Tuesday, April 29, 2014

HSBC again!

I can't believe this! I got another call from the same HSBC telemarketer number that was so rude yesterday. I decided to leave the guy on the line but he was able to hang up like the last rude woman. I have sent another complaint to HSBC. It boggles my mind that they would think it a good idea to take their customer information and use it to harass me with junk phone calls in the middle of my work day.

lost in transactions

A few weeks ago I applied for the Plus ATM card from HSBC so now I have two ATM cards for the account: one Plus affiliated card and one Union Pay affiliated card. When I picked up the Plus ATM card I told the bank representative that I was going to be in the US for a few weeks and wanted to make sure that my ATM and credit cards were all in good order. Last time I was in the US all of my purchases on the credit card were declined until someone from HSBC called up to verify the purchases. While this was okay for purchases from the local camping supply store, this did not work in the grocery store while the queue behind me grew longer and longer. And don't even ask about the roaming charges! Meanwhile, my ATM card was god for scraping bugs off the windshield.

Yes, the nice man told me, everything was set up to work in the US. With that, I happily skipped away, secure that I would not be panhandling on the streets of San Francisco for train fare. Then I remembered that Pollyanna I am not and my true cynical self came out. I ran a test on a trip to China and discovered that my ATM cards both indeed worked...as long as my transaction was under $0.00. So I went back to my local branch and changed all of the limits on the cards. I realized that I was guilty of being unclear. I had asked if my cards would work overseas, assuming that my question inferred that I was going to want to withdraw money. But there must be people who take their ATM cards abroad just to see that they work, who don't actually need to use them for obtaining cash. I'm so glad that I know that now. 

I now will spend the next 48 hours before my flight worrying about what other caveats I have missed.

Monday, April 28, 2014

why wai?

Below is the message, personal information redacted, that I sent to HSBC moments ago. I'll let you know if I hear anything back. I hope that because I complained to them online, that they would feel obligated to respond as I have record of the complaint. I've still got residual steam blowing out of my ears from the experience.

Enquiry Reason: I would like to provide feedback
Feedback reason: Make a complaint

Feedback message: I received a call from (852) 3526 5039 today (28 April) at2:37pm. When I answered the phone, a woman began speaking in Cantonese. I told her that I could not understand and she interrupted me and began speaking quickly and more loudly in Cantonese. I tried to tell her that I was sorry but could she speak English. She again interrupted my request and started repeating the same Cantonese, and then when I tried to speak again, she would not let me talk and was practically yelling in very fast Cantonese so that she drowned me out. Then when she finished whatever it is that she was saying, I asked to speak to her manager. She said "Wai, wai WAI!!!!!" and then hung up on me. I redialed the number and was shocked to discover that the call was from HSBC. This is extremely rude and unacceptable behavior. I believe that this person who called knew that I didn't understand her and ignored me. This call interrupted my work day and left me feeling very angry at HSBC. This is poor customer service and I request to be contacted regarding why this happened to me and find out what steps you are taking to resolve this issue.

Friday, April 25, 2014


One of the most common conversations that I have come across with the various sports that I play deals with nutrition and fitness. I would imagine that since the beginning of mankind, those with strength and agility were at the top of the food chain. Even the ancient Greeks lauded athletes and warriors as much as philosophers and poets. The Iliad is all about mighty and strong mortals and gods. In my rugby group, the conversations revolve around weight lifting and which body building shakes are the best. In the lacrosse group, one of the players has taken the others deep into the rabbit hole of 'carb backloading'. In SB's ice hockey group, it's all about creatine, recovery techniques and agility tests. In my paddling group...well, we like to talk about beer 'cause that's the type of athletes we are.

I went down the rabbit hole also, trying to find out what the latest exercise and nutrition recommendations were. The most important lesson I learned is that you can find all sort of proof for any claim that you want to make. There is proof out there that one can survive on air alone. Silly Ethiopians. There is an abundance of proof for both sides of the Inuit diet is/isn't ketogenic other than an actual clinical trial or even observational data regarding eating habits and health profiles of these northern people. But the lack of any Eskimo involvement hasn't stopped the experts from weighing in.

