came into our bar drunk (and driving) on a regular basis late at night after his shift ended and would grab her and pinch her on the inside of her arms where it hurt the most. She paid for his drinks out of the tip jar which was bullshit because those tips were to be split between the two of us at the end of the night but I never complained to her because I felt sorry for her. I figured that I was making more than enough to cover my tuition and rent while she was a twenty-four year old single mother with a scary boyfriend.

At least once per week he showed up with three or four of his fellow officers. Some were police and some were sheriff's department. Two were very creepy and I was more than happy to stay at the other end of the bar and leave them to J to serve (from our tip jar). The regulars seemed to also sense that they were bad news and tended to crowd my side of the bar on these nights. Only one of the cops was even remotely respectful toward me. He was a very handsome man and very polite but since he was friends with the others I never let my guard down with him. When he asked me about myself I always answered in the vaguest terms; it even worried me that he saw me doing my calculus homework during my dinner break because I was afraid that he could use the information to check my school records and find out where I lived. As it turned out, he only needed to run my license plate (duh) though it was not he who ended up doing so but one of the creepier cops. The creep showed up at my door one night and parked in front of my building, knocking every half hour until the morning while I hid in my closet. I thought that he was going to burst in at any minute because my car was in the parking lot and he had to know that I was home.

The doorman ended up picking me up and driving me to work for a week after that. It caused everyone at work to think that he was cheating on his wife with me but also ensured that the creep didn't come by again. At this point I had become much more jaded with the realities of the world and I was only slightly horrified by just how many of my coworkers didn't seem too bothered by the doorman stepping out on his really sweet wife. In the two years that I worked at the bar I learned a lot. I learned how it feels to be powerless. I learned that sometimes you keep your head down not because you are a coward but because it is the best option to keep yourself and others safe (or at least safer than they would be otherwise). I saw men who were protected by a fraternity of law officers behaving like brazen criminals.

One night after work I saw J being dragged into her boyfriend's car and against all of the common sense screaming in my head I followed them home as he drunkenly wove through traffic in his sheriff's car. On her front lawn I tried to get her to leave with me but she was too scared and went inside his home with him. I didn't own a mobile phone so I knocked on her neighbors' doors but no one wanted to help me and be identified as having called the police so I walked back and sat with my back against her door crying while I could hear her screaming inside.

I know there are good cops because I have seen them. I know that there are children who believe in goodness and fairness and grow up wanting to become heroes. Some of them take up the mantle of justice and stay gold but others become horribly tarnished. I wonder if it happens after years of working closely with the worst of society or if these bad cops were never heroes to begin with, and all it took was a gun and some authority to unleash their corrupted selves. I wonder about the D.A.R.E. cop sometimes. I hope that he was truly a nice guy through and through and not like the handsome cop at the bar who sat by and watched his friend mistreat his girlfriend.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

return of the caveman

SB arrived with a full beard and smelling like someone who had been traveling for almost exactly 24 hours. In typical SB fashion, he left his shoes in the middle of the floor at the entry and proceeded to make a grand mess unloading his gear without actually putting anything away. Then he greeted the very eager Tippy (she was so eager that she left me a half dollar sized spot of piddle to clean up) and a shocked Elsie, who kept staring at his bushy beard while wagging frantically. Eventually he greeted me. We had dinner and he mumbled a few incoherent statements. Then I remembered that he is a firm believer of not sleeping at all on a plane as a way to acclimate faster to time zone differences. I do not ascribe to this logic so I hadn't remembered just what a blathering nincompoop one can be after sleep deprivation. So after dinner I had him shower and put him to bed.

This morning he gave me some lovely presents that only a weirdo like me can truly appreciate. He found the Moleskine notebook with dot grids and not line grids that I haven't been able to find for almost eight years. I also got a fossil necklace that I will probably never wear but I will admire it lovingly in my jewelry box as only someone who loves fossils and rocks can do. I also got a giant coffee mug with the Colorado flag lest I forget which is the best state in the United States. I was in such a good mood that I didn't kill him for also bringing home a large portion of the Utah desert floor in his bags.

He managed to stay healthy during a month of long hikes and roughing it one the desert floor, on the Rocky mountain tops, and throughout the Adirondacks; but within his first 24 hours in Hong Kong he has managed to sprain his foot rather badly. So now instead of having a respite, I am tasked with continuing to care for the pups all by myself, which is not a very hard feat, along with taking care of my big, grouchy cave man. At least combating jet lag isn't really a problem when you're on bed rest for a couple of days.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

sweetness

SB is coming home tonight. I am overjoyed. He has been gone for a month before but it never has hit me - this missing him stuff - like this time. I wonder if it is because of the pups; I have been sharing daily antics with him and wishing that he was here to observe Elsie's ridiculousness or Tippy's desperation. Every morning I scramble to force Tippy to eat her breakfast when she would rather get cuddled, while also trying to keep the ever food motivated Elsie from sneaking in to finish Tippy's meal. Elsie's latest plot is to crouch her upper body while her behind is straight up in the air and slink forward while stretching her neck like a giraffe towards Tippy's bowl. And this somehow makes me think about missing SB.

