Wednesday, October 26, 2005

 

Beggars

Compared to other cities in Asian Hong Kong is relatively beggar free. However there are some.

I find begging to be a fascinating profession.

Once I was waiting for an early bus to go to work. A taxi pulled up and a man got out who was dressed in a loin cloth type thing. He got a cardboard box out of the trunk and paid the driver with (No fake) coins and then threw the box down on the sidewalk and laid down on the box and began to beg. I don't make enough money to take a cab to work so I guess the guy was doing pretty well.

My experience is not an isolated one. The Chinese newspapers here often have stories about the staggering amount of money made by beggars. Some of these are sad because grown children force their elderly parents to beg. Other times young children are forced to help create sympathy in passers by.

This is unfortunate because there are, despite the opportunity and low taxes in Hong Kong quite a number of people who are destitute. I'd like to help them but don't want support fakes. Yet, I don't want my fear of supporting frauds to keep me from helping those in need. What do I do?

I don't give money to Buddhist monks or nuns because I'm not a follower of their religion.

I also don't give money to anyone who is trying to make me feel sorry for them. There are social services in Hong Kong for those with physical and mental disabilities. They have opportunities, they don't have to beg.

If a beggar wants me to give them change they need to standup and beg with the dignity God gave a beggar.

This isn't a perfect solution. But it seems to give me some guidelines for giving away a few coins.

Anyway, it works for me.

Until Next time
Fai Mao
The wishes he could be more generous blogger

 

Coffee

Is there anything on Earth to compare with coffee?

I don't know if I would be considered a big coffee drinker but I am a huge coffee fan.

There is nothing I know of, not bread, not fresh laundry, not a fireplace that smells as good as coffee. Not even bacon!

Nothing else can say: home, work, good morning, good evening, hospitality, time to get busy or time to time relax, I'm sophisticated or I'm a common man in the same way as coffee.

Coffee is the do it all beverage.

It doesn't have the kiddy appeal of soda which is good.

You can drink 3 pints of it and still legally drive home.

Coffee with a cookie for a snack.

Coffee with a sandwich as a late supper

Coffee with toast in the morning

Coffee with a rum or whiskey spike for that special conversation with a special friend.

Coffee while watching TV in my pajamas is nearly heaven on Earth.

Coffee on a cold rainy day when I need to warm up.

Coffee with chicory

Coffee with chocolate

Some would say coffee with cigarettes but I don't smoke

I take mine black with sugar

Fai Mao
The Coffee Drinking Blogger

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

 

Loyalty

Loyalty is an interesting concept. I was thinking about it today because I went to KFC for lunch.

I have been a loyal KFC customer for years. I know the chicken is greasy and the side dishes are over cooked and everything has too much salt and bla bla bla. However, I am a loyal KFC customer simply because of one middle-aged lady who used to work at a KFC in McKinney, Texas in September of 1987.

My wife and I were returning home through McKinney after visiting my parents and stopped at a KFC because we had a coupon. Our daughter was only a few months old and had been born slightly premature and thus very kolicy and hadn't stopped screaming and wailing and crying at the top of her lungs for more than 15 minutes the whole time. I have had much more patience with people who bring small children in to restaurants every since but that is not the point here.

There was an employee at this KFC, a middle-ages lady who came out from behind the counter, and asked if she could hold our daughter while we ate. She held our baby and rocked her and got her quiet. She showed her off to all the employees there (Our daughter has always been cute as a bug) and generally let us have the first meal we'd had in months without a screaming child in a high chair at the table with us.

What a blessing.

I've never forgotten it.

I have appreciated it more than that lady will ever know.

I've been a loyal KFC customer every since.

Until next time.
Fai Mao
The Chicken Eating Blogger

Monday, October 24, 2005

 

Autumn

This weekend, Hong Kong entered its 10 weeks of good weather. While I've lived in hotter places I've never lived in a place with this combination of heat, humidity, air-pollution and congestion. That combination is simply murder. This is the only place I've ever lived where you can sweat in a thunderstorm. The winter here is not cold but it is chilly and damp. None of the buildings have heat and the apartments have walls made from plaster covered concrete so your home is clammy and very uncomfortable. It isn't so much bitterly cold as it is that no place is warm. Really quite miserable.

However, every Fall we get 8 to 10 weeks of beautiful weather that almost makes up for the rest of the year. The wind picks up and blows the pollution out to sea, the temperature drops 4 or 5 degrees Celsius and the summer rainy season comes to an end and the humidity falls to a manageable level. It will be simply beautiful from now until about Christmas. It is in the contract, we must get this or God couldn't make anybody live here and not call it punishment.

