Sunday, December 21, 2008

Some things are to horrible to Contemplate

Warning the link above is NOT for the easily grossed out.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Bogger who hopes he never has anything like this happen to him

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

O Come O Come Emanuel

O Come O Come Emanuel is one of the oldest Christmas carols still commonly sung and possibly dates from as early as the 12th century though most hymnologist put it in the 15th century. I like this carol but I’m not sure that it is a Christmas song at all. There are several reasons for this.

First the tune is an actual medieval funeral hymn which doesn’t seem to be a good choice of music for a Christmas carol.

Second, the Church at this time believed what is known as “Covenant Theology.” One of the tenants of this type of theology is the belief that all of the promises made to the nation of Israel were transferred to the Church after the resurrection of Jesus. That is why you see the constant references to Israel in this hymn. In the minds of the people who originally sung this hymn they were the New Israel. The Christians at this time considered the words Israel and Church to be nearly synonyms

Third, these were people who had lived through the Black Death. They were being overruns on the East by the Turks. The Moors were invading from the West. Areas that had been predominantly Christian for 100’s of years were being converted to Islam at the point of a sword. The writers of this hymn believed that they lived in dark days.

When you look at the theology and history of the age when this hymn was written its meaning changes. This hymn isn’t about the Advent but the Second Coming. This is the voice of people who live in fear of disease, and invasion. This is a hymn for people who are afraid they are going to be asked to die for their faith. This is a song for people who believe that God will protect them even in times of trials. This is a song about finding hope in hopeless times.

Maybe that makes a good Christmas carol after all.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go. Refrain

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan's tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save,
and give them victory over the grave. Refrain

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadows put to flight. Refrain

O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery. Refrain

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times once gave the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

O come, thou Root of Jesse's tree,
an ensign of thy people be;
before thee rulers silent fall;
all peoples on thy mercy call. Refrain

O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and be thyself our King of Peace. Refrain

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear. Refrain

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who sings Christmas carols

Oh The Monkies Have No Tails in Zam Boanga

I wrote the post in the link last year and several people wrote me and said how it moved them. I thought I'd repost it this year.

I'll have a new Christmas post up in a couple of days

Now they tell me!

One of the most frustrating areas of my job is weeding. That is the term that librarians use for removing old books from the shelves. There are many reasons for doing this. Sometimes the books are just worn out and are being replaced. Sometimes the library has more copies of a work than it needs. Sometime the content is dated. Sometimes the focus of the library has changed. But mostly books are pulled, as much as librarians hate to admit it simply because nobody reads them. This last reason is really problematic and bothersome. Librarians actually spend a lot of time reading reviews, looking at curriculum and deciding what to buy. They then promote the new purchases, look at lesson plans and try to let teachers know what is available. All to no avail. So, this potentially really useful book sits on the shelf for 10 years until the person who has their job after them sees the book and says, "That's dated" and throws it away.

That's when the problem starts. As soon as I publish a list of withdrawn items I get teachers and administrators at my desk saying "What, you're gonna throw that out! That's to useful to discard!"

Then why didn't they read it before I got ready to throw it out?

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who knows that 95% of everything in a library is simply helping to make the other 5% that is read look important but doesn't like it

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Smile, you're on surveillance camera

Scary stuff even if you aren't paranoid.

One of the assignments I have students in middle school do is to put their name in quotation marks into a Google search. It is interesting to see how much stuff is available about you unless you are very, very careful.

What is scary is the ability not just governments but banks and even just voyeurs are getting track our lives. Things like debit cards for mass transit systems and cell phone records automated toll plazas all create records. I've been told, though I don't know first hand since I don't drive that in places like Singapore if a crime is committed and an automobile is used then the first thing the police do is check these records to see if any cars matching a description were in the area. You are suspect simply because you drive a white Accord. Governments are bad enough but, I wonder how many other people have the ability to access this information?

The smart ID card in Hong Kong is certainly easy to use but man is it somewhat scary too just because of the amount of information it contains. Yet if you intentionally disable that information then it is a crime.

It appears to me that there are really only three absolutely basic rights. 1) The right to follow my conscience, which would include the free speech, freedom of religion and privacy. 2) The right to my property, which includes such things as deciding where to live, what to eat and wear. 3) The right to liberty which would include such things as choosing my own career and living where I want.

Obviously none of these are an absolute right. But it just seems that each is becoming more circumscribed and restricted all the time. Today is no different than the past in that regard because in all times and all nations there are those who wish to impose tyranny for the good of "the people" regardless of how many people have to die to obtain that good. It is just that now it is easier for them to do it.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who sometimes thinks he should wear sabots and could be related to Ned Ludd

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rudolph's on the Red-Line Train Dear

Sung to the tune or Rudolph the Red Nosed Raindeer

Rudolph’s on the Red-Line train dear, you can reach him on his cell phone.
None of the other riders mind if he receives a call.
They'd never let his talking, bother them in the least.
Mostly they’re just chatting or listening to MP3’s

Then on one crowded afternoon a SenSan couldn’t hear.
When he began to shout into his phone
Rudolph got mad and punched him out.
Now all the MTR riders always back away in fear.
They never shout on cell phones if they see that Rudolph’s near.

1.The MTR is the Hong Kong subway system
2. SenSan is Chinese for "Mister" "Man"or "Husband"

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger with a twisted sense of Christmas

Monday, December 08, 2008

To eat or not to eat

I have a friend whose wife is a vegetarian. I like her a lot, she is a really sweet person. She is one of the most unoffensive vegetarians I've ever met. But I still wonder about vegetarians and I must admit that she is one of the few I've met who don't fall into two basic groups; Hindus and weirdo's.

I can almost understand why Hindu theology espouses vegetarianism. Almost not quite. I understand the concept of doing good works and not harming anything. I have read the Vedas and the Upanishads and the Sutras and have at least a cursory understanding of the development of Eastern Pantheism.

The rub for me is that the Wheel of Karma is mechanical. You are getting paid in this life for the sins of your previous life. How do I know that it isn't fated for that pig to become a Chinese New Year's dinner? Maybe that is what he was born for and is fulfilling his Karma in doing so. If that is the case am I not being cruel to not eat him? Because if I don't then he will just have to pay for those past sins, and any that he commits as a pig in the next life and because he will live longer he will probably have a greater Karmic load. What if the best way for him to shed Karma is make me happy by eating him? Sacrificing himself for the good or at least happiness of others is surely a high and noble thing to do. What if by not eating him I am actually injuring him more than if I'd eaten him. Then I'd not be doing good but harm.

Far be it from me to keep any being from being able pay back their Karma, pass the mustard please.

When I look at the social inequity in Hindu society that is perpetuated through the caste system I cannot help but think the Hindus might shed more Karma by abstaining from assigning people positions in society at birth and eating meat. Still despite the issues I have with Hinduism I can understand why they eat what they eat. There is a certain internal logic to it and if you buy into the system; I suppose it makes sense.

The problem is that not all vegetarians are Hindus or its off shoots Buddhism, Jainism and so forth. Most are like my friend's wife only pushier. She became a vegetarian because when she was 13 she went to a BBQ and got sick eating chicken. You see surprising numbers of stories similar to this one. What I find strange is that I have never heard anyone swear off vegetables because they got sick at a salad bar. I wonder why that is? Especially since many more people that get sick from eating things like salad which isn't cooked than they do from eating meat items. Maybe it happens, maybe there are people I don't notice that only eat meat and no starch, fruit or vegetables but there are not many. Sort of moral Adkins dieters; but the only ones I can think of are arctic tribes that live on seals and whale blubber. Other than them I haven't heard of anyone who is exclusively a meat eater.