He complained that he wasn't able to find a french dip sandwich in his journeys so I am going to make them for dinner. I have never made a french dip sandwich, unless you count my one attempt when I didn't know what a french dip was. You think that I would have looked it up on Google but instead I made it up by pan frying a couple average looking sirloins and then making a runny au jus gravy with the drippings. It was nice, but it was a steak sandwich, not a french dip.

This time I looked it up and plan to put my new pressure cooker to use as I don't have time for a slow cooker recipe, nor do I own a slow cooker. There is a 2lb hunk of rump roast in my office refrigerator (sitting next to a suspicious Tupperware that has been there for weeks) which I will take home tonight and toss into the aforementioned pressure cooker along with a can of french onion soup (what, did you think I was going to make it from scratch?), beef stock (that will be homemade), a bottle of whatever beer is lying around, and some garlic. In the meantime I will caramelize some bell peppers and onions and assemble them all on a baguette with maybe some cheese (I am undecided if this is correct). I hope that this will cause SB to love me forever more, as he already loves me forever due to my enchiladas verdes. I would have made the enchiladas but they require quite a bit of prep time and are reserved for the weekend.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

some things

SB is now at the Colorado portion of his summer trip. He finished up New York City leg, then spent a couple of weeks in the Adirondacks growing a beard, then camping in Utah and growing more beard, and now he is passing through Boulder and Denver. He thinks of himself as from Colorado though his residency ended earlier than preferred when his parents divorced and he ended up in boarding school.

He was thrilled to be back. He stayed with the family that lived next door to him, whose daughter is still one of his best friends, as well as caught up with fellow classmates from Colorado Academy who he hadn't seen since the summer after eighth grade. They probably are wondering what he does for a living with a shaggy beard and deep tan. SB told me how some of his favorite friends are still the same, wonderful  people that they were when he was fourteen. If you knew how sentimental and adverse to change he is, this was the highest compliment.

He was thrilled that the same favorite restaurants still remained 20 years later. He was delighted that he could still hike the high peaks. He went into rapture over the REI flagship store in Denver though I'm pretty sure that it has changed.

Another change since his youth is that Colorado has mostly legalized marijuana use. This may have explained the man standing next to SB at the sandwich shop who stared at the roast chicken for five minutes while squinting and chuckling to himself. Not that SB behaved any better, I am sure. The way he was ranting about this delightful gastronomic adventure throughout the restaurants in Denver, coupled with is obscene metabolism, would cause more than a few raised eyebrows from anyone overhearing our romantic phone conversation regarding french dips, prime rib and chimichangas.

Some things stay the same and others...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

water dogs

I thought long and hard about getting the pups saddle bags but ultimately decided against it because of worries that they would get caught in underbrush. Don't tell Tippy and Elsie that I said this but they are not so big. They have great fun wriggling into small spaces on our walks and I would prefer not to wriggle after them to retrieve some hung up saddle bags.

And so this is how yet again I gasped and grunted behind the frolicking pair as we hiked seven kilometers to Stanley.  Once at the beach I rented a paddle board and threw the unsuspecting pair on board. Both were nervous but then Tippy started enjoying  herself, plonking down on the back of the board. Elsie was her usual more reserved self and while she seemed to like looking around, she wouldn't sit down and leaned on me. This led to our one wipe out as I was turning and she learned hard into one leg. Oh the indognity! She was not pleased. We continued on without any mishaps and then spent the rest of the afternoon digging holes and racing up and down the beach. Next week I would like to take them kayaking.

Friday, August 15, 2014

little things

It's the little things that count although often they are not added up when measuring values. In this case I am talking about little things that happen around my office when workers 'buy in.' When you feel like you are an actual participant, and that you count as a team member, little things are done differently. I was marveling over this deep thought as I was refilling the printer tray this morning. 

It occurred to me that this was my first time refilling the printer tray, which then reminded me that at the other job I seemed to constantly be refilling the tray, and not because there was more printing being done at the other company. My current company is twice the size of the old company, and the old company had that space alien of a printer, the likes of which I have never seen before or after. The difference is that I currently work with colleagues who feel invested in and in turn are investing in the company. 

