Wednesday, March 26, 2014

miss popularity

Due to my roles as a rugby player, coach, occasional referee and club administrator I usually can procure four tickets to the sevens. I could probably get more if I pushed it but that would be greedy and there are some players who can't even access one ticket, much less four. I feel that I am entitled to my tickets because of the large number of unpaid hours that I dedicate to the playing community year-round. I usually have decided early on who I will be giving my extra pair of tickets to but that doesn't stop many of my casual acquaintances from suddenly remembering to invite me to dinner and coffee around this time of year. I am very well liked by mid March and the sadly forgotten about by early April.

Sometimes SB and I will sell the pair for face value but often we will simply give the tickets away to someone who we feel is deserving and who probably can't afford the tickets. This makes us feel good about ourselves. We once gave away a pair to someone who sold them for a massive profit and that didn't make us happy at all. We know plenty of people who use their ticket entitlement to make a profit. Even though many are poor students, I still don't think that it is Kosher to do so. I was especially insulted when I found out that a friend in the finance industry won the right to purchase a pair of tickets in the public lottery and turned around and sold them for $5K. She's making twice my salary, for goodness' sake. And worse, she sold the tickets to a friend for that much. Our group of friends came down on her pretty hard for that. Some things should be sacred - like friendship and Sevens.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Shigeru Ban

I'm very pleased that Shigeru Ban won the Pritzger.  I won't go into a rant about winners who didn't deserve the honor or even those who may have deserved it but not as much as him, though a few years ago I had another winner in my sights.

Mr. Ban won my admiration from the first moment that I read about him back in school, when I saw clearly that he was not only a brilliant designer of beautiful space, but a humanitarian. Architects often talk about contributing to the built environment but a lot of times what they mean is that they are designing lovely objects for those that can afford such luxuries.  The recycled paper emergency houses are some of the more beautiful objects that I have seen in recent years. Hats off, Mr. Ban.

Arch Daily has published a few of his known works as well as his most well received humanitarian works.

Nine Bridges Golf Club. Image © Hiroyuki Hirai, via Arch Daily

On a side note, did you know that Shigeru Ban almost went to university to become a rugby player?

cliques and clicks

Since getting two dogs, SB and I have been thrust into a whole new subset of Happy Valley residents. We know the rugby players and the pub regulars, and now we are part of the dog set, or more specifically, the dog park set. You see, there is the set that hangs out at the small park in front of the restaurants and another set that stands near the Circle K but we don't belong to those groups. Their dogs like to sit by their owners as the humans chat but our girls are a bit more active than that. Maybe in ten years we will join the sit and observe groups but for now we run wild and free in the big park up the hill.

I had acquainted myself with quite a few dog owners before getting Tippy and Elsie because I really, really, very badly wanted a dog so a few familiar faces were happy for me when they saw me rock up to the park with my own dogs finally. While it is not considered good form to run up to people with children and gush over how much you love kids, dog people are mostly cool with random strangers approaching their dogs as long as the dogs are social with humans, not on some sort of training exercise and the humans proceed with respect and caution. I've had some shrieking children run up to the furbabies and I've had to intercede and ask the kids to be slow and gentle. I also once gave a child stink eye when I saw him sneaking up to Tippy with a rock held over his head. He quickly ran away. That kid's gonna grow up to be either a criminal or a wildly successful banker.  Or both.

Within the dog park set, there are more subgroups that within the Indian subcontinent. While many of us are multinationals who get along with the global population, there are several very specific groups. You have the pedigree, small dog owners, who stare disdainfully at mongrels and aren't comfortable with bigger dogs playing with their prize lapdogs. There is a Chinese owner of a Husky/Akita clan that occasionally let their dogs mix with the many Goldens that live in the hood but not much else. And there is the Constant Training Crew, which aren't quite a group but solitary individuals united by similar behavior even if they don't interact. They wear fanny packs, carry clickers and various leashes, usually look rather grumpy, and for some reason like to wear all black, commando type gear. Click training is very popular and I have read a lot of good reviews about it but I can't see myself carrying a clicker all the time.

SB and I were made part of the rescue dog group before we knew who they were. When SB picked up Tippy and Elsie, they had a picture taken of them and published on the HKDR blog, unbeknownst to us. When I entered the park for the very first time, I recall being greeted by several friendly individuals and being surprised by the level of friendliness. Like parents who want their kids to play together, dog owners are generally friendly to each other anyway, but the greetings that I received were exceedingly warm. And so I joined their group. Not all of the dogs are Hong Kong mongrels; plenty of pure breeds need rescuing from idiotic or cruel owners. Lot of people get good looking Beagles and then abandon them with complaints about how boisterous and musical they are. Did they not read about Beagles before buying one? And of course there are those people who failed basic science and don't seem to understand that puppies one day become dogs.

