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?