Friday, February 27, 2015

groaning and moaning in Asia's World City

50 Shades of Grey has been well received here in Hong Kong; it seems like the experiences of Christian and Anastasia resonate with the local populace. Yours truly has been obsessed with following people's comments regarding their own forays into the world of pain and pleasure:
He screamed as she slammed him time and time again - the little old lady kept pushing the lift door close button

She groaned into the pillow, clenching her jaw as the pounding continued. It was the construction work next door.

He gently traces the rim, his finger penetrating the center. He took her glasses off, exclaimed: ur glasses have no lens!

Her heart pounded as he slid it in the hole. "Faster faster, come on!" She hissed behind him line at the airport E channel

She felt his intrusion-bold, shaming, but she was helpless. "So when r u getting married?" said Grandpa at CNY dinner.

She wrapped her lips hard, felt the milky sweetness in her mouth, sucked the soft balls & thought, how I love bubble tea

On a side note, my friend L has finally rid herself of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. She had been trying to offload the books for almost two years with no takers but when the movie came out, she felt optimism that someone would want to find out what happened next. In fact, nothing notable or memorable happened next or after next, according to L, but she didn't share that information with the drunk and unsuspecting pilot who ended up as the lucky recipient of the naughty books. I suspect that he woke up after a night at the races wondering how he came into possession of not one, but three books. I hope that he enjoys them as much as L enjoyed giving them to him as he stumbled home from the bar.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sunset Peak

Kung hei fat choi everyone! What a surprise we had this morning when the slowly warming weather took a small dip overnight and today's cloud cover provided perfect weather for a new year hike. When SB and I have enough time for a long hike, we usually head over to Sai Kung's country park and beaches but today we wanted to do something different so we decided to visit Sunset Peak in Lantau. It was the furbabies' first ferry ride and aside from despising their required muzzles, they fared well. We thought that we would be relegated to the back of the boat but were allowed to sit in the regular downstairs seating with the dogs, who bravely looked out at the ocean through my legs.

Once in Lantau, we had another first experience with a buffalo. It was very funny because Elsie was busy attacking her sister and didn't notice the large beast in front of us who was placidly chewing grass until she was almost upon him, and then she turned tail and ran for the safety of my legs. Eventually brave, brave Sir Robin's curiosity got the better of her and she ventured over for a sniff but I cruelly stopped her because I wasn't confident about her survival instinct and didn't want to spend the day at the vet treating a hoof to the head. 

SB had consulted a hiking guidebook and informed me that the majority of the hike would be a gradual ascent. Ha! While you are not mountaineering, it is also not a gradual incline for the first thirty minutes. You will be huffing and puffing away. Hopefully you will not have to huff and puff near a large group of hikers who will leapfrog you for the entire first portion of the hike. The leader of the group passed us at a swift pace but the tail end of his group included several much less fit people and the group kept having to take breaks, at which point SB and I passed them at our plodding pace. Then five minutes later Mr. Fit would race by us with his group struggling behind. Even when we waited for five minutes for the group to go ahead, we still managed to catch them. And Mr. Fit was annoyed that the dogs didn't know to move aside immediately when he caught up with us. 

Despite the aggravation of leapfrogging with a dog disliker, we couldn't help but feel joyful with the beautiful day and lovely views of the forest. The second part of the hike has a less steep incline and the trees fall away to rocks and streams. SB and I decided to pick up our pace and blew past the hiking group. The leader seemed to be chasing us for a kilometer but we eventually were able to lose him entirely, probably when he realized that he needed to go back for the group that he was leading.  

Elsie found a friend along the way. I suspect that the monk had some bread in his pocket because she stayed very close to him for a while. Very close.

Eventually we made it to a lovely, grassy area before the final ascent. There are masonry structures dotting the hills which someone told us you could rent overnight. There were also a lot of tents along this area. It was a beautiful place to take a rest and enjoy the fantastic day.

We found an area where the ground was even and soft to have an impromptu picnic. Silly me, I had packed meals for the furbabies but not really anything for ourselves so we shared a couple of rolls from a bakery in Mui Wo. The weather was so nice with a bit of sun peeking out from the clouds, and I ended up taking a small nap.

Meanwhile, Tippytoes and Elsie played chase and hide n seek among the structures. They had a glorious time running through the tall grass and ambushing each other.

Eventually I was roused from my nap to finish the hike. It was too cloudy to see much from the top, unfortunately, but the lack of view didn't take away from how wonderful the hike was. SB and I plan to return for a full day next time. We could have spent hours playing in the grass and exploring all of the various other trails around the area. This was one of my favorite hikes in Hong Kong.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hong Kong Sevens turns 40

The highlight of the HK Sevens draw was seeing USA in the top of pool D.  I may have whooped loudly when the standings were announced.

