Monday, July 28, 2014

five second rule

Apparently the folks at OSI Shanghai Husi Food Company strongly believe in the five second rule, that is the folk lore version and not the research version by Jillian Clarke that won her the Nobel Prize in public health. If Husi's workers had been familiar with Ms. Husi's findings, surely they would not have been shoveling meat that was dropped on the floor back into packaging.

As for the expired meat problem, I am almost enured to the thought of eating expired meat, having had numerous experiences with buying meat from my local grocery monopoly and finding the underside to be suspiciously discolored or green. while I have always thrown it away (or in SB's case, marched back to the store with offending meat in hand to lodge another complaint) I do wonder about food labeling practices that allow for funky foods to be sold. We have also opened milk cartons to find them curdled or sour despite the labels stating that we had two more weeks before expiry.

I haven't stopped by the neighborhood McDonald's to see what's been crossed off the menu. I'm not sure that I want to find out that the crossed out beef rice wrap was made with floor scraps and moldy meat. On the other hand, I am curious to know just how widespread the problem was. Has anyone else gone into a McDonald's and documented the crossed out menus?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

short memory, long grudge

While I share in the sadness and outrage over what appears to be Putin's involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17, I also squirmed in discomfort when politicians such as Republican John McCain began demanding accountability and repercussions.

Remember Iran Air flight 655? I didn't. I was a child when it happened and the US news somehow didn't spend much time reporting it. I did just yesterday read an article by Fred Kaplan that made my stomach turn. You can find the article here:

If you can stomach it, you can also find the more in depth Newsweek article from 1992 here:

Basically, we lied, lied, lied, overrode anyone who said otherwise, covered up the facts, and lied some more. President George H.W. Bush clearly stated his regards on the matter: "I will never apologize for the United States—I don’t care what the facts are.”. Navy captain Will Rogers III was honored and promoted for behavior that other officers described as aggressive, not to mention illegal. In fact it took eight more years and a Democrat president before the U.S. expressed regret (no exactly accountability) for the incident that killed 290 people.

Putin can hardly do worse.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Right now I wish that I had the ability to share the imagery of what is going on around me. Our office building has been surrounded by lightning bolts, and I imagine that some of them have hit the lightning rods on the roof. It is an awesome sight to behold.

I hope that everyone is safe and dry.

Fran didn't like dogs

“Pets should be disallowed by law. Especially dogs. Especially in New York City. I have not infrequently verbalized this sentiment in what now passes for polite society, and have invariably been the recipient of the information that even if dogs should be withheld from the frivolous, there would still be the blind and the pathologically lonely to think of. I am not totally devoid of compassion, and after much thought I believe that I have hit upon the perfect solution to this problem—let the lonely lead the blind.”
                                                                -writer and New York City dweller Fran Lebowitz

Monday, July 21, 2014

regular baths and exercise

While I'm not inactive, I have been known to drag my feet about exercising in the summer. It's just so hot and humid outside while there are air conditioning and iced drinks to be had indoors. SB and I will engage in a stream hikes every few weeks along with the sporadic swim, but that's about it until August and rugby season starts up again.

Now that we have dogs, things have changed. We have responsibilities and running the pups is a welcome obligation. Before, a hike would be an all day event but now we have been enjoying shorter trips with less risk of falling off some cliff face. We regularly tramp around Tai Tam reservoir park and over Violet Hill, sometimes including the Twins. It's only about two and a half to three an a half hours, depending on which route we take, but I really have begun looking forward to the leisurely Sunday evenings walks.

Last night, Tippy was as happy as a pig in the mud. Literally. A lot of Wilson trail was very muddy, and before long I saw my beautiful medium coat dog scamper toward a large mud puddle and proceed to dive in. Elsie wasn't the least bit interested in dirtying her short coat but Tippy happily wiggled, wriggled, flopped and burrowed as our hike companions laughed and made "aww" noises at her. Tippy did her best alligator impersonation so that the only visible areas were a small stripe along her spine and part of a head poking out of the mud.

Once Tip was done with her bath, she helped our friend to his own shower. I tried to warn him but she was already starting to twist her body and in the next second, mud flew everywhere. Needless to say, we all had proper baths at the end of the evening.

Friday, July 18, 2014

too big to fathom

It was a surreal feeling, reading the first news story last night. Sadly, it was not the first time that I had this feeling. When the first story broke on my news page, my immediate reaction was to think (hope) that it was a sick joke. Then the feeling of dread sunk in, followed by horror.