What would happen if a 13-year-old says “Mom, I got sick on those green beans last night and now I'm only eating cornbread and meat”? I bet the parents would not allow it. Yet evidently little kids are allowed to do just the opposite and swear off animal protein. Even if they don't eat a wide enough variety of vegetables to be healthy.

Even people who don't eat many vegetables eat more vegetables than vegetarians do meat. Normal humans (yes it is normal for us to eat meat) also seem to be much more tolerant of vegetarians than vice versa. I guess this is where “M” and I agree, she isn't seeking any form of moral superiority through vegetarianism. She just doesn't like meat. Most vegetarians are actually quite high-horsed about their diet and that can drive non-vegetarians up a tree. I guess they are sort of crypto-evangelical-Hindus. They'd probably be better off being the real thing. Except then they'd have to buy into all that caste-system stuff and that isn't very fun. Especially since I'm in a higher caste than they are.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Non-Vegetarian Blogger

Friday, December 05, 2008

A bridge to far?

Last Sunday I sent a polite email to several legco members asking if the Hong Kong-Macao-Zhuhai bridge project included a railroad link. I had hoped to wait to write about this until I received a reply.

Crickets chirped, grass grew, seasons changed

Not one of them replied

I'm a lot less opposed to this bridge than some people appear to be but I cannot figure out why they would build this thing without a rail link on it. It would seem to me that bringing a rail link directly to the Kwai Fong container terminal would be a logical, long term job creating way to justify this bridge. Isn't it better to have a 1000 shipping containers arrive via train than arrive one at a time via tractor trailer? I'd think so.

It would also be a great idea to be able to run commuter trains to Zhu Hai because as we continue to become more integrated into the greater Chinese economy it might become attractive to live there and commute to work. Kind of like the stock broker that lives in New Jersey and works on Wall Street.

This is a good example of how public schools create the society. The schools here are actually simply vomitoria where students repeat what they've learned without trying to apply that knowledge. While I have at times defended that to some degree the leaders should be better than that. I would bet they simply didn't think that it might be a good idea to have more than one rail link with the rest of China. Now, since they are getting ready to start building this thing it would be embarrassing to have put the plans on hold for 6-weeks while the architects reworked the plans.

Or, it could be that they were all busy trying to not send a plane or two down to Bangkok to help evacuate local citizens.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who takes the ferry

A Fai Mao Christmas Hymnal

Here are the lyrics of all the spoofs that I've done over the years that I can find.

Some are simply silly and other were written in response to social issues at the time.

Noisy Night
(Silent Night)

Noisy night, smoggy night
All is busy all is bright.
Round yon bus stop mother and child.
Waiting patiently in the crowd
‘Till they catch a ride home, till they catch a ride home

Noisy night, smoggy night
All is busy, all is bright
Standing grumpily in the queue
Hoping to find a seat for the ride home
Hoping that it won’t rain, hoping that it won’t rain

Noisy night, smoggy night
All is busy, all is bright
Still the quiet place calls to each one
Waiting silently never proud
‘till we find our way home, ‘til we find our way home

Noisy night, smoggy night
Sitting still, sitting quiet
Knowing that Christmas is in the heart
Ignoring the neon is just the start
‘till we find our way home, ‘till we find our way home


This Carroll was written because at this time in 2007 there were a number of horrific suicides in the government housing complex known as Tin Shui Wai

O Little Town of Tin Shui Wai
(O Little Town of Bethlehem)

O little town of Tin Shui Wai,
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep unemployed sleep
The silent stars drive by;
Yet the dark Mercedes hideth
The everlasting bureaucrat;
Whose hopes and fears for retirement years
Are fading as you die.

For children born of immigrants,
And gathered in one place
While parents work the siblings keep
their watch of indifferent love.
O buildings packed together
Proclaim the contractors greed.
In flats so small a barbie doll.
Would find them cramped and leave.

How silently, how silently
The wordless grief is given!
The hopeless lives of migrant wives
Their fate fixed for all time.
No ear may hear them falling;
‘till on the ground they lie,
Where hopeless grief collides with concrete
And all we can do is cry.

Where children bound hand and foot,
Pray simply to be spared;
Their misery cries out to me,
Can we not do better by thee?

Where charity stands watching,
And LEGCO holds wide the door,
The dark night screams, the body breaks,
and the coroner comes once more.

O lonely child of Tin Shui Wai,
Descend not to the pavement, we pray;
Cast not out thy self but stay within;
Find some hope in life today!

There is more for you than you see
More than the Donald Tsang could ever say;
For though it is true that he has ignored you
You don't deserve to die.

Cell Phone Bells
(Silver Bells)

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks.
Dressed in DKNY style
In the bus there's a few old men standing

Children pouting
People staring
walking mile after mile

And on ev'ry street corner you'll hear

Cell-phone bells, cell-phone bells
It's still work time in the city
Ring-a-ling, don't you hate them to sing?
Soon it will be dim-sum time

Strings of street lights
Even stop lights
Blink a bright red and green
As the shoppers rush home with their cell-phones

Hear the snacks crunch
See the tourist bunch "Is this the way to Mong Kok?"
And above all this bustle you'll hear

Cell-phone bells, Cell-phone bells
It's still work time in the city
Ring-a-ling, don't you hate it when they sing?
Soon it will be dim-sum time

Jingle Bells - Hong Kong Style

Rushing through Mong Kok in a Kowloon Motor Buss
Over the bumps we go
Talking all the way (yak yak yak)
Bells on Cell Phones Ring
Making spirits bright
Oh, what fun it is to sing a Cell Phone Song Tonight

Oh Cell phones ring, cell phones ringPeople answer "Wai?"
Oh what fun it is to ride in a buss tonight


Walking in a Hong Kong Wonderland
(Winter Wonderland)

Tram bells ring are you listening?
In the street lights are blinking
Its crowded tonight
What a frenetic sight
Walking in a Hong Kong wonderland

Gone away is bluebird
We killed them all because of flu birds
We'd rather not cough
As we walk the along
Walking in a Hong Kong wonderland

In the crosswalk we can see an old man pushing
a cart full of paper brown He'll say: Can you help meWe'll say: No, Man
But you'll be there by sundown
Later on we'll conspire,As we push our stock price higher
As we live and we die
In our flats in the sky
Walking in a Hong Kong wonderland

When we get old we'll retire
In Canada or Australia
We'll frolic and play
Though far far a way
Walking in a Hong Kong wonderland

Hong Kong 12 Days
(12 days of Christmas)
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me
A pirated CD

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Two soy sauce chickens and a pirated CD

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Three cake shop vouchers, two soy sauce chickens and a Pirated CD

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Four cell-phones calling,
Three cake shop vouchers, two soy sauce chickens and a pirated CD

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Five golden Rings
Four cell-phones calling, three cake shop vouchers, two soy sauce chickens and a pirated CD!

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Six taxis honking
Five Golden rings
Four cell-phones calling, three cake shop vouchers, two soy sauce chickens and a pirated CD!