The Hong Kong Sevens turns forty this year. I expect quite the celebration to be put on by sponsors HSBC and Cathay Pacific.

If you couldn't get tickets, you can still watch at the Sevens Village at So Kon Po, across from the stadium. You can bring your own drinks and watch on a big screen instead of paying hundred of dollars for a plastic pitcher of skunky beer. You can also watch the sevens on local television. Last year when I got pelted with a cup of beer colored liquid that wasn't beer, I seriously thought about staying home from the event for 2015. At this point, I only stop by the South Stand to take pictures with the team (we all wear matching costumes) and to drop SB off. I may be part of the minority of attendees that come to watch the competition. 

Frankly, I think that the Tens are even better than the Sevens. Unfortunately the Tens occurs during Wednesday and Thursday so many people are working but it feels like a rugby community event. You can sit in the stands at Football Club within reach of George Smith or Tana Umaga and watch a mixture of up an coming athletes play with famous veterans. This list of past Tens attendees is a who's who of the rugby world. Our own former Causeway Bay player, Uini Atonio, played in the Tens five or so years ago. I should note that he arrived at CWB with enormous talent already but our coach, Semi, did his best to provide a good environment for Uini to mature, and most importantly, he pushed for Uini to play in the Tens. Uini eventually got picked up by La Rochelle and the rest is history. Uini made his debut of France in the November tests. Sadly, many of the current generation of CWB players still don't believe me when I tell them that once upon a time a Causeway Bay Ram became an international superstar. 

Another fantastic rugby event, and free to boot, is the Hong Kong Women's Sevens. This year it will be a two day event, held on Thursday and Friday before the big event. Yours truly has been asked to be an announcer at the event. Yours truly is not comfortable speaking in front of crowds but my ability to speak some Russian, Spanish and Italian means that I would have a better chance of not butchering player names than most. Except for Tunisia and Papua New Guinea. They're screwed. If I can find a cohort who is happy making corny jokes while I stick only to announcing scoring then I'll do it but I shouldn't be anyone's first choice for ad-lib into a microphone.

Friday, February 13, 2015

you know that it's a bad day when

You know that it's a bad day when...

SB: What would you like for dinner? Jamie Oliver pasta? Vodka penne?
Me: How about just vodka?

For the record, I prefer gin.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

passing by

Last night as the train was nearing my stop in Causeway Bay, I noticed that a teenage girl at the other end of the car was swaying and moving strangely. I got up and hesitated, not sure of what I was seeing, but then she collapsed into the arms of the elderly gentleman who was with her. The man staggered and managed to drag the girl to nearby seating, and one middle aged woman quickly got up and offered the seat. No one else seemed to notice but of course this wasn't really the case because of the entire train car, at least one other person would have noticed that an old man was dragging a limp girl. When it became clear that the old man and middle aged woman could not quite maneuver the girl into the vacated seat, the man in the neighboring seat finally got up and walked away, not looking back.

At this point I made my way across the train to offer assistance. The girl was semi-conscious at this point and struggling to follow the most basic directions. She was overly warm to the touch and clammy, with slow breathing so I removed her down jacket and lowered her head to her lap while the middle aged woman pressed the emergency button on the train car. We pulled up to Causeway Bay station and were informed that the station staff would be there to assist us. At this point we had the attention of the entire train but still no one offered assistance. No one flagged down the station attendant as he passed our car; instead  people disembarked or boarded the train as though it was business as usual. The woman ran out of the train to locate the station attendant while I held onto the girl, who was beginning to slump over again. Finally two station attendants arrived with a wheelchair and we were able to remove her from the train. At this point the station first aiders took over and the elderly man thanked the middle aged woman and me for our help.

It was depressing to think that in a train of thirty to forty people, only two of us were compelled to give aid to someone in distress. I read about bystander apathy in my high school psychology class but those cases usually involved violence or possible danger to the bystander, which is how people who did nothing to assist crime victims explain their lack of interference. I couldn't imagine the reasons people could tell themselves to justify why they chose not to come to the aid of a teenage girl and her grandfather.

When I shared my disappointment in humanity with SB, he wondered if this outcome was simply bystander apathy or if part of the reticence to assist the girl was due to past memories of SARS. It could be possible that Hong Kong people's experiences with the deadly SARS virus that ravaged the region a decade ago are still fresh in their minds and someone experiencing shortness of breath and fainting is perceived as the greatest danger.

I hope that I never go tail over teakettle in a public place because aside from the embarrassment, I may be left on the ground for a very long time before someone bothers to help me up.

Monday, February 9, 2015

hobbit homes and habitats

 Images from Sutton Lakefront Realty, via Boing Boing

For $20.9 million HK dollars you can buy a 1000 square foot flat on the island -  on average you will have three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Or for the same price you can buy this 38 acre "enchanted Forest" in British Columbia, complete with four whimsical yet habitable homes.