My evening runs are simply incredible at this time of year. Because it is just a little cooler and dryer I feel like I could run forever or least 1/2 way to forever.

Something that is really a nice to know is that the Fall is low season when traveling here but it is the nicest time of year.

If you've never been to Hong Kong catch a plane! The weather is great.

Fai Mao
The Weather Watching Blogger

Friday, October 21, 2005

 

A Challenge for a Cyclist with Lots of Money and an Open Mind

When it comes to bicycle riding I am what is known as a Retro Grouch. A Retro Grouch is someone who doesn't believe that many of the "New, Improved" generation of cycling parts that have introduced over the past 20 or so years have made the sport or hobby better.

There are actually different levels of Retro riders from those who will only ride 1975 or older Rene Hearse customs to those like me who simply think much of the new equipment to be more trouble than it is worth. Some of it in fact is, I believe, as I shall explain later, merely expensive marketing.

I also have moral problem with some of the new parts. Not that they are inherently immoral or anything but the riders' motivation for using them is. The object of a race is to determine who is the faster rider, not who has the fastest bicycle. If someone beats me because they have a bike that is 20% more efficient but did not beat my time at least 20% I think I have a legitimate question as to whether they actually beat me.

However, I am not writing an excuse for my lack of speed. And, notice I am not doubting the benefits of some aero-dynamic parts assuming you can reach a high enough speed to gain the advantages they provide. I am going to challenge some things however quite vigorously.

One of the recent "Innovations" in cycling concerns the bottom bracket and "Crank" or "Chainset" for those of you from the UK. To be fair, crank design has been evolving for a long time. In the '60's and early '70's most moderately good cycles used what was known as a "cottered" crank. These used a cotter pin though the arm to secure the crank to the spindle. These were replaced by a "Cotterless" or "One-piece " crank that was lighter and held on by a combination of friction on the tapered spindle taper and a bolt through the end of the spindle. However, until recently the rational for the change in design was always improving the design. Cotterless cranks are better than cottered. They are much lighter, easier to remove and install less expensive to produce and more reliable than the old cottered cranks.

The newest version of cranks is an improvement in design in some ways however, they are not marketed in this way. They are held on simply by the bolt because rather than a tapered spindle. This means the crank can be removed without any special tools and that might or might not be an advantage.

A definite disadvantage is that it is now much easier for a company to have a proprietary design on the spindle splines that forces you to purchase their brand of Bottom Bracket and makes you have to replace the crank when (if) they stop producing that design.

There are other pro's and con's to this new arrangement but the real selling point has been that because the new bottom bracket have hollow, oversized spindle which is supposed to impart a stiffer, more efficient pedal stroke you transmit more power to the rear wheel. Thus, the new parts make you faster!

Bull

I've ridden both of these and it simply isn't true. Furthermore, unlike aero-bars and some of fancy pants spoking patterns on expensive new wheels I've seen absolutely NO evidence that these new bottom brackets make anyone faster or that the extra stiffness translates into extra power, or at least enough extra power to be meaningful.

The Challenge.
Take two bicycles that are EXACTLY alike except for the Crank and bottom bracket. Disguise the cranks so that the difference in Bottom Bracket cannot be seen and have a group of cyclist ride both bicycles. Have them guess which bottom bracket was the "new splined extra stiff" model and which was the old taper type.

My prediction:
The riders would not choose the new model more than could be accounted for by blind chance.

The new cranks, introduced by the hated Shimano, would be found to be simply expensive marketing ploys to induce bikers to part with their father's money for a more expensive piece of bike candy that doesn't work any better than the old design.

Shimano has basically taken cyclist for a ride

Come on prove me wrong. Bet you can't

Fai Mao
The Retro-Grouch Blogger

Thursday, October 13, 2005

 

Blood for oil? Why not?

I try pretty hard to not get political on this blog but it seems as though about every third post recently has been about global politics. Historians like to talk about the seamless web of history and how nothing has a single cause (As if they had been able to view all events for all time and absolutely determine that nothing has ever had a single cause) However, my recent fixation on politics rather than my more normal naval gazing has but a single cause. The G7 conference here in my home town of Hong Kong.

As ranted about in previous post these people upset me not because I completely disagree with them, at least in theory but rather because they make it impossible to disagree with them even in part, without them throwing rocks at you. Thus, they make me have to adopt a position on issues that is more extreme than I would normally take just so that I am justified in throwing things back at them.

I also find them, as I have stated in previous post, to be somewhat duplicous and deceptive.