As of this month the trend has swung from "athletes perform at optimum with the Atkins diet" to "binge eat carbs twice per week, but only at night to hack your body into perfection". Frankly, I can see the appeal of stuffing myself with ice cream and pastries to be buff like Arnold. Why ruin everything by pointing out that Arnold only looked like Arnold because of steroids. By the way, I do believe that reports that show how steroid use continues to give a user advantages well beyond when the user stops taking them. Maybe we should all take steroids.

Other trends: Medium Chain Triglyceride Oil has replaced Omega 3 Fatty Acid for fat burning food, butter is back in style (and in your morning coffee), and those cleanses should be forgone to maintain a thriving colony of gut flora. Breakfast is bad but coffee is good. Eat steak in the morning and yogurt at night. Do not eat eggs early in the day. Got it?

Now, while I am flippant about a lot of what I discovered down the rabbit hole, I will note that there is a lot of research being done on nutrition, not just on the food anymore but also on how humans process food. I imagine that some of the newer trends out there have solid reasoning behind them. I would also caution anyone embarking on a Paleo/Caveman/Atkins/Breatharian diet to consult a medical professional because these diets are extreme; in fact, the Breatharian should probably consult a mental health professional. I don't recall if I ever mentioned it before on this blog but in 2005 my 21 year old roommate went into cardiac arrest and eventually fell into a coma due to a combination of factors, but mostly because her no carb diet depleted her body's potassium level to the point that her heart stopped when she was jogging. The last I saw of her was when her parents took her home, still in a coma, a month later. They wouldn't let us contact them, us not being the right type of Christians, so I never knew if she woke up. I wonder if something similar happened to Peaches Geldof. Back in my parents, time, it was anorexia and bulimia. In my time exercise anorexia became popular. Now it's all that and malnutrition. Young people don't usually die of natural causes, but with all of the extreme nutrition fads, I wouldn't be surprised if many more first world people started dying of malnutrition.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


When I was young, I asked my priest how would I know if god was listening and he told me that my prayers would always be answered, though not always with the answer that I wanted. Dear god, may I have a dog was definitely not answered as I wanted at the time though right now I can boast to having double what I wanted. Patience and perseverance (and twenty five years of longing) eventually yielded Tippy and Elsie.

The internet works in similar, miraculous ways. If you want an answer badly enough, you will find a way to receive it. A decade or so ago I watched an animal documentary about migrating elephants. In one episode they came upon a forest of trees that had a fermented fruit which caused them to stumble about in a hilarious, drunken fashion. I tried to find out what this fruit was but my internet searches got me nowhere. Apparently there are a LOT of elephant documentaries floating about. Since I'm one of those types of people, I could not rest until I found the fruit or discovered that my recollection of the documentary was flawed. I set up a Google Alert for drunken elephant and went about my business. Finally, after a couple of years, my questions have been answered: marula fruit. And then a light bulb went off in my head: this is why the Amarula liquor has an image of an elephant on the label. I  can guess what I'll be looking to buy in the near future.

Of all the possible sources, it was the Daily Mail that brought my answer.  Go figure. Thank you Daily Mail for answering my question and providing more images of drunken elephants to giggle over. And thank Google.


it takes a village

Along with taking a village to raise a child, it may also take a village to pay for one. My sister wants only organic for her upcoming bundle and the stuff that she's registered would have made me need to sit down if I was not already seated in front of the computer. I have no objection to organic muslin and bamboo swaddling cloths, clothing, etc., but are they really that expensive to make or is the industry that adds an extra zero to prices for wedding goods also adding integers to the price of baby goods? My bamboo sheets cost only slightly more than the freaking bit of swaddling cloth that she was asking for. I'm seriously considering cutting my sheet up and hemming it to make several swaddling cloths instead of coughing up serious dough for a plain square of designer eco-baby wear.

By the time I had scrolled down to the carriers and buggies favored by the eco-cool set SB had fled the room to avoid my exclamations of shock. My sister wasn't even asking for a lot of goods but the twenty or so items on her list equaled my monthly salary. That's a lot of money for things that won't be used beyond a couple of years. Frankly, I believe that the most environmentally conscious thing to do would be to recycle other people's gently used baby items.