Fifteen years ago I watched a series of practically incomprehensible events unfold. First the shock of a plane flying into the World Trade Center. Then the compounded shock of a second plane flying into the second tower, followed immediately by a dawning horror that encompassed multiple thoughts rushing into my head: this can't be an accident; what about all of those people; who is doing this; this is not real; this is real; oh my god.

Last night the fact that it was another Malaysian Airlines flight, after the mysterious disappearance of another flight only month before, made it all surreal. Who would think that a commercial, passenger plane could possibly be mistaken for a military carrier?  This whole situation seems beyond belief. My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by this awful event. Some very good people who were doing much good for mankind perished along with many young people whose potential will never be realized. It is mind numbing.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

HSBC, are you serious?!

I  previously posted my problems with receiving a barrage of telemarketing calls during my work day, only to call back the number and discover that the caller was HSBC. Color me naive but I would not have thought that a major corporation like HSBC would support harassing people into buying their services. Almost all of the people calling me didn't speak English and hung up on me, or behaved rudely as I mentioned in a previous post. After complaining to HSBC's customer service, filling out a non-contact form, and being assured that this would end the constant calling, I felt that this was indeed the end of it.

Well, not even two weeks went by before the calls began again in earnest. This time I applied the HSBC number to a call blocker and sent a harshly worded follow up to HSBC. I received a phone call apologizing for the phone calls and promising that this time, the customer representative (let's call her CR) was going to closely follow up that my number disappeared from any call center rosters.

Five days ago I began receiving daily calls and hang ups when I answered. The HSBC number was already blocked but I was suspicious so yesterday after my fourth hang up call I redialed the number...and listened to an HSBC message. I could feel my blood pressure rising as I tersely typed a very angry email to CR and copied it to another email that I was given to use if I chose to escalate the matter. I bullet-pointed my complaint of constant hang up calls during office hours on my work phone, promises from HSBC to cease and desist, the use of yet another number to call me, and my feelings of being hounded and harassed. While I never mentioned litigation, my email was deliberately written so that it provided an easy outline for what my case would be. CR called me at lunch, which was fortunate for her because I was in a lunch queue and mindful of not raising my voice about the telemarketing call that I had received an hour ago.

She reported back all of the steps that she had taken for my number to be removed from call lists and begged for my patience as she followed up with where the no-call orders were being ignored. I told her that I was on the last vestiges of good will but she had two weeks. In the meantime, since our call was being recorded and forwarded to whoever it is that follows up on escalated issues, I also asked HSBC to consider the logic of subjecting customers to daily telemarketing calls. I can't imagine that anyone receiving these calls would feel good about them. The idea that if a customer doesn't buy your product, you should hound him/her every day for months is ludicrous. If that idea was successful, there would be a lot more children in the world with ponies.

I feel an opportunity to go on a tangent about wishes and horses so I will end my post now before I take us all for a ride.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

familiar faces

I don't eat roast meat for lunch as frequently as I partake in the salad counter or pick up a sushi container at the Park n Shop near my office, but the roast meat attendant knows me. This is probably because I am one of very few white people who queue where he is chopping away at various animals. Most customers will pick up food from the display case but I like to custom order because the meal is guaranteed to be warm, and I like the minced ginger/scallion sauce that usually is only included in the chicken orders. Chopper man knows that I want the ginger mix on whatever I order. He remembers that when I order the duck, I want leg, not breast (sadly this store doesn't carry smoked duck breast, but only the roasted kind). He always smiles back at me when I thank him for my order, which might be the only smile I receive all day now that things are delayed on the work front. Even my boss, who I like, grumbles and is short tempered these days.

I don't know why I don't buy from the roast meat counter more often. The food is half the price of a salad or sushi, and lasts for two meals if I get two types of meats in my order. Besides, the salad counter lady rolls her eyes at everyone, probably because she can't believe that we're actually paying $60 for a half filled container of salad.

Monday, July 14, 2014


It's been a while since I've shared adorable animal images from around the web, probably because I now think that my animals are the most adorable furry creatures to ever grace this earth (why do I have a feeling that I'm going to win a 'gone to the dogs' Ulie award out of this?). But this video is a close second.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

the world keeps spinning

I watched an Al Jazeera presentation about torture and imprisonment in Egypt. It was very hard to view, what these men and women had to bear. Video of prison guards forcing a man to watch his friend being beaten to death. Documentation of groups of nonviolent female protesters being beaten and kicked. Stories of rape being used to subdue women. Children tied together and tortured. The people that were interviewed about their torture were the ones that got out. There are many more whose stories we will never know.