This weekend they gave me another reason to hate them.

Some big mucky-muck from the G7 was in Hong Kong this weekend. There, predictably enough were the protesters, many of them ignorant, **** ***ed baboon HKU students. (My wife is a professor at HKU so I have close contact with them and they make the most indolent, spoiled, self absorbed Ivy leaguers look like normal people) They had their signs and banners and stupid, sophomoric chants decrying the evils of capitalism and the glories of closed markets.

The sign that bothered me this past weekend was the somewhat universal anti-war sign "No Blood for Oil"

God, this kind of tripe bothers me. I bothers me for two reasons. But, not for the normal right winger type reasons. It bothers me because I would have liked to oppose this war for what I thought were very sound reasons but ended up supporting it because the anti-war movement seems to be entirely made up of certified 100% pure idiots, cowards and brain-dead dope smokers.

First, why I did not support going into Iraq.

1) I don't think "preemptive strikes" are a good ideas. Unlike the left which seems to think they are ok when Bill Clinton bombs aspirin factories or the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, I don't support preemptive strikes from any political wing. You wait until you are attacked or at least obviously threatened. The US invasion of Afghanistan was justified and correct as a reply to the 9-11 attacks because Osama Bin Laden was known to be in the country. Unlike the left, I believe that Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with Al Qaida. However, the US should have waited to be attacked by weapons that were identifiably Iraqi in origin. Again, unlike the left I believe that such an attack would have occurred and it would have killed more people than 9-11. However that is price you pay for not becoming as bad as your enemies.

2) If you are going to invade one dictator because he/she/they are a threat or are so terribly oppressive then it appears to me that you must invade all of them. This becomes problematic in more ways than I wish to go into. If you can't see the problem then you probably couldn't understand the explanation.

3. Even though it wasn't, the invasion of Iraq looks like imperialism. Sometimes perception is stronger than reality.

Another issue inserts itself at this point that I think is worth mentioning.

I was against going into Iraq. However, now that the US has invaded they have a responsibility to stay until it is finished. Paradox? No it isn't. If your nation invades another nation, overthrows the government, destroys the infrastructure and generally does the kinds of things that military invasions do; then your nation OWES that nation something. At the very least you OWE them a better government than the one you overthrew! You probably also OWE them massive amounts of aid for years to come. That is one of the hallmarks of a righteous or just war. You are not invading them to simply make your nation a bigger place with access to more or cheaper resources.

The anti-war movement appears to me to be totally racist and euro-centric. I believe this because it is obvious that they don't give a nickel for the well being for the people of Iraq who have darker skin and eat different foods than the upper-middle class protesters who fly from city to city. They not only didn't want the war they want immediate withdrawal which would leave anarchy and the people there would have probably been better off under Saddam Hussein! The United States now OWES it to the people of Iraq a government and aid to make sure that the conditions, real or imagined that caused this war never occur again.

But here are these progressive wishing a terrible fate on 20 + million or so people for the sole reason of defeating a domestic political opponent in a future election. They, in effect, have just denied the people in Iraq the same level of political freedom they enjoy. That is a terrible crime that rises the level of a war crime!

I'm sorry, even if you opposed the war you must support finishing it and giving the Iraqi people a better nation as a result. You've got to hope they become another Germany or Japan. Anything else makes you an evil ideologue worse than George Bush, worse than Saddam.

Now, the "No Blood for Oil"

The blood for oil folks took someone who would have been opposed to the war and made him a proponent of it. There are only really two reason for going to war. These can be summarized in the two words Ideology and Resources. Most wars are a combination of both. Wars about resources are easier to justify. This war is about ideology with almost no resources component and is therefore hard to explain. It is also harder to maintain a war effort on ideological principles. This should be the real lesson of Vietnam.

This war was not for oil and such simplistic slogans obscure the real problems with this war.

Think about it a minute. If the war was for oil then gasoline prices would not be over USD $2.00 a gallon in the US because all that Iraqi oil would be shipped to the US for free and turned into gasoline.

Besides if the United states was going to invade a country for its oil it wouldn't invade Iraq which is a long way and difficult to hold. If the US was going to invade a country for its oil the US would have invaded Canada. It has almost as much oil as Iraq, a smaller population and a smaller less able military. Contrary to the Canadians opinion of themselves the US would probably have received less international opposition because Canada is nation almost totally without influence. It would be easier to hold, easier to subdue and a significant percentage of the population would probably welcome the overthrow the socialist government. Plus, the people who support the government of Canada are all Politically Correct wimps and the country is filled with Mennonites and other assorted pacifist! There is strict gun control so the population couldn't form the militias that appear to be everywhere in Iraq. Logistically it would have been easier and probably less bloody as deals could have possibly been worked out with at least some of the native tribes for independence in return for drilling rights. The oil would be closer to home and thus transportation and maintaining supply lines issues would be easier.