In the meantime, SB keeps insisting that a bag of rocks makes a fine present.

Monday, April 21, 2014

cross culture

One of SB's grad school friends was planning to visit family in Hong Kong and planned to stay with us. Sadly, she phoned a few days ago to report that her mother had suffered a sudden illness and the trip was most likely going to be cancelled. Yesterday her mother passed away from a brain aneurysm. Today she phoned to say that she was still coming over but asked for us to host her father instead of her. Apparently now that he is a widower he is perceived as bad luck, and double that because he will be carrying his wife's ashes to return to their homeland.

I try to be sensitive to other cultures but something isn't right when some people are so fearful of whatever it is - mortality or spirits or something to do with death - that a man who is in deep mourning over the sudden death of his life partner is forced to stay with virtual strangers because he may bring bad luck to his family's home.

I had several friends who lost grandparents and I learned bring white packets with a dollar added to the denomination (bak gum) and receive the guk yee. I thought that it was very meaningful. I thought that the ways of showing respect were thoughtful and reverent.  I didn't know about this ugly side of mourning. I feel awful for this poor man who is coming to stay with us. This situation horrifies me.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hong Kong Lacrosse Open

The Hong Kong Lacrosse Open is happening this weekend. Several national teams from the region will be competing. This is one of the bigger tournaments for the men's teams before the World Games in Denver in July.


Friday 18th April
13:00-15:00 Game 1: Hong Kong vs Korea
15:00–17:00 Men’s Clinic

Saturday 19th April
9:00 – 11:00 Shanghai vs China
11:00 -13:00 Women’s Clinic
13:00 -15:00 Women’s Exhibition Game
15:00-17:00 Game 3: HK vs Shanghai
17:00-19:00 Game 4: Korea vs China

Sunday 20th April
13:30–15:30 Game 5:Korea vs Shanghai
15:30-17:30 Game 6: Hong Kong vs China
17:30-19:30 HKU All Star Game
20:00 Closing Banquet

Monday 21st April
9:00 – 11:00 Game 7: Consolation Game
11:00-13:00 Game 8: CHAMPIONSHIP Game

There is also a women's clinic for all abilities: 

The women’s clinic will be run by experience FIL Clinician Coach Amy McCleary.
**Limited Number of Spots Available**

Date: Saturday 19 April, 2014
Time: 11:00-13:00
Venue: HKU Stanley Ho Sports Centre Pitch 2
Fee: HKD 150 (includes a free tournament tshirt)

Bank Transfer Payment to HSBC 658-089669-838
Scan Payment Receipt to payment@hklax.org with your name and date of transaction.
To complete the registration form, please go to http://hklax.org/channel.php?channel=event-clinic_2014

Any questions, please contact Gemini Fan at gemfan@hklax.org

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

bad, sad dog

Elsie was chastised for licking the floor. She reacted by wiggling her bottom while turning in circles and then crawled underneath where SB was sitting with her head peeking out between his legs. She looks so pathetic and sorrowful that it's  hard to discipline her with a straight face.

If I had known how much I would adore having these two monsters, I would have gone ahead and brought dogs home years ago against SB's wishes. For someone who didn't want dogs, he now spends a lot of time cuddling them and trying to get them to love him more.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

everybody panic!!!

Today I woke up to the news that my passwords and the sensitive information stored behind them could be floating all over the internet thanks to the Heartbleed Bug. The New York Times is a good source to find out about this serious security flaw. As I was linking the pages, I thought to myself, these sites could be portals for someone to spy on me for all I know.  Society of the Spectacle strike again!

SB had a more real almost disaster yesterday when he came very, very close to being hit by a minivan while walking the dogs. A woman turned into the driveway that he was halfway through walking across and he had to jump out of the way, dragging the dogs off their feet. When the driver didn't even stop but proceeded to pull up to the gas station, he decided to have a conversation with her.