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Seven (Filipino) maids a shopping, six Taxis honking
Five Golden Rings
Four cell-phones calling, three cake shop vouchers, two soy sauce chickens and a pirated CD

On the Eight Day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Eight ferries crossing, Seven (Filipino) maids a shopping, six Taxis honking
Five Golden Rings
Four cell-phones calling, three cake shop vouchers, two soy sauce chickens and a pirated CD

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me

Nine Tours a touring, eight ferries crossing, seven (Filipino) maids a shopping, six Taxis honking
Five Golden Rings
Four cell-phones calling, three cake shop vouchers, two soy sauce chickens and a pirated CD

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Ten ledge-co members, Nine tours a touring, eight ferries crossing, Seven (Filipino) maids a shopping, six Taxis honking
Five Golden Rings
Four cell-phones calling, three cake shop vouchers, two soy sauce chickens and a pirated CD

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me.
Eleven buses parking, ten ledge-co members, nine tours a touring, eight ferries crossing, seven (Filipino) maids a shopping, six Taxis honking
Five Golden Rings
Four cell-phones calling, three cake shop vouchers, two soy sauce chickens and a pirated CD

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
A 12 square foot flat
Eleven buses parking. ten Ledge-co members, Nine tours a touring, eight ferries crossing, seven (Filipino) maids a shopping, six Taxis honking
Five Golden Rings
Four cell-phones calling, three cake shop vouchers, two soy sauce chickens and a pirated CD

Chestnuts Roasting in an Open Barrel
Chestnuts roasting in an open barrel
Bus fumes getting up your nose
People going by looking down at their shoes
talking on their cell phones

Everybody knows it rude to push through the crowd
Yet seldom does anybody care
But from time to time you you can see and you can hear
The sound of someone spreading cheer

Everyday we walk righ past all those other folks
Looking neither left or right
But even in the crowd and noise that everywhere here

May you find a Merry Christmas and good cheer

Until Next Time
Fai Moa
The Christmas Blogger

Noisy Night

Every Year I try to re-write at least one Christmas Carrol for Hong Kong. Last year was a really sad one this year not so much:

Noisy Night
(Silent Night)

Noisy night, smoggy night
All is busy all is bright.
Round yon bus buss stop mother and child.
Waiting patiently in the crowd
‘Till they catch a ride home, till they catch a ride home

Noisy night, smoggy night
All is busy, all is bright
Standing grumpily in the queue
Hoping to find a seat for the ride home
Hoping that it won’t rain, hoping that it won’t rain

Noisy night, smoggy night
All is busy, all is bright
Still the quiet place calls to each one
Waiting silently never proud
‘till we find our way home, ‘til we find our way home

Noisy night, smoggy night
Sitting still, open heart
Knowing that Christmas is in the heart
Ignoring the neon is just the start
‘till we find our way home, ‘till we find our way home

Links to the previous year's carrols:

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who wishes you a very merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A culture of Trust

It disturbs me that the same ideas about policing are used here in Hong Kong.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger is only mildly Anglophobic

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Evidently I misread the news about the Hopewell center.

As HKMac so rightly pointed out the proposal is to add to the building not tear it down and rebuild it.

Oh well, even the most ardent complainer must be wrong some times

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The blogger who needs to read more carefully

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Strange hit counts

I find it really odd that most of the hits I get on blog come from my post on Nancy Kissel.

The exception is a post I removed but said up front I would if I was wrong on US politics.

I have been thinking that there is a strange correlation between Nancy Kissel and Nina Wong. Of course the local constabulary could never prove the Hatchet-Face-in-Pig-Tails (HFPT) killed her ChinaChem sugar daddy though it is obvious that she had him killed even if she didn't do the deed herself.

Suppose, Nancy Kissel had pulled the same ploy? Suppose after doing the doping & clubbing two step she'd taken a copy of the South China Morning Post and then carefully using gloves and a new tube of glue, cut out words to make a fake ransom note that was then mailed to the police or the deceased husbands employer? Something like "pLAce 30 mIlLion uNmarked Hk dollars In A yellow bag and lEave in Aberdeen cOuntry park BBq areA at 11:30 Pm Thurdsday. If we even think SoMeOne is WatcHing yOur hUsband Dies"

Then even if the ransom was paid she could have claim that the kidnappers had simply murdered him. Mr. Kissel's body would still be in that storage room.

Once again, I think that Nancy Kissel is guilty. I think that in a nation with a judicial system that functioned properly her sentence was just. Indeed, given the evidence against her I'd not object to a death sentence. But, I do not believe that Hong Kong is in possession of such a system. If Nina Wong walked for murdering her husband in cold bold and with no motive except the theft of his millions then Nancy Kissel should go free as well.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Remembering Esau

I have a bad habit of trying to read too many books at one time. I then compound this problem by constantly picking up other books to re-read while I am reading new ones.

Part of this is simply my job. As a school librarian I make it a point to read some juvenile literature just to keep up with what the kids at the school are reading. This semester I've been reading Tamora Peirce and Erin Hunter because I have whole giggles of middle school girls begging for them. But, these books can be blown through rather fast and seldom have anything in them that makes me think. I also manage the textbook inventory for the school that employs me and for some reason known to neither me or anybody else I will at times will pick up a textbook for History, Economics, Psychology or French and just browse it for a while.

I do find it somewhat disconcerting that in the past several years my pleasure reading has been non-fiction. I don't know what that says about me except perhaps my avocational interest (Philosophy & Theology) and recreational interest has merged; or I need to get a life. Of late I've been working my way through "The Everlasting Man" by G.K. Chesterton and "Art as Experience" by John Dewey" But in my bag that I carry back and forth to work I have another personal favorite by John Dewey, "Experience and Nature" I also regularly revisit "Being and Time" and the works of Karl Popper, Henri Bergson, and Richard Rorty. When not reading these I am often thinking about them; especially since my new bionic eyes make it harder to read on the bus so I contemplate rather than read in the mornings and evening. These times of contemplation have become the high-light of my days. I try to leave work and catch the last bus home before 5:00PM everyday or will wait until nearer to 7:00 PM because the buses are much less crowded at that time and I can have a seat to my self and just plug into the MP3 and think about stuff. Of late I've been thinking of Esau.

My personal devotions had been in the Gospel of Matthew for nearly two years until this fall. I was reading through it slowly, just sort of taking it patiently. At some point that changed and I've found myself back in Genesis. I think the reason for this is actually a statement made by G.K Chesterton in "The Everlasting Man" He talks about how historians often divide humanity into the "Civilized" farming and "Barbarian" nomads and how it is presumed that at one point all humans were nomads and that over time most of them settled down. However, where is the evidence of this? Chesterton claims that it seems that for as long people have been people we find that some were nomadic and some more settled so why do we call one type of society more advanced than the other? This made me think of the stories of Cain and Able but also of Jacob and Esau. Esau caught my attention. We do not know a lot about Esau and his name is not generally one that parents give their sons. Jacob is a common name but I do not think I have ever met anybody named Esau. We even use elements of the story of Jacob and Esau as a pejorative phrase when we say "He sold it for a bowl of pottage"

Yet, what do we see when we look at Esau? We see a man who was concerned with his work and living as much as the future. He was essentially right when he said "What good will an inheritance do me if I starve?" Was he angry that Jacob had tricked him? Yes, and he had a right to be. Jacob did not wait to obtain the blessing God had promised him in the way God intended but instead stole it. Jacob then, rather wisely fled to Haran so as not to face the wrath of his brother. Jacob then carried on with his career of larceny and deceit and effectively cheated his uncle Laben out of flock and herds as well as two daughters. At that point Jacob had to flee again. This time back towards his brother.