This war is not for oil. It is for ideology. You can see that because Iraq was a bad choice for invasion otherwise. The problem with an ideological war is that you cannot be pragmatic about it. There can be no brokered peace. There can only be complete, unconditional surrender. That takes longer and is harder to achieve.

World War II for example was clearly about both ideology and resources. The Japanese were seeking to overrun the Pacific and China to obtain oil, timber, iron and other resources for the heavenly empire. Germany invaded the USSR to gain "luft" or living space for Aryans.

But, now that the US is in the war, it must be finished and won

All of this is beside the point

If fighting a war to maintain a supply of natural resources is not a good grounds for war then what is? Especially when those resources are controlled by government that are hostile and expansionist. So why not a war for oil? I'd rather fight for oil than fight for a Post Modern interpretation of politics.

The G7 has no control over the US war effort. As such the sign was a worthless exercise in political grandstanding. If you are going to protest then your protest should be appropriate for the official involved. The G7 has at most very little say in the course of US military policy.

Growl

Fai Mao
The reluctant Political Pundit

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

 

Rats! Or possibly "I'm da man" or maybe what a narrow escape!

I broke a chain on my bicycle today at the triathlon.

In 20+ years of competitive riding this was the first time I've ever broken a chain.

I was upset because I had trained hard and the teammate who swam had set a personal record and beat everybody else out of the water by (no fake) 10 minutes. I was slamming up the first hill of the bicycle portion at pace that surprised me. My chain snapped at the top of the first hill about 10 minutes into the 40 kilometer ride.

One of the rules of triathlon, as far as I can tell is that you are responsible for your own equipment. There is not a mechanic in a van to do emergency repairs. I was not carrying a chain tool. So, my goose was cooked and my team could not finish.

I was really upset. I picked my bicycle up and threw it across the road. I looked very hard for a dog to kick and, not finding one available, began yelling at a photographer and demanding that he stop taking pictures of me.

After about three minutes of venting I walked across the road, picked up my bike and coasted back down the hill to the start area and was forced to abandon the race.

There are several reasons why the chain would snap like that.

It could be that I have simply become strong enough to break it with the force of my pedal strokes. (Fat chance)

It could be that the chain was defective

It could be that the chain was installed improperly

Though it was probably my bike's immune system rejecting the new chain. I ride an Italian bicycle (Battaglin) that has Italian Components (Campagnolo) I had just installed a Shimano (Japanese) chain.

Yeah, that's it, blame it on the bike!

Breaking a chain could have been a a good thing. There was a horrific accident on the course caused by an inexperienced rider getting a plastic bag caught in his wheel while riding as fast as he could down a hill. This guy caused a huge problem and several people were injured one quite seriously and several very high dollar bicycles were destroyed.

I am not a good hill climber. I am a good descender. It comes with age. You learn how to ride. You learn how to handle your bike and you learn to stay within your limits. I set my bike up to descend well and be moderately fast on the flats. I grind up the hills. If I'd been in this race I would have possibly been one of the riders coming down the hill at 70 -100 kph. It might have been me in the hospital with a broken neck.

Maybe I've had a narrow escape.

I still wish I'd finished the race. I might have won.

Until next time
Fai-Mao
The Frustrated Triathlete

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Friday, October 07, 2005

 

Guilty? Not me!

My wife and I are coming to grips with a new stage of our lives and marriage.

Our daughter just left for university in the UK a month ago. I expected to miss our daughter intensely; I haven't.

I worry about her. I hope she is doing ok. I helped her get her baggage together and purchase the things she needed before she left. I want her to be safe.

I am apprehensive about the University she is at. Indeed, I opposed her going to this university for a variety of valid reasons. However, the scholarship she received trumped fatherly concerns.

I expected to be overwrought with concern for her safety.

I haven't been.

In fact, my wife and I have really been enjoying our time since Sunyi left.

We go for walks in the evening. We can watch movies that we like without having to worry if she will find them boring. We have more storage space (A premium thing in Hong Kong) because we now have an extra bedroom that can be used as a small storage closet.

It is easier to eat dinner because we do not have to design meals that a 17 year-old on a perpetual diet will still eat. We get fewer strange files downloading onto our computer. Our telephone is not constantly busy.