The flat that I share with SB and the two furbabies probably has a salable area of 560 square feet, and all of the fixtures in the kitchen are hobbit sized. Being not so vertically blessed, I have no problem with our cramped kitchen but SB has been to the accident and emergency three times due to kitchen accidents; twice he cut his hand open trying to wash dishes in the corner sink and once he cut his head open on an overhead cabinet. We long ago agreed to set a cap to how much we were willing to spend on housing but I am starting to consider an increase in the limit in exchange for peace of mind.

Images from Sutton Lakefront Realty, via Boing Boing

While many of Hong Kong's homes are built by hobbits, the British Columbia forest can house all of the woodland creatures with ease. Seeing how far the same amount of money will stretch across the ocean, it's no wonder so many older Hong Kong residents are migrating to Canada.

Images from Sutton Lakefront Realty, via Boing Boing

Friday, February 6, 2015

conversation fell off sharply

Defending a proposal that was being queried for its inability to solve the actual problem, compounded by the likely result that the problem would exacerbate, my estimable colleague stated that the team had worked long and hard to reach their solution. "You didn't include most of the stakeholders in any of your discussions," I pointed out.

"We spent a long time formulating this proposal and our team all voted on it," was the reply.

Then the director of stuff that has nothing to do with the conversation added his own opinion that he had faith in the team's proposal due to how hard they had worked (they wouldn't have had to work so hard if they had sought input from relevant parties instead of thinking up the criteria on their own).

This is basically what I said in response:
When I was four, I worked very hard at flapping my arms. I practiced for hours, and anyone who has a four year old can tell you, it is hard for a child to concentrate on anything for fifteen minutes, much less hours. Despite all of the hard work, my solution to flying was not successful and I learned the lesson with much pain and stitching. Would you like to see the scar on my head?

After that, conversation fell off sharply.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

happy birthday to me!

When I logged in this morning, this lovely image greeted me on my Google search page. While some people may be uncomfortable with how their personal information gets used online, I was delighted at the personal touch provided by the coders at Google. Mmm, cake.

Even though my birthday is no longer celebrated with all of the kids at school singing to me, I am more excited about my birthday these days than I ever was as a child. This may have something to do with not having parents who tell me that I need to clean the house and complete all of my chores even if it is my big day. I left the breakfast dishes in the sink this morning and I'll wash them later tonight when I'm good and ready because today is my day. 

To be fair, my parents did not make a big deal over my birthday because my sister had a July birthday and summer birthdays meant that many friends had gone home for an extended holiday. My sister usually only had family around for her celebrations so to make things even, my birthdays were low key affairs despite the availability of celebrants. I only resented this slightly. After a while I started dreading my birthday because some well meaning auntie would ask me if I was having a party. By my teens, my birthday stopped being any different from any other day of the week. Things changed when I transferred into my aunt and uncle's custody. This first year that I lived with them, they took me to a restaurant for a celebration dinner and the staff came out singing and carrying a big cake. I was mortified and almost burst into tears but I also was very touched. By the next year I had made a lot of friends and had a party, albeit without the singing. 

This morning I woke up in a chipper mood despite the fact that no one in the room remembered my birthday. My hints must have been too subtle for SB to pick up on because that muppet had a comical look of panic when I woke him up and told him it was my birthday. Apparently "I can't wait to see how you top last year's gift, unless you give me another doggy," wasn't strong enough. As I type this, I imagine him racing around aimlessly in Causeway Bay, desperately trying to find a present for me that sadly, isn't another dog.

I have enjoyed all of the well wishes that have been popping up on my social media accounts. I even suffered through the annoying musical accompaniments of several e-cards. The sun is shining (at least it seems bright outside behind all of the haze) and birds are chirping and it's a wonderful day to be alive. Happy birthday to me!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tippy ate the Visine and this is why I'm a wreck

Tippy, resting while SB looks up her chances of survival.

That darn dog. Just when I thought that the horrible weekend was over, I was given one more ordeal to overcome before Monday morning.

It began with a tough week, or maybe the more accurate description is that a tough week ended with a hellish weekend. All sorts of unavoidable problems reared their 'urgent response' heads throughout the week so that by Friday night I was DONE in a big way. My eyes, after being focused on drafting tiny lines for ten hours per day, were ringed in red and so irritated that I couldn't put my contacts back in for the entire weekend. I bought a small bottle of eye drops, which greatly reduced the redness after several days of application. By Sunday night I had finished catching up with preparations for work on Monday and was ready to relax after dinner with the furbabies and SB when I reached into my pocket for the Visine but it wasn't there.

That's when I noticed that Tippytoes was not chewing on her bone, but on my bottle of eye drops.

Panic ensued.