Notice something. Esau never went to Haran. Is it really feasible to believe that he didn't know where Jacob had gone? Is it feasible to believe that Esau couldn't have followed our had someone follow Jacob and kill him? All we know is that he didn't Indeed, Esau isn't mentioned again until Jacob returns to Palestine. At that time Jacob, assuming his brother is still angry with him attempts to buy off his brother by making restitution payments. When he arrives he finds that Esau has forgiven him and refuses to take even the gifts offered by Jacob.

When I look at Esau I see a man who is able to let go of past wrongs, to forgive and forget. I see a man who enjoys life and recognizes what God has given him and is thankful for it. A man who is content and does not blame others or hold a grudge. This must have been some experience for Jacob. While the other episodes in his life are the ones we are taught in Sunday School I can't help but think this was the one that really made an impression upon him. Did Jacob learn to be content by seeing that Esau was content? Did he learn to forgive by being forgiven? Did he cease striving with God because of what he saw in his brother? I don't know, but I can make a guess.

Yet, Esau was a nomad, a herdsman, a barbarian on a horse. The supposedly less civilized side of the human family. May I live to be as barbaric as Esau.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The blogger who should probably read an adventure novel

Thursday, November 20, 2008

So what's the point?

To those of you not in Hong Kong the link above is about a building in Wan Chai that is 67 stories tall and has a cool if a little shabby revolving restaurant on top. At one time it was the tallest building Asia and seems taller than it is because it sits about 1/3 of the way up Mount Victoria. Needless to say the restaurant has a spectacular view, especially on the 10 or 20 days a year when the air-pollution isn't thick enough to cut with a pair of cheap scissors. The building is only 20 years old which by sky scraper standards is nearly new. But, in true HK style the developer submitted a plan to tear down this perfectly functional and somewhat iconic building and replace it with a bigger, taller, and "more up-to-date" version. Now that the the banks are not lending he wants to tear it down and replace it with a a smaller version.


I'm sorry, this just simply makes no sense. Do they really think that they'll get enough in higher rentals to cover the cost of deconstruction and reconstruction? Wouldn't a thorough renovation be more cost effective? How is a newer generic skyscraper better than an older less generic sky scraper?

Holy Cow, I am glad the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower or the great wall of China are not in Hong Kong. Those would be long gone and replaced with another generic shopping mall-office-residential complex.

Hopewell Center is not be old enough to be considered a historic building and therefore does not fall under the magnificently non-enforced historic preservation law on the books here. That is kind of the point. Nothing will ever be allowed to stand long enough to become historic until the idea that any building over 15 years old is a candidate for redevelopment changes. Until that happens you will continue to see poorly maintained, UGLY buildings because there is no incentive for owners to due the maintenance. They'd rather wait for one of the real estate cabal members to come and tear it down and build something else.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who enjoys lunch or dinner at the R66

Monday, November 17, 2008

Feng Shui master's relationship 'intimate'

This is probably going to come across as a terribly jaded & cynical view of Hong Kong but, this Feng Shui (Chinese Witchdoctor/Astrologer to those of you not in Asia) seems to me to be the very epitome of the average male in Hong Kong. He did whatever it took to get wealthy.

In this case, he had a long running affair with a woman who was both old enough to be his mother and makes Camilla Parker-Bowles look good, but who was married to a really wealthy even older tycoon. After the hatchet-face with pig-tails managed to kill her elderly but filthy rich husband and get all his wealth transfered to her, she goofed off for a couple years and then died suddenly of cancer.

Then the Feng-Shui master, who incidentally was the only one treating her for the cancer, produces a previously unknown will, claims to have had a long term affair and het gets the money.

You can't make this stuff up

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who sometimes thinks that life in Hong Kong imitates Soap Operas

Why does this remind me of Tin Shui Wai?

Sometimes there is nothing more to be said

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who has been called a reactionary

Friday, November 14, 2008

So why am I worried that so many officials here want to ape the British?

I find it enlightening in a sad way that it is no longer "Great Britain" but the "United Kingdom" They haven't been great in quiet a while.

More to the point, doing what the British do, indeed what the Europeans in general are doing and what Barrak Obama wants to do in the US is the single best way to create a PERMANENT underclass in Hong Kong.

LOOK at the actual average person in the UK. Look at the scum (Mr. Littlejohn's word not mine) that live there. Is the UK better off now than before their long, post WWII experiment with socialism? No. They are not.

What is really scary is that the people who live there can't see it at all for the most part. It would never occur to them that there might be a better way. They think they are smart, enlightened and humane when they are not and can't see how depraved they've become.

Hong Kong would do well actually learn from the mistakes of others rather than emulating them.

I am moved to compassion when I see the elderly here pushing carts of garbage down the street. However, when social workers actually talk to these people they often find that they do not want help and will not sign up for the CSS (Welfare) payments. I,as one of only 17 tax payers in Hong Kong would gladly have part of my tax bill go to helping these people. They don't want the help. There is a certain nobility in that. It also means that we should possibly find a way to make the recyclables they collect more valuable so that they can earn more money. This is a good way encourage recycling. It could even be self supporting by placing a "tax" on paper that is equal to the subsidy paid to the recyclers. Of course, there would still have to be a mill that wanted to recycle the materials but perhaps those could be opened here. Lots of people are going to need jobs soon. A mill on some otherwise uninhabited outlying island to make recycled paper products or that turned plastic bottles into nylon or soda-cans into aluminum billet might be feasible if the cost of land for the facility was not sky high. Notice, I am not normally considered be a "Green" many of the ideas proposed by environmentalist are at best silly. This is one that might actually make some sense.

Allow the stubborn old farts to collect garbage, if they won't take CSS but make hidden payments to them through a small price support on the materials they collect. Build some industries that work with those recycled product and sell the glass, plastic, aluminum and paper. These employ more people and the business pay taxes. Reduce the trash in the landfill and create wealth.

This going to become an issue as the economy gets worse this year. Lots more people than the construction workers in Macao are going to lose their jobs. The only thing that gives me hope is that occasionally the government has done things right. During the 1997 financial problems Hong Kong came under attack by international monetary speculators who were attempting to get us to drop the dollar peg. If that happened they would make a lot of money on exchange rates. However, the ordinary people here would have seen their buying power diminished. In a rare show of intelligence THBT, who was the financial secretary at that time simply used government reserves to buy piles of stock in Hong Kong companies. They also purchased Hong Kong dollars back to defend the peg. The government held those stocks until the market improved and then sold them for a profit.

We'll see.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger whose job is probably safe

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Look out for rats. They are always they first to abandon a sinking ship

I am normally, as a matter of economic philosophy, opposed to government bailouts. However, I am very tempted to make an exception here because it is the government that is causing a large part of this problem by inflating the cost of doing business Hong Kong. I would say that if the government gives any of these SME things money they should have their whole operation in Hong Kong. Why bail out any group that is actually manufacturing up North and simply based here? If they are not adding to the local economy through job creation and local taxes then let them wither away. Most of the people who own these type of firms have Canadian citizenship anyway so let them go back to Hong-Couver or Toronkong get a job and pay taxes there. They can enjoy the year-round sledding too.

I am more concerned, in a niggling, almost unconscious sort of way about personal debt in Hong Kong.