SB: You need to look before you turn; you almost ran me over
her: I did look, I saw you.
SB: If you saw me then why did you still turn and almost run me over? The only reason you didn't run me over is because I stopped and got out of the way.
her: I stopped too
SB: No you didn't, you drove right by me.
her: I turned on my turn signal (grabs turn signal stalk for emphasis)
SB: I don't care. That doesn't mean that you can just turn because you used your turn signal.
her: There was traffic behind me. I couldn't stop
SB: Yes you can. It's not the end of the world if you stop, they can wait.
her: I am sorry

SB told me that she was lacking in any sincerity and only apologized because she had run out of idiotic, illogical excuses for almost hitting a pedestrian.  Because how else do you explain running over a man and his dogs so that you don't have to slow down and inconvenience the traffic behind you? SB only resisted swearing at her because there were two children in the car listening to their mom justify driving her two ton vehicle into pedestrians.

This woman isn't the only person who doesn't seem to understand common safety. Like people who walk at the pace of sloths but stampede when exiting buses for fear of someone gaining some sort of advantage by exiting first, I have observed many drivers cruising slowly down the road only to swing wildly into parking garages in front of oncoming traffic, heedless of anyone on the sidewalk. I've also had a handful of taxi drivers pull their vehicles in front of me when I am trying to cross the street, though I think that they do it deliberately as an aggressive move rather than because they are oblivious morons. I still think about that time that my father ripped the wipers off a taxi that had pulled up too close to me when I was a child, and I wonder how long it will take before I show my heredity by doing the same. The dogs may have two new fetch toys before the end of the month.

Monday, April 7, 2014

hello, goodbye

This is by far the worst year as far as friends moving away from Hong Kong. Many, like my family used to be, are transient and their eventual moves were expected. Others are sad surprises. At least eight of my friends who are moving back to the US originally came here for only a couple of years but then their companies left them here, either because the US economy was unfavorable, or because the Asian economy was better than expected. Whatever the reasons, a lot of friends who have been here for five to eight years are now moving away en masse. Four of them are going to NYC while three others are going to LA.

When I complained years ago about making friends only to have them leave, I was told to befriend more locals. Ironically, the local girl who told me this is moving to Oz next month. And the local girl who became one of my favorite people is now engaged and moving to the US to marry one of SB's good friends. So we both lose. At least we have our doggies. They'll never leave us...we hope.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

sweet, sweet sugar

I am on day two of a low sugar, low carb experiment. My sister, who will give birth shortly, has cut down on her sugar intake. She's not really at risk for gestational diabetes but thought that she was getting out of control on her sugar intake. She isn't really craving sour or spicy foods like other pregnant women but she was going wild on candy and baked goods, and told me that sugar cravings affect the brain similarly to how drugs affect a brain. More to the point, I believe, is that her boyfriend has no impulse control around sweets and was polishing off the rest of the bag of cookies every time that she had one. So now she's pretty much deprived of sugar because he can't be trusted around it.

The reason that I am  now depriving myself of most carbs and sugars is that I am testing myself to see if I am a sugar addict. I know that SB is a carb addict and he similarly polishes off bags of cookies but he has a freak metabolism so he's allowed to indulge his addiction. I usually do not prefer pasta and bread over a nice, delicious, lamb chop but lately I had noticed a sharp increase in sweet indulgences, coinciding with when Francesca told me of the existence of Haagen Dazs salted caramel ice cream. And then there was that bag of laundry that clearly was left in the dryer for too long because all of the bottoms fit a bit too snugly.

In just two days I have come to a couple of realizations. First, I am craving sugar and carbs, although I am not sure if this is because of withdrawal of because I know that I can't have it so I want it. Second, I have noticed that my diet had been getting more and more pasta/bread centric because I was at a loss of what to make for dinner if it didn't include a massive helping of carbs. In the end I had chicken with veggies while SB had the same with a big side of pasta.  I stared at him the whole time, much like how the dogs stared at me.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Microsoft releases Office Mobile

You can now download Microsoft Office for your mobile device here:

It's available for free, for iPhones, Android, Windows phones, and iPads. I'm not sure how much word processing I intend to do on my mobile phone but it's nice to have options. As for tablets, this is a game changer for me. I have been debating whether to get a tablet or a new laptop for SB for his birthday. I really wanted to get an iPad Air or the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 for him but a laptop would have been more practical since he does need an upgrade to his creaky, ten year old dinosaur that he is so attached to. He uses Excel frequently and Word regularly. Having the option of Office is probably going to make the difference in his birthday present.