Earlier in the day, foreshadowing the events to come, SB and I had looked up Visine poisoning on Snopes to check out if the stories we heard about waitresses using eye drops to cause gastrointestinal distress to rude customers had any bearing. We thought not and Snopes agreed, but went on to list the actual side effects of tetrahydrozoline ingestion, which were far worse than diarrhea. According to the National Institutes of Health, side effects of ingesting tetrahydrozoline include breathing difficulty, fast or slow heartbeat, blood pressure changes, low body temperature, blurred vision, headache, coma, seizures, and nausea. And death.

I quickly took the bottle away from Tippy and SB immediately phoned the SPCA hotline. The man on the other end didn't seem too worried but he also didn't seem to know what tetrahydrozoline was and we ended up telling him what we knew. While it wasn't reassuring that he wasn't informed, the phone call ended up being positive for us because we worked through the facts of the case while trying to tell him about our problem. I estimated that the bottle had been 60% full when Tippy found it and it was now 40% full. While there was a wet circle on her dog bed, we could not be sure that it was the spilled eye drops so we assumed to worst, that she had ingested 20% of the bottle. The bottle was originally 15ml of 0.05% tetrahydrozoline. This meant that she may have ingested up to 3ml of the bottle. A quick online search yielded few concurring responses. Several vets stated that there were not a lot of studies that could conclusively present how a dog was affected by tetrahydrozoline while another vet stated that if a dog consumed 2ml or more, it should be taken in for observation.

Finally, the National Institutes of Health had the (best) answer, though not the most comforting. Acute intoxication of tetrahydrozoline could impact the GI, cardiopulmonary, and nervous systems. And with that, SB began getting ready to take her to the emergency pet hospital while I would stay home with Elsie. I tried to distract myself from my rising worry but feeding Tippy a dish of milk and telling myself that milk was the miracle cure for pets. Poor Elsie didn't understand why she wasn't being invited to drink milk. The SB and Tippy were off while Elsie and I stayed home and fretted, me because I was scared that Tippy was ill, and Elsie because she and Tippy are rarely separated. While they were at the shelter a couple took Tippy home for the weekend with the intent to adopt her but the separation was too traumatizing for Elsie so they didn't complete the adoption of one dog. I am grateful that we took the two of them because by the time that we arrived, the shelter had decided that they would agree to separate the dogs if it meant that at least one would be adopted, and my heart hurts thinking of Elsie being left behind. She is a funny weirdo and very lovable though you wouldn't have known that upon meeting her because she does not make a great first impression.

Meanwhile at the hospital, Tippy was admitted and a cuff placed on her to monitor her heart rate. If her heart rate was abnormal, she would be placed on an IV that would hopefully mitigate hypotension. Luckily, Tippy's two readings were normal. After an hour we had the option of leaving her in the hospital or taking her home. SB opted to take her home and observe her in a comfortable environment since she was registering normal signs of anxiety that many dogs (and humans) show when in a clinic. They returned home to Elsie and my delight, and for the first time ever, Tippy was tucked into bed between SB and me.

In hindsight, it may have been better to stay at the emergency hospital. It would have reduced the stress of responsibility that caused me to jerk awake repeatedly in the four hours of sleep that I had left. I kept waking in distress, covered in sweat with my heart thumping in my chest. I continuously woke poor Tip to check her vitals and then woke SB to confirm. At some point I jerked awake to find her lying still with her eyes open and thought that she was dead. She wasn't, but it took me shaking her until she moved to convince myself because I couldn't feel her pulse or even her usual puffs of air on my arm...probably because my own racing pulse and tremors prevented me from noticing her signs of life.

Finally, our four hour time critical window passed and we were able to relax with the knowledge that our Tippytoes was probably safe. I collapsed into less than an hour of sleep before my alarm sounded and it was time to get ready for work.When I left, SB and Tippy were in the living room, Tippy catching up on her rest and SB still Googling about dogs and tetrahydrozoline ingestion. As I type this tale out during my lunch break, I can feel my red eyes burning under my contacts. I'm probably going to sleep like the dead tonight.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

a gorgeous drone aerial tour of Hong Kong

Last month SB and I witnessed two Indian (we think) men attempting to fly a quadcopter in the park behind the Happy Valley police station where our dogs play. I write 'attempting' because the last we saw of them was as they were chasing after the quadcopter which was being blown away by the wind.

Last week the rooftop tenants of the building next to ours had a quadcopter and were much more successful. It buzzed our window before heading across the street to hover over the Wednesday night races. I bet that they got some remarkable footage if they were recording.

Via Gizmodo, a team of quadcopter enthusiasts completed their mission to deliver a chocolate bar from Tseung Kwan O to Repulse Bay. The YouTube video shows the quadcopter crossing the sea, soaring over several peaks and navigating buildings. It's remarkable.

There were seven pilot relay teams who worked together to fly the 9.5+ kilometers. 

You may access the video through user Sky Frog