I don't have any statistics for the amount of debt held by the average adult in Hong Kong, though antidotal evidence makes me think that in some cases it might be rather high. I am not thinking of mortgage debt here, which is bad enough but what should be called discretionary debt. Credit card bills, vacations, Money lost in Macao, eating out eight times a week, 15 pairs of new shoes a month, USD $12.00 a gallon gasoline when you could take the bus; that kind of thing. It seems that everywhere I go I see a billboard advertising a finance company that wants to give me a debt consolidation loan. They also advertise on TV and have all but completely eclipsed the formerly ubiquitous but unlamented you-too-can-become-a-middle-aged-female-soft-porn-dancing-queen-with-our-weight-loss-program Unfortunately they haven't replace the belching guy trying to kiss his ugly wife antacid commercials.

I am assuming that if there are several companies doing this there must a pool of financially overstretched people dumb enough make their problems worse and make the saturation ads worth the advertising money.

What is scary about these companies is not that sometime people need them but that the companies are pitching the loans as a way to continue a life style that is overly extravagant. There is no "So you've made a mistake or had some bad luck financially, we can help you recover." Instead the pitch is "Get what you want when you want it." I think a lot of the people getting these loans will have to default as the economy worsens this coming year.

Unlike the problems with renting a business here, personal debt isn't the government's fault. I think that a fair number of folks may soon figure out that there is some virtue in delayed gratification.

It is my sincere hope that I am wrong about this. I also hope that the people getting these loans are smart enough to realize that if they have a choice of paying the mortgage or paying the credit card bill that they pay the mortgage.

Until Net Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who is debt free

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Elevator falls 14 floors

This is really scary. Almost everybody here lives in a high rise

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who may start taking the stairs

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The name is Bond, Lehman Brothers Bonds

I've been accused of being cynical before and probably will be again but I have very little sympathy for the people storming HK banks because they lost their life savings making bad investments. Don't misunderstand, I'm sorry for them but low risk does not equal no risk. They were either idiots or didn't research their investments well. Please note, the really pretty-looks 25 years younger than she is-really smart-hard working Chinese wife and I have seen our portfolio shrink significantly so this financial crisis hits home for me. But, and it is a big huge, in capital letters and flashing red font BUT we didn't have all our eggs in one basket and didn't consider a long term investment to be 18 months. These people did. They evidently didn't maintain any cash, or not near enough. They also apparently bought all their bonds from one bank, probably because they could get the fees waived that way (Penny wise & dollar foolish) and presumed that because their 26 year-old account manager had never lost money in his 4 years of investing they'd never lose either.

Some Question:
1. Did it really take this crisis to show the locals here that the banks are some combination of dishonest, corrupt and incompetent?
2. Did they ever READ the contract? If they couldn't read it did they have someone read it for them?
3. Did they ever think there may be a difference between speculation and investing?

I've been to a couple of investing seminars sponsored by banks here. What they told me was that a long term investment is one that doubles in value every 18 months. A short term investment was 6 months and a medium term investment 9-12 months. I've got news for these people. All of these are speculative investments. In fact, they are incredibly speculative. Most of the investors here, and up North are not really investors but speculators.

I find the lack of honesty by the banks here to be particularly galling because they charge fees that are something like 3 times the world average and then give bad advice to people who want to double their assets every two or three years. We've even had the banks tell us "Yes, our charges are more but you make more" Well hey Einstein, when the market goes South do we lose less if we've paid you more? To quote Bugs Bunny "What a Maroon!"

I'm sorry, and it bothers me to say that I agree with Mr. Potato Head (Joseph Yam the guy in charge of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority) Did it not ever occur to these people that the reason that they could get 6% or 8% or 9% on these investments when a pass-book savings account offers 1.5% was because there was substantial risk involved? Did it every occur to the banks that their customers might riot when they found out how badly they'd been screwed?

I guess not. Or maybe the people storming banks and assaulting security guards just think if they pitch a big enough fit someone will bail them out. Evidently the banks never thought this would happen or they wouldn't have had unarmed security guards.

It gets still worse because it is going to get worse. If the US and EU go into a deep recession which is what happens if John McCain wins the US election or experiences the second coming of the Great Depression which is what will happen if Barrack Obama wins then all those Chinese factories will go belly up. Either way the days of the Chinese economy shooting up like a rocket are probably coming to an end, at least for a while. So what happens when Constantine Tiberius Yuk-Ming Chan and his wife Hilarious Butterfly Ying-Ping Wong (I made up these names but there probably at least two or three people with similar names to these in Hong Kong) can't pay the mortgage on their 15 million dollar 750 square foot flat in the mid-levels because his import-reexport business can't sell Chinese shoes to Wal-Mart because nobody is buying them? They will have to do more than let one of their three Filipino maids go, move their spoiled brat Constantine II to a cheaper school and sell the second Mercedes, that's what! Expect the real estate market here to crash next year; and I mean crash like go down in flames. Expect lots of the returned Chinese to suddenly go back to Canada because they can't make enough to make it worth living in the air-pollution in Hong Kong if they can't make a several of million a year in Hong Kong dollars.

Looking on the bright side the wife and I would like to buy a new apartment so maybe we can get a deal.

Remember the stock market can, theoretically, go all the way down to zero but the stockbroker can go down only as far as the sidewalk, unless he falls through a skylight over the restaurant and then he can go to the basement. I think lots of speculators in Hong Kong are probably going to wish they'd been a little more careful before too long and some of the families of stock brokers are going to wish they worked on the ground floor.

To be a little fair; the banks here are fairly shady. To their credit (I know that's a really bad pun) that is why they probably won't go under. So maybe we do need to do a few things

How about requiring banks to provide contracts that say the same thing in English as in Chinese. If you think they already do, think again! Risk that is clearly stated in English is often times glossed over in Chinese; I know this because the really smart wife told me so.

How about putting a sentence in 12 point print that says "There is risk involved with all investments and you could lose all your principle. The risk of this investment is considered Very Low/Low/Average/High/Very High/Do do it if you can't afford to lose it" and making the bank customer sign it?

How about not letting fresh grads from HKU be financial councilors at banks?

How about people learning how to gage risk before they invest?

How about some anti-collusion laws so that bank charges would fall?

In other news, Krispy Cream closed but a new Burger King just opened in North Point. I feel like a Cheeseburger!

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who is only a financial expert when compared with investors in Hong Kong

And I thought they only mistranslated things on Chinese T-shirts

No comment could be made that would be funnier than the sign itself.

Yet, the mandarins in the HK government studied in ther UK and want to emulate it at every turn.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The blogger who reminds you "Mind your head"

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phillies Win World Series in 5

Maybe next year the Rangers will beat the Cubs in 7

It could happen. Maybe. Really it could! I'm serious! I'm also off my meds.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who knows what it is like to support a losing team

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

No obvious clowns in fast-food chain of command

Nurry is always funny and should have a wider audience.

When I was simply an American and didn't have "Expat-" in front of the "American" (In other words, before I moved to Hong Kong) I always avoided McDonald's if I could. Not only are they the worst fast food place in the US but I didn't like their politics. Once they mailed me a coupon for a free sandwich and I stopped in at a Mineral Wells outlet, used the coupon to get the free sandwich and then politely threw it away without opening it.

The manager asked what was the problem and I replied Joan Krok, who owned McDonald's at the time had given USD $1,000,000 to a cause I despised so I was doing my part to drive them out of business. I didn't yell, and I didn't make a scene and since the franchise involved sent the coupons to the head office didn't cost the local guy any money. So I guess it was simply an exercises in symbolism over substance but it made me feel better and I enjoyed the sense of moral superiority I got for several hours.