After celebrating the success of the Arab Spring, we have moved on and forgotten that the story, for many, isn't over.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

some of my favorite things: lemon and cherry

While I am disappointed in my search for ube and mint chocolate chip ice cream, I have other flavors of summer to look forward to. Now that mangosteen season is over, I have turned toward cherries with a vengeance. For the past several years I have not had much opportunity to enjoy as many cherries as I could possibly devour, but I admit that the time in 1998 when I visited a family friend's cherry orchard in Montana and was allowed to climb a ladder into a tree, not to return...well, it's hard o to top that. My cherry consumption had been at an all time low because SB didn't like cherries and I usually tried to bring home fruits that we both could enjoy. Well, after years of swearing his dislike of cherries he finally was convinced to eat one and realized that he quite likes them. Aargh.

We quickly discovered new things such as the fact that consuming two pounds of cherries will make you gassy. And dogs do not particularly like cherries but are very happy to roll a cherry all over your floor, thus performing the canine equivalent of a child decorating walls with a red crayon.

This week also marked the discovery of Yeo Valley Family Farms' Lemon Curd 'Proper Organic Bio Live Yeogurt.' What a mouthful.  Really, what a mouthful. I have greatly enjoyed the deliciousness of lemon curd and cherry in a somewhat healthy medium. Next weekend I have a feeling that I will be baking lemon curd muffins with home-made cherry jam.

Monday, July 7, 2014

ice cream dreams

When I was a kid, I looked forward to Sundays after church because my parents would relax their ban on all things fun sweet foods and treat the family. We either would walk from St. Joseph's to an ice cream vendor by the park, or over to the midlevels (at least I think it was there) to a small, French pastry shop for apple turnovers. Not eclairs, because...I don't know why. Probably because they were more expensive. My parents were very frugal, which is why they can now afford to spend their retirement on constant vacations.

The local ice cream shops typically carried only four flavors: vanilla, chocolate, mint chocolate chip and ube. At the time I always, always, always chose mint chocolate chip. I tried ube once and didn't like it though it was a very popular flavor. I tried to relive my youth after a recent hike and could not find either the mint chocolate chip or the ube flavors in any of the ice cream bins at the grocery store. There are all sorts of exotic flavors but not the former staples. 

Anyone else remember the ube and mint chocolate chip days? Or better yet, does anyone know where I can get some?

image courtesy of foodspotting

Thursday, July 3, 2014

bad guys

In honor of Eli Wallach, who along with being a spaghetti western star was also prominent in crossword puzzles of Parade magazine (as in almost every other week, ___ Wallach), we watched The Good, the Bad and the Ugly last night. The first time that the theme music played, the pups' ears perked up and they began watching the movie raptly with us. In fact, Tippy was especially captivated by Angel Eyes and sat much straighter every time he appeared on screen. What can I say, my dog is a great judge of character and innately knew that the guy in the black hat was bad news.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

no small thing

Yesterday at the 1 July rally a police officer mistook SB for a tourist and informed him that this was no big deal. SB lowered his camera, smiling at the man, and said, "Come on, you know this is a big deal," to which the officer gave an enigmatic smile. I wonder if the officer was told to say this to possible tourists and onlookers or if he was really pro-Beijing. It would make sense that Beijing was attempting to influence the flow of information and had sent a task force to approach foreigners with assurances that this was minor. Other officers, the ones keeping the peace and not approaching foreigners, seemed only intent on maintaining order and crowd control. We also noticed that some retail spaces such as Hysan Place left observers alone as long as they were not blocking a thoroughfare, while others patrolled their lobbies and evicted anyone pausing to take a picture of the crowds from their windows. Interestingly, a jewelry store actively cleared most of the people who were standing near their entrance but did nothing to remove a woman with a loudspeaker who was berating the protesters. I guess they know who keeps their multiple side by side stores in business. The woman went on for about ten minutes before moving on as nobody was paying her the slightest bit of attention.

SB and I did not take part in the march because we did not want there to be a chance that we could be used to claim that the rally was influenced by foreigners or participated in by non-stakeholders. We did walk alongside the protest, slowly making our way from Victoria Park to near Chater Street. It was important to us to be witnesses and to show our support. In the aftermath of an event, it is the witnesses who often carry the message abroad and to other audiences. As we were posting images on social media, we started receiving queries about what was going on from friends in other countries. There was also dialogue being opened as others chimed in. Those were the roles that we gave ourselves as witnesses: to spread global awareness and show our support to the many, many people of Hong Kong who were protesting Beijing's heavy hand.