Now even within the groups, there are other divisions. Certain dogs are less well behaved than others and are gossiped about. Ralph's owner never picks up after him and Barney has food possessiveness issues. Nobody understands why Dougie's owner won't desex him and his dog tries to pee on or hump all of the other dogs to the point of being a menace without any owner intervention. And did you know that Shadow bit Mikey the other day?  All of this information gets conveyed to me within the first moments of arriving at the park. I can only imagine what they say about my two monsters.  My dogs are absolutely insane about squeaky toys. If you bring a squeaky toy, they will stick to you like glue. I suspect that part of the reason why Tippy follows me so closely is that I have a high pitched voice. They certainly go wild when SB sings to them in falsetto. They are especially fond of Perry Ferrell's voice. Right now, someone is probably conveying the news that Tippy and Elsie and squeaky toy thieves. At least they don't eat other dogs' poop, not that I'm naming names or anything (Mikey).

Monday, March 24, 2014

strange days

For several days into the Flight MH370 disappearance I felt uncomfortable.  With all the talk about spying and surveillance, I couldn't believe that something so large could just disappear. Each day, the mystery deepened and I continued to feel disconcerted.  I read several articles detailing the Boeing 777's crash history and focused on recent groundings of similar planes to the one that disappeared.  Finding out that the plane probably went off course due to a "deliberate" act is strangely more reassuring than thinking an accident happened. Of course I rationally understand that my chances of surviving a terrorist or hijacker are not much different than surviving a mechanical malfunction but I'm still more at ease with the deliberate act idea than I am with disappearing without a trace along its flight path.

These weeks of watching the news and waiting to hear something concrete remind me a bit of the scramble for information when September 11th happened. There is panic and confusion as well as major misinformation and then a long, excruciating wait as the authorities try to sort out fact from fiction. And sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction. I hope that we can find out soon.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


I had dinner last night at a French private kitchen that I had heard a lot about. The food was good but nothing amazing and I have decided not to say the name of the place, not because it wasn't an amazing experience but because I want to hide the fact that I was in the large dinner party, in case anyone was at the venue also. We were invited by a friend of the organizer and at least can say that we didn't know the others, which is more than our friend can claim. SB and I are still flabbergasted that our friend would associate with half of the attendees.

Having worked in the service industry I can assure you that it is not easy to serve large groups.  Cooking that much food so that the dishes arrive on time is a feat and then there are a bunch of people wanting refills all at different times. Two ladies in the group changed their orders well into the first course.  At the same time,  the server was pretty bad. He was inattentive for a place that charges what they do, and he told us a few things that weren't correct. On top of this, when someone complained to the manager, he was a bit strange, calling her 'sweetie' and sighing instead of behaving in a more serious manner.

But nothing the manager or server did was deserving of the disdain and rudeness shown by several members of our group. They complained about the prices, announced to the server that he wasn't getting a tip, and by the time dessert came around, two of the couples were making fun of the food so loudly that I wanted to flee. My instinctual flight response kicked in strongly and it was all I could do not to leave SB alone at the table with another equally mortified couple. Instead, I suffered until the bill arrived and then I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Wealthy, privileged brats and they were arguing over pricing and trying to withhold the mandated 10% service tip. SB and I weren't the only couple to throw money down and run off. It was an awful experience.

That was something that I hated about the US service industry: reliance on tipping for wages. How is it fair that if the food was bad, your avenue for showing displeasure is to punish the server? And let's say that the service was poor. Does that make it ok to not pay the server at all so he/she was essentially working for free? At least in Hong Kong the staff get paid real wages so that a tip is truly a bonus.

And isn't it interesting that the people who can most afford to tip are the ones that don't? Is it lack of awareness or something else?

Friday, March 14, 2014

spring has sprung

Spring must be in the air. I was able to leave my sweatshirt behind when I took the dogs for their morning walk and the smell of flowers surrounded us. The girls had their noses to the ground during much of the walk, sniffing out all the new scents. That is, until they got a whiff of cat. Oh how they love the scent of cat! They have never met a cat though they sometimes see one running away. We have had problems with them running out of the dog park to follow a cat. I wish that people would remember to close the gate when they exit. Wishful thinking.