This weekend is a holiday in Hong Kong and Kim and I have plans to go out to eat with a friend on Saturday and to participate in a team triathlon on Sunday where I will be a cyclist and she a runner. Those would be things that were harder to do with a child in the house.

None of this is meant as implying anything negative about our daughter. She is a well adjusted, normal young adult. It is just that teenagers, high-school students in particular tend to want to lead very different lives than their parents. As kids go our daughter was a joy to raise and gave us few problems. It is just that it is easier to find concensus with two people rather than three.

My wife got pregnant 6 weeks after we were married. So, in a very real way this is the first time since shortly after we were married that we haven't had to plan our life's around expecting or raising a child.

What a wonderful feeling it is to be an empty-nester!

I still miss our daughter but I am also enjoying being an empty-nester.

It is a good thing.

I don't feel guilty at all.


Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Empty Nest Blogger

 

I hate this

I've had to make a couple of post about the G7 meeting here in Hong Kong over the past few days.

I really hate to write about politics. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. Politics is divisive. It has become petty and it is the realm of narrow minded bigots from both ends of the political spectrum. I hate having people box me in and be forced to take a position that I am uncomfortable with simply because I am more uncomfortable with theirs.

However, I am concerned about the effect that these people are going to have on my home. I find it really scary to think that these people are coming here with the intent to disrupt the normal life in my home. Let them work through the political process in their own country. If they feel that the process is irreparably broken in their own country then go home and start a revolution there and leave me alone.

What is really sad is that there are a couple of HK Legco members who will probably be out there with these clowns. But then I've wondered about the sanity of Long Hair Leung for quite a while.

I am bothered by these protesters because of the way that I perceive they misrepresent themselves. While the stated goal of helping the poor and oppressed is one that resonates with many people the actual people who are protesting often don't meet the test of being poor and oppressed.

One of the groups who have been in previous protest, and will probably be there again when they are here, will be Korean apple growers that receive huge government subsidies and benefit from high protective tariffs. Those subsidies and tariffs enable the apple growers to live in the lap of middle-class luxury while prohibiting apples from South America, China and the US Pacific North West from being sold in Korea. This puts people out of work in those countries and makes the normal apple eaters in South Korea have to pay more for apples and in taxes.

Abolishing the trade tariffs would benefit many people and only harm a privileged few. It also appears to me that protesters want to complain about the inequity in the US and Europe but I've never seen them complain about the the treatment of women or prisoners of conscience in middle-Eastern or socialist countries.

I still say if these people cause trouble or do not obey Hong Kong laws requiring protest marches to register and have liability insurance they should be given a ticket out of town

If they start a riot, break a window or try to use force or intimidation then the PLA garrison should be called on to help quell those activities.

One rioter one bullet - bury the bodies under the reclamation project being done in Wan Chai without identifying them.


God, I hate to say that. These people have repeatedly tempted me to hate them and I'm afraid that I've taken up their temptation.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Reluctant Reactionary

Thursday, October 06, 2005

 

G7 Protesters and Hot Glue

TVB in Hong Kong reported last night that in preparation for the G7 conference here in December the government had glued down the bricks they use for sidewalks. They were afraid that that the protesters would pull the bricks up and throw them through windows.

I must admit I'm expecting the worst for this conference. The HK police appear rather too wimpy to confront this kind violent protest. It has been my experience here that the police tend to try to follow the Chinese maxim of "Make big problems small problems and ignore small problems" They negociate, they cajole and the try to defuse a situation. That won't work.

I have some some sympathy for the issues these people raise but I have no sympathy for them. They are out of line, over the top and beyond the pale.

I hope they don't cause any trouble. But, if they do cause trouble, I hope the government calls out the PLA Garrison for help.

One rioter one bullet.
Fai Mao
The Right Wing Reactionary Blogger

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

 

Home for the Holidays

Just exactly what does the word home mean?

I could look it up but I don't think I'd be satisfied with the definition. I don't know where my home is anymore.

This summer I had the strange experience of going to visit my family home and being intensely homesick for for Hong Kong at the same time. Makes me wonder where I am really from. Actually I was glad to see people I hadn't seen in nearly a decade but missed the cramped flat and steamy weather in Hong Kong. I almost wept through parts of Alabama. It is, contrary to what Hollywood movies portray, a beautiful place. I found my self longing to move back to a small house on some land.

But, I was excited to land at Chek-Lap Kok and ride the bus home to Causeway Bay. My wife and I are planning to travel this Christmas. It seems that our only family tradition is impermanence.

I feel like a hydroponic plant. I have no roots

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Homeless Blogger

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