Then I moved to Hong Kong.

In the 3rd world McDonald's is often a Godsend if for no other reason than they have a free, non-squatty-potty toilet. They are typically cleaner than the local places (Though not always) and serve items that have recognizable ingredients and are cheaper than say Pizza Hut or KFC. They also have that wonderful Thai Chili-sauce that you can get instead of ketchup. I don't know if I am ashamed to say I have lost my political scruples when it comes to bad cheeseburgers or not?

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The blogger whose food is probably way too fast

Monday, October 27, 2008

Which came first?

Now we have melamine tainted eggs as well as milk. These may just be the tip of the iceberg.

What is really scary is that in the last several years I remember these other food related scandals as well:

1. A year or so ago a distributor in Hong Kong was caught selling rice that had gone moldy and been re-polished. It caused hallucinations and liver damage.

2. Fake soy sauce made out of human hair.

3. Fake fungus that looks like hair that may have actually been less dangerous than the real vegetable

4. Cancerous fish tainted with something called "Malachite Green"

5. Baby formula mixed with corn starch

6. Anti-freeze in tooth paste.

7. Moon Cake filling that was kept for years and was covered with mold

8. Poisonous fish sold as cod

9. Pesticides in dumplings

10. Antibiotics that were anything but.

11. Cooking oil that was sold as new but was really filtered cooking oil that had been discarded by restaurants

12. Halal cookies made with lard.

The story BBQ pork made from cardboard and industrial cleaners however was not true. But, can you blame people for believing it?

These are just the one's I can remember off the top of my head.

I have a friend up North who warned us about eating the freshwater crabs that come from China. Crabs are scavengers and he said that the people who raise them have been caught feeding them dead rats and dogs as well as plain old garbage. I don't like crab so they were easy for me to avoid.

There was a story on ATV this weekend about what are known as "Cancer Villages" in China where the water is so polluted with heavy metals and other toxins that the cancer rate is hundreds of times higher than normal. Question, do they water vegetables with that water and if so, are those vegetables sold in Hong Kong?

If I went into product recalls this list could get really long.

If I wanted to write about working conditions I could write a book.

China may be about to reach a point of no-return. There are enough people, even those who live in China who are afraid of the goods being produced here that they simply will not buy them. They'll either source those products elsewhere or do without them. I think this is kind of analogous to the situation US automobile manufacturers caused for themselves in the late 1970's. At that time the quality standard of US cars was absolutely horrific. We called them 50,000 mile throwaways. They were ugly, poorly designed vehicles. What a shame. The 1950's & 1960's were, in many ways the golden age of the American automobile and they fell off that pedestal really fast. It was at that time that the Japanese cars improved their quality and many US consumers decided that they were better off with a Toyota, Nissan (Called Datsun at that time) or Honda. Once that happened it became very difficult to regain those customers unless the Japanese makers pulled a similar stunt and only Subaru obliged. Now 30 years later, the US automobiles are actually a pretty good product but can't get those loyal Toyota buyers back.

Now suppose it wasn't just GM, Ford and Chrysler? Suppose it was all the wheat, all the apples, all the oranges, all the beer, wine, whiskey, bottled water and soft drinks, all clothing, machinery and services combined? This is where the Chinese are headed if they are not careful. What happens if the "Made in China" label has been so tarnished that it has the same cache as "Made in Detroit." What if people are willing, as happen to the American auto industry, to spend MORE for a Toyota made overseas than they are for a Chinese Ford?

If that happens, Hong Kong might not be such a great place to live.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who isn't normally given to economic fear mongering

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is this the October Surprise?

Interesting stuff

Fai Mao

Maybe I was wrong

Maybe, unlike I thought in my long post this morning, reporters do know they are biased.

Damn! Just when I thought I could feel sorry for them

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who is still not a newspaper man

So you want to move to Australia?

Maybe not if they have spiders like this!

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who doesn't really like spiders

Would the Last Honest Reporter Please turn on the lights

BTW: The article above appears in a Mormon Newspaper. I, however, am not a Mormon

There was a rather interesting study done at (I believe) Princeton several years ago that shows an inverse relationship between the level of competence an individual thinks they have in a field and the level of competence their peers perceive them having. In other words, bad employees do not know they are bad employees because they don't know enough to know what they are doing is wrong. This study actually made me feel good about my job because I know what I do and worry over the areas that I need to improve. Thus, because I can see my own weakness I can have some assurance that I am not as totally incompetence as I sometimes feel. (Proving a positive by a negative is a favorite trick used by many philosophers and merely shows that we are as weird as most people think we are.)

I think that in large parts of the US and indeed the world we can see a very scary version of this idea.

Conservative politicians and thinkers in the US often use the term "Liberal Media Bias" and it is this that Science Fiction author Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game) is complaining about in this article. However, I do not like that term. What is going on is not "Liberalism" which is the promotion of freedom and human dignity but something else. That something else could be either incredibly idiotic or extremely sinister but is, I think, probably a form of the perceived and actual competence cognitive dissonance people experience in their careers.

I was watching the financial news on Bloomberg the other day when they interviewed left wing economist Paul Krugman. I don't agree with Mr. Krugman but he always comes across as a nice guy and I enjoy hearing him. He was actually asked about media bias in a softball way and gave a rather standard left wing answer about how the media are part of the establishment, are business and can't be either conservative or liberal because bla, bla, bla. I normally get kind of upset at this this line of reasoning which I've heard several times over the years. I'd always assumes that this argument was a ruse, a red herring to throw the hounds off the sent; an argument so bizarre that opponents are left flabbergasted and trying to refocus the argument on actual facts. I could, if I wished write a vigorous refutation of Mr. Krugman's ideas on this point and the PhD in Philosophy that I hold gives me at least the nominal credentials to do so. However, what struck me the other day, that I'd never considered before is that he actually believes it.

I'd always assumed that the obvious bias seen by many people in the way news is reported by the US media was intentional. But, what if it isn't? What if newspaper and television reporters cannot see their bias because they believe so strongly in their lack of bias? What if there is a form of incompetence at work and they do not even know how biased they are?

This whole issue is why despite my general euro-phobia I like the UK papers. When you pick up "The Guardian" you know where they stand, they know where they stand, and they don't try to hide it or fool me into thinking they don't have an agenda. The same is true of the "The Sun" and the "Times of Londonistan." UK papers take an editorial position and make no pretense that the rest of their news isn't slanted in that direction as well. That, in my opinion is a better approach than the New York Times claiming to be unbiased.

This problem gets worse when incompetence is combined with a sense of infallibility and moral certitude. I believe that these two character traits, unknowing incompetence and a sense of moral infallibility are why newspapers are a dying species in the US. It is also why it is impossible to argue with a journalist. They have such a well developed sense of infallibility that they can never admit that they are wrong. Thus, I normally resort to ignoring them as my only other option would involve violence. As strange as it sounds, I'd never considered the possibility that they actually believe in their own lack of bias.

Where the rubber meets the road in this issue is where am I as blind as they? I see their faults; can I see my own?

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who isn't a Newspaperman

Friday, October 17, 2008

Space smells of steak, say NASA

I knew there was reason I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a boy.

Holy Cow! could you get three better smells than Steak, hot metal and motorcycle grease?

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who thinks he will hop on his hog and ride over to Dan Ryan's

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Nancy Kessel could maybe get some sympathy if....