At the old firm I often saw colleagues who, upon finding that the printer was out of paper, would return to their desks and send the prints to other printers. They weren't interested in taking a minute of time to open up a new package of paper and refill the tray. At the end of the day, hundreds of prints would lay discarded in print area because duplicates had already been sent and collected. Notices admonishing staff for paper waste were duly noted and ignored. This is what happens when you work for a company whose HR policy involves sending out office wide spreadsheets documenting your efficiency versus your colleagues, based only on number of hours on your time card. This is what happens when your company which hired you in a recession won't raise your salary to market value.  At the end of the day, when your toilet use has been compiled and you have sent that acknowledgement form regarding waling into the office five minutes late (even if you did work five hours OT the night before) you just don't have the heart to want to do anything more than what you need to do, if that.

I was such an idiot to stay. What idiotic, misplaced loyalty. My boss never looked out for my growth and my colleagues were only helpful when informing me of all the unwritten office don'ts: don't ask for overtime compensation even though it's covered in the company handbook, don't leave the office before the boss, and don't do anything without permission, even if it's running downstairs to buy paracetamol. 

So yes, I was standing by the printer today, experiencing an epiphany that this is what it feels like to work with colleagues who give a damn. It means that most of them will pitch in to keep things running smoothly. It means that when HR solicits advice, a lot of people answer (which is how we ended up on the 100+ person boat trip excruciating excursion). It means that I don't experience fear in asking my boss for help. It means that I actually have conversations with people sitting around me and care about them as colleagues and even friends. It's the little things that count.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

rain, rain, go away

It's been a dreary couple of days, hasn't it? Despite downloading the MyObservatory app last year for this express purpose, I somehow managed to overlook the weather warnings and notifications on my phone, to my peril. Yesterday was not the day to wear a white dress. I was at least thankful that I had worn solid colored underwear and a slip underneath, rather than the pair with a happy face sticking its tongue out image stretched across my ass.

My umbrella proved only useful in protecting the top of my head since the rain was blowing sideways as I walked to the bus stop. I had only to glance at the queue doubling back on itself to decide that I was not going to be riding a taxi home.  Of course one minute into my walk to the bus stop had me second guessing myself as my shoes filled up with water and my dress was losing its properties of opacity by the second.

I'm pretty sure that the guy standing across from me on the bus was taking snapshots of me. If I end up on one of those 'artistic photography' websites, I will not be pleased at all.

Friday, August 8, 2014

the turtle and the hair

My newest friends comprise a group of athletes of varying skill level who have dogs, or like to spend time with dogs. We have done a few hikes together and I have discovered that our fitness levels balance out because the ultra runner's dog is her weak link while I am my pack's weak link. A few weeks ago I could see that she was barely able to contain her urge to take off running but her large dog was not the least bit interested in picking up his meandering pace. Thank goodness.

This weekend we are all setting out for Stanley, but at varying times and speeds. She will begin her gazelle-like pace at Quarry Bay at 7am, whereby she will take the most circuitous route to the beach. Her boyfriend will jog a more direct route at a more leisurely pace with their dog for as far as the dog feels like going and then take a taxi the rest of the way. I will depart from Parkview with my two pups at 8am and anticipate a slow trudge over the Twins while wheezing like a dying water buffalo. As usual, my dogs will scamper ahead of me while frequently running back to check on me and make sure that I haven't collapsed before giving them treats and water.

The last group will skip the hike and taxi to Stanley due to owner injuries (you would be amazed at the number of Crossfit casualties) or because their dogs are of the toy class with delicate paws and long coats. We will all meet up for the most frivolous of activities: ice cream with the canines. SB has never allowed me to take the dogs for ice cream but he's away so the pups will play.

Hopefully the pups will also swim.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

walk it off

I knew that it was going to be a long day when my first email of the morning contained a request that was so breathtakingly idiotic that I needed a minute. Actually, I needed more than a few minutes. I had to rewrite my response several times and then take a walk from my desk to think it over before I sent back an unforgivably rude response. My first response was scathing on purpose, but when I tried to rewrite it in more neutral terms, I struggled to find the words that would avoid saying what I really thought.

For the most part, I am blessed with enlightened clients. Even the ones that don't believe in cultivating a mutually helpful and beneficial relationship are at least reasonable in their behavior. This one client, however, is stubborn as a mule and possibly shares a similar I.Q.. How does one explain gravity to such a person without sounding scornful or patronizing? Seriously, the request sent by her would only be thought feasible if one was not familiar with the law of gravity. I believe we were officially introduced to Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation in seventh grade, though we were probably aware of it previous to the science class introduction. Well, most of us were aware of gravity but apparently not all.

And so I still struggle with how to formulate a response that explains why water will not be flowing uphill without coming off as disbelieving of her intelligence when in fact I am.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

adult behavior

If reading a breaking news bulletin about a nine year old being stabbed to death by a twelve year old at a playground wasn't depressing enough, the last sentence stated that police were waiting for the medical examiner's findings to determine if the twelve year old should be charged as an adult. 