I wish that someone would lend their cat to me so the dogs can get desensitized. I've asked my cat owning friends but for some reason the answer has been negative or strongly negative.  M & K said something about their cat crapping in their shoes if they let me bring the dogs over.

I have my first dragon boat session this weekend; I am helping out another team while training with mine. The first month is in Sha Tin.  I like paddling so much that I am willing to slog up there on Saturday morning.  SB doesn't like paddling as much so he will remain in bed. I hope that Tippy and Elsie torture him. They try to place their paws on the bed and lean into try to lick us. We force them down but it's really cute seeing their heads popping up at the side of the bed.

I love SB, I love my dogs and I like my job. I feel like running about with my arms spread wide while singing that the hills are alive with the sound of (imaginary) music.

Monday, March 10, 2014


It's such a sinking feeling when you step out of a taxi and realize that your phone is sitting in the back seat just as it pulls away. You borrow your friend's phone and call your phone, only to hear it ring until it goes to voice mail. You do this several more times until the phone stops ringing and goes straight to voice mail, signaling that the cabbie has located the phone and you aren't getting it back.

Then the next time you are in a taxi and see the row of phones lining the dash you can't help but be suspicious.  It's like a trophy case beeping and blinking at you.  You imagine your phone on someone else's dashboard and wonder if that guy even felt a small twinge of guilt as he was turning your phone off. You suspect that you know the answer to that.

My colleague took a taxi from island side to Kowloon and left his very expensive work phone in the back seat. When he attempted to call it, the phone went straight to voice mail. Then ten minutes later his phone called back. The cabbie had been in the tunnel and heard a beep when he emerged. He drove all the way back to return the phone and only wanted the fare in exchange.  He finally agreed to half of the reward he was being offered, though it took some convincing. And just like that my faith in the world was restored. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

change is in the air

Today, for the first time in my five years in Hong Kong, I will not be participating in the rugby grand championship finals.  I will enjoy some of the day at King's Park as a spectator, cheering on our club's three other tems who made it into the final. I will probably not spend the entire day there since I'm not ready to leave Tippy and Elsie alone for too long. This change in my priorities and interests is probably going to seal my fate as far as future playing plans.

While the weather hasn't improved, I can feel the changeover in seasons by changes in my calendar.  Lacrosse season has begun and dragonboat season is about to commence. It doesn't feel like I should be hopping into the water soon but spring in Hong Kong is a brief affair and summer is around the corner. It seems that we may miss spring entirely with how the rain and cold are continuing.  This is usually prime hiking weather but I confess that I have been less than inspired to slog out into the hills with such poor visibility.  If it weren't for the dogs I would be still in bed but we need to get our run around time in before I leave for rugby. Is anyone else experiencing a change in plans due to the weather?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

infernal affairs

While I understand that coordination meetings are sometimes crucial, especially on massive, joint venture projects, I have never wasted more time than at a regular weekly internal meeting that I am forced to attend. There isn't much of anything left to coordinate but the project coordinator insists on us dancing attendance while she reads from her meeting minutes and notes that her notes were previously noted.

The structural engineer, who is a colleague of the project coordinator, called me up to let me know that he was planning on being sick for our Tuesday meeting, so if I had anything to discuss with him I should email it to him. I wonder if it's too soon to lay the groundwork for my own absence with regrets.

Monday, March 3, 2014

just like in the movies

SB got the rings and 'officially' proposed on Saturday. It's not like we didn't agree to get married years ago but it was still nice to get a proposal.  He has been learning the guitar for almost a year so he played the wedding march except I thought he was playing the end of Baa Baa Black Sheep. In my defense it was at a tempo that would be having me jogging down the aisle.  At some point I figured it all out and then noticed that I was still standing there in my smelly lacrosse gear. Well, it's not like he waited for my answer anyway before chucking my rings at me.

This whole time SB had believed that his grandmother had given each grandson one of a pair of earrings but in fact it was an infinity ring with two diamonds. I had assumed a certain size due to my belief that this was a diamond from an earring so I may have exclaimed something like, "holy crap!" when I saw it.

Then I covered him in kisses and cooling sweat. It was perfect.

This morning when my colleague made the mistake of asking me how my weekend was, I cornered him by the copiers and talked about my amazing dogs. They are so precious. I love cuddling them in the morning before I have to get ready for work. It's so nice that everyone agrres with me about my perfect, little furbabies.