Notice what this guy didn't do.

While claiming he wasn't guilty of the particular crime he was executed for he didn't:
1. Blame anyone else for what happened to him.
2. Try to weasel out of his convictions for other crimes.
3. Pretend he was too sick to walk.
4. Act like a coward.

Make no mistake. This was a bad man. When convicted of the murder he was executed for he was already serving a life sentence with no opportunity for parole for other crimes. He may really have not been guilty of this particular crime or he could have been lying, I have no way of knowing. But, it is surprising that he was not on Death Row in Texas for the things he DID admit to.

Was his religious conversion real? Who knows? What is clear is that he faced death with a dignity and resolve that is admirable.

God bless you Alvin Kelly. Rest in Peace.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao

In Hong Kong she could plead guilty and go free

The headline says it all.

Here if she plead guilty, showed remorse in court and got a letter from her neighbor saying she was a decent person she'd get probation.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who thinks the HK legal system is broken

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Of Hot Stoves and Fields of Dreams

One of my few links back to the US is that I am a baseball fan. Baseball is big in Japan and South Korea as well as Latin America but is a relatively unwatched sport in most other places. Part of the reason that I am a baseball fan is that it was the only pro team in my hometown (Arlington, Texas) when I was young. It is also about the only sport I could have possibly played well as a child. I am not tall enough for basketball nor big enough for American Football but am way to big to be a jockey (as if my Baptist parents would have let me be affiliated with horse racing anyway.) I am not a sprinter and distance running events were simply not on the sports menu when I was a child. Soccer was a girls game. I didn't become a bicycle racer until I was 20 so that left baseball.

My poor eyesight means that I have poor depth perception but I could put on a catcher's mask and chest protector and squat behind home plate. You don't have to judge fly balls when it's being thrown at you. Catchers have a mystique about them. The great ones are legends but the major leagues have always been peppered with catchers that fill the backup role and travel from team to team. I guess that wanting to grow up and become a backup catcher is not a very exciting boyhood dream but it was about all I had until Charlie Hough showed up as a Ranger. Then I wanted to be Charlie Hough. My God, a good knuckleballer is about the pinnacle of baseball as far as I am concerned even to this day and Good-time Charlie was the best of his era.

One of the best parts about baseball to me is the off season. Because my local team, the Texas Rangers have generally been a team that misses the playoffs and have never won a playoff series the off season was a Rangers fan most pleasant part of the year. If the team was on the rise and looked like it might be better or even have a chance next year then fans looked for trades or Free Agent signings that would become the guy that put the team over the top and into the World Series. If the team was rebuilding or stagnant we could always hope that the manager would be fired and replaced or that the owner would sell the team to someone who would somehow, someway bring a winner to town. Such hopes were always dashed upon the rocks of the real season. Even when the Rangers were a good team they were never good enough. One year they won 94 games but the Kansas City Royals won 103. Since at that time only the 1st place team from each division went to the playoffs the Rangers were out. That stunk because they were arguably the second best team in the league but had to sit home while an inferior team lost to KC in the American League Playoff Series.

Every year as boy I would wait impatiently for Spring Training to begin in Port Charlotte Florida. I'd show up on opening day with my old Wilson catchers mitt that was autographed by every starter from the first opening day (I wish I still had that mitt) after the Washington DC Senators had moved to Texas and became the Rangers. I'd sit in the bleachers hoping to catch a foul ball or a Jeff Boroughs homerun. I was at the first 5 Opening Day games. I saw David Clyde pitch his first game as a Ranger. I had a bumper sticker on the back of 1966 Mustang that said "Trade Brad" and you have to be a long time Rangers fan to remember that one. I wore a black shirt for a week when Eddy Childs died. I became a Charlie Pride fan and bought his records because he would go and play a couple of exhibition games with the team each spring. I never did catch a foul ball.

I haven't been to a game since 1986. After I got married I had other priorities and the games were expensive for a guy with a wife and small children, especially since my wife is not a baseball fan and barely tolerates it on the radio. Not to mention I now live in China and a 21 hour flight each way to catch a baseball game is bit of a stretch for any fan. But that doesn't mean I stopped being a fan. It also doesn't mean that the off season isn't still an exciting part of my year as a Rangers fan. Each year at this time I find myself hoping that I can get back to Texas for a visit next summer and see a game. Some years I get back for a visit with my family but haven't found a way to go see a game.

Maybe next year. Maybe next year I can finally get back to a Rangers game. Maybe next year will be that magical season where men, some who are young enough to be my sons will win it all. My head says; "Nope, it won't happen." My heart says: "It might happen! It could be the Rangers year in 2009" Hope spring eternal when the stove is hot and I can almost see the field of dreams from my window in Causeway Bay

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who generally struck out when it came to sports

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hand them over?

I suspect that if the US agreed to do this these guys would suddenly discover they liked living in Guantanamo Bay.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who may be less than sympathetic in this case

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Badly Written Headlines

Shouldn't there be a hyphen in this headline?

Somehow I don't think that a cat ate the festival.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The cat who could possibly eat a festival

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Bang that gavel down, case closed

Nancy Kissel officially lost her appeal yesterday.

According to ATV last night, the judge evidently spent only a few minutes to completely dismiss the case. I thought this would happen. I am surprised he/she/they/it took this long to deliver the opinion.

The Kissel legal team is going to appeal to a higher court (Equivalent of the Supreme Court in the US) but I don't think that will go anywhere either.

I know my position on this case is strange because I think Nancy Kissel is guilty as Hell but should still be released. I think if she'd had legal council that really understood the Hong Kong legal system and gotten her to plead guilty, show some remorse, set out the extenuating circumstances and thrown herself on the mercy of the court then she'd be a free woman today. When a third-strike child molester gets 8 years in prison and government social workers start lining up to vainly try and "rehabilitate" him from the day gets locked up then Nancy Kissel's sentence is unjust.

I will admit however, to losing a little sympathy for her after this last court appearance. I was sympathetic towards her situation because I feel that the legal system in Hong Kong is capricious and that very often the punishment does not fit the crime. That, to me should be the basis for her appeal. Instead her lawyers are trying to argue legal loopholes. This is not the US. Hong Kong does not have anything close to the US "Bill of Rights." As far as I can tell from reading the Basic Law, we do not have the presumption of innocence in court either. It just seems to me that Nancy's legal team are simply chasing butterflies.

To compound this problem, there was Nancy's mother on TV talking about how her daughter has developed "health problems" in prison and is now often too weak to walk. Maybe it really is true but I do not know many, non-paralyzed 50 year old women that require a wheelchair. Whatever else the prisons in Hong Kong may be, they are not like those in the non-SAR bits of China, Thailand, Cambodia or Mexico. This "developed health problems while in prison" bit looks like a cheap stunt to get her term reduced to time served. If I am wrong about this I sincerely apologize. I just can't see how she isn't faking. If that is the case, maybe she was lying about being afraid of her husband in her first trial.

I'd feel better about releasing her if she'd come to court fit, maybe tanned and looking like she spent time in the prison weight room trying to flirt with the guards and said. "I am innocent because that man threatened me and my children and getting him away from my kids was the best thing I ever did. I sent him to Hell and he deserved it!" Instead, she tries to make me feel sorry for her and that's not going to work.