What is the point of having an age of consent (15, 16 or 17 in most US states) or an age when you are determined to be a legal adult (18 or 21) if you are going to turn around and charge a twelve year old as an adult if the crime is notorious or outrageous enough? I feel very sad for the whole situation and would recommend charging some adults with child neglect or endangerment if the twelve year old turns out to be another sad case of a kid who was never allowed to be a kid, but anyone who claims that a twelve year old is capable of being independent, self sufficient, and responsible is an idiot. Has the prosecutor spent any time with twelve year olds? 

SB's best friend has a daughter who is a genius. When she was five, SB walked into a room and thought that he was hearing music playing from a CD but it was the daughter at the piano. When she was seven she was separated from her family on a hike and deduced the most likely place that her father would look for her and waited for him there. Her parents struggle with wanting her to have a 'normal' life while allowing her to pursue her many gifts without feeling pressured. She is more logical and rational than any of her friends but when you talk to her, you know that she is a child. She prefers the company of fellow children. She is a brilliant and somewhat discomfiting young girl, but a girl nonetheless. She has a rules and guidance that she needs. She requires comfort and nurturing like any child her age because she has yet to develop psychologically into adulthood. Maybe she will get there sooner than her peers, but at the age of twelve, she is clearly not an adult.

Monday, August 4, 2014

tails and trails


Hello and happy August! I’m celebrating because July was hotter than heck and I am very much looking forward to someday not hiking in 32 degree weather while carrying four kilos of water, of which the dogs drink three liters while I try to make do with one since I don’t want to carry any more weight. I’m already carrying a large pack with leashes, snacks (for them, not for me), waste bags (filled because those brats like to poop on the new trail five minutes into the hike), towel (because they slobber all over the taxi on the way home), and a change of clothing (because no taxi driver in his right mind will let me into the taxi when I am soaked through with sweat).

We have expanded our hikes from a leisurely 5k when they were still getting into shape, to include hills, streams and longer distances. Our favorite hike is from the Parkview over Violet Hill and then dodging the twins to do the Tai Tam catch water where they inspect the streams and impressive array of spider webs before entering the reservoir. The we head back along the reservoir road to where we started, making sure to land in all of the mud puddles so that I have to wipe them down with my sweaty clothing and hope that the taxi driver doesn't take too close of a look at the miscreants. This weekend we did a longer hike because they seemed to have an excess of energy, which doesn't bode well if there isn't a good outlet. If they are bored they start to grump at each other and fight over toys and prime window sunbathing spots. I extended our walk to a leisurely 7k along Tsz Lo Lan Shan Path to Tai Tam Country Park. We had lovely views over Deep Water and Repulse Bays along with the reservoir. We were low on water near the end of the hike but made it out okay. 

Hello, can you see me?

Sunday was supposed to be an easy day but our usual morning walk was cancelled due to thunderstorms and then I abandoned trying to walk 2k at noon because the temperature was too much. Since they were only going to get one walk for the day I thought, why not another hike? I was only slightly fatigued from the nice adventure on the day before so I packed up our stuff, this time with even more water, and set out to do Wilson Trail Stage 2/Hong Kong Trail Stage 5 and then Tai Tam Reservoir Road. When I say that I struggled to climb Jardine’s Lookout, I am not exaggerating. I was bent over with a very heavy bag filled with water bottles, wheezing with each step while the dogs were happily scampering about. They kept coming back to check on me, pausing just long enough for me to wonder if they sensed something about my health that I didn't. 

Of course we don't need water!

At the top of the lookout I desperately tried to unload some of the water but of course they didn't want very much. So we set off for Mt. Butler with my pack barely lightened. I have never, ever, ever felt as pathetic as I did ascending Mt. Butler. If only I had hiking poles because I was about to keel over. I thought about leashing the girls and making them drag me up. When we got to the summit, I spent a good five minutes catching my breath and watching a disgusting amount of sweat fall from my bent over body. At least this time the girls were ready for water. We all gulped down more than half of the water, which was fine because even though there were 4k left in the hike, it was mostly downhill. With my load considerably lighter, I felt much happier and was able to enjoy the view and then prance down the other side to Quarry Bay. We passed several hikers who were glaring at me as they struggled uphill but I was no happy at my good fortune to be going downhill that I didn't care. I didn't even assault the idiot who was making threatening gestures at my dogs as we passed him. If you scroll down, you can get an idea of what my viscous monsters look like and the threat that they pose. 

dog tired

By the time our hike ended, it was just starting to get dark and we used up the last of the water recovering from chasing toads all over the place. As soon as we got home, they both collapsed on the cold tile and remained until dinner. Usually I have to make a few attempts to round them up for bed (Tippy runs around to gather up her favorite chew toys to take along and Elsie rolls over and refuses to budge until she gets her belly rubbed) but this time they trotted into the bedroom and promptly fell asleep. I wasn't far behind.

 Is it bedtime yet?

 Sleepy pup