I've been call cynical before.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who still thinks that the HK legal system is broken and blames the British

Friday, October 03, 2008

Wasted days and wasted night

Geez, here it is a Friday afternoon the day before a 4 day weekend and we cannot even find a way to end this school day at 2:30

Until next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who'd like to bug out early today but can't

Monday, September 29, 2008

Empire of Slaves

There are stories that it is better to simply link too.

Fai Mao

Saturday, September 27, 2008


So Katie Couric edited an interview to change what the respondent said.

Pushing a political agenda over getting the news out.

Making up people's mind for them especially those outside the US who do not have other sources of news.

Fat Katie should be fired but won't because SeeBS is in the tank and doesn't care. Instead they'll lose the 30 or 50 viewers they have left

Fai Mao

Friday, September 26, 2008

Middle Aged Malaise

I've been having a hard time posting of late. I guess that happens with blog writers as it seems that I find what appear to be abandoned blogs quite frequently when looking through the Blog Spot pages. So I guess I am not alone. But, it bothers me. Perhaps I'm over estimating my literary and commentarial merit but I think I have something to say and at some level think that I should say it. I get comments, and people do sometimes read what I say. I have just fallen out of the habit of posting and feel somewhat dishonest about simply posting a link to a bit of news with a wise crack that I hope sounds pithy and not jaded, bitter or mean. I think that part of this is because I am not a good writer. Longer post often take more than one day. So, by the time I get a post worth posting about poisonous milk in the PRC or my thoughts on the recent elections in Hong Kong or problems on Wall Street the issue is old news. It also means that I have to plan post out and write, edit and rewrite over a couple of days. I do have other things to do and a good post requires thought and time.

Perhaps this is simply my version of that middle-aged malaise that causes some men to buy a sports car or chase younger women. Seeing as I don't drive and have a really pretty wife maybe I'm just rebelling against aging by getting depressed or grumpy. Perhaps it is just as Bob Dylan said that "I used to care but things have changed." Whatever it is, I don't like it. I don't like feeling burned out and I don't like feeling that it doesn't matter. Maybe my expectations are too high. Maybe I should accept the fact that I am insignificant cog in the international school education machine and turn like all the other cogs in that machine.

Maybe I shouldn't. I hope I won't

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who sometimes struggles to post

Monday, September 22, 2008

This is why Blogs are better than Newspapers

The truth will always out if you are willing to look for it

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bravo, Bravo, Bravo!

Hemlock has put a post up today that is a soapbox issue of mine.

The illustrations and explanations are very well done and it is simply a must read.

The way that flats have their size blown up by the developers here is probably my least favorite thing about Hong Kong

I think that one of the primary responsibilities of a government is to provide honest weights and measures and the HK government just look like such a bunch of crooks when it come to the size of flats in this city.

If you need any convincing to tell you that this practice is is unethical you must either work for a developer here, be a real estate agent here or be one of the government mandarins who work in the tax office

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The blogger who lives in a flat that is just over 800 square feet

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A response

Blogs are interesting things. I have wondered why I write one on occasions over the years. There seems to me to be a certain amount of arrogance required in thinking that other people will be interested in what you have to say; or possibly a certain amount of stupidity. At least whenever I use the "Next Blog" button provided by Blog Spot I often see the most banal, shallow and trite blogs. Sometimes that is OK, a shallow blog can be funny and interesting in small doses just as Bugs Bunny is funnier in an 11 Minute cartoon than a 90 minute movie; but it should be evident to lots of people looking than many people writing blogs are not writers but parrots who simply spout prepackaged political, cultural or religious ideas often in immature, insulting or derogatory ways.

Now to be fair, I have also run across some very good blogs using that button as well and it is a good way to spend an otherwise dull lunch hour with something besides my sandwich and coffee. The question "Do I have anything unique or meaningful to add to the discussion of the human condition with this blog is one I've asked myself over the years? Since I write, in large part for a group of friends and family back in the US as a sort of open letter or circular letter this is a question I can often ignore because I am really writing for a group of people who know who I am for whom the inside joke, the hyperbole and verbal jesting that goes on between family and friends is part of the conversation. Other readers are, for me, a bonus. That is why I normally just post comments to this blog and make any replies in the comments section.

However, someone named Paul left a quite detailed reply to my post about creating a free trade zone between Hong Kong and Shenzhen and it deserves a longer, more detailed reply. Because I am responding to a comment this post is very different one than normal because it is primarily to people who do not know my name. Indeed, it deserved it last week but I've been fighting a cold and been otherwise occupied. I need to get back into the habit of posting three times a week.

Paul's questions are in red my answers in normal black

Question #1
But to open the border would mean a much larger infrastructure to handle the number of people crossing everyday.

No. It would simply mean removing the checkpoints at the four crossing points between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. The infrastructure is already there the train stations are next to each other the trains go there so it would just mean that more people could go back and forth easier. Just like taking the train from Manhattan to the suburbs up on Long Island.

Would it mean more people crossing the border everyday? I don't know but if they didn't have to clear customs each way I would imagine that the number could double and it would still be less congested.

Actually, a massive upgrade would be needed.

No, I do not think that is true as explained above. Thousands or tens-of-thousands of people cross the Hong Kong Shenzhen border everyday already. I think that the biggest issue might actually be (Please remember I suffer from Anglo-phobia) that in Hong Kong we use right hand drive vehicles while in China they use the more civilized left-hand vehicles. Thus, going from one city to the next without the border check could be an issue because drivers leaving Hong Kong would find themselves on the wrong side of the road or vice-versa. This might require some innovative freeway interchanges but given the poor level of driving quality both in Hong Kong and the PRC it is also entirely possible that nobody would notice.

Do you think
Hong Kong has the right to encourage people to live in Shenzhen?

The classic red herring. The real issue is that right now people here, for the most part have no choice but to live in Hong Kong. If you live in the UK and decide you do not like London you can pack up and move to Leeds. In Hong Kong if you decide that you don't like Hong Kong you can pack up and either, immigrate to another country or put up with Hong Kong. Thus I am proposing giving them the freedom to do so if they wished. But, I think many of the poor and middle class people in Hong Kong would. They need no encouraging from me.

The people on that side of the border make those decisions, and would it be in their interest?

I think that Shenzhen would love to have something like this happen. The issue is that it would probably cause the Hong Kong property market to collapse and while that would benefit Hong Kong in the long term by lower the cost of living and doing business here in the short term it would cause considerable economic disruption.

They already decide who can come here via the individual travel scheme. Side trips to Macau are being rationed now as well.

Shenzhen is an SAR just like Hong Kong. The rules are different there than the rest of China. While this is an issue it may not be a major one.

I heard a story recently about school children crossing the border everyday to come to school in the SAR. A time consuming process, and only a certain number of buses are allowed in the closed area at a time. They live in Shenzhen. Why do they come to school in Hong Kong? Who's taxes are paying for that?

I have combine two of your objections into one answer. This is an question that shows you really live here but probably do not have a child in school. There are two answers. 1st the buss issue would simply disappear; they could come if they want. The second issue is a little more complex. Schools in Hong Kong are assigned by a district. Children apply to a school near where they live but schools have the right to take a percentage of students from out side their district. In any case potential students need to provide proof of residency to apply. So, if a child lived in Shenzhen, and was not a resident of Hong Kong they could not apply to schools here with the exception of some of the international schools that are not tax supported because they didn't live here. Would people try to work the system by obtaining a false address? Sure they would but they do that anyway.

The government often talks about the user pays principle. Why is there an airport tax, but no departure tax at the land crossings?

Good question. One way to deal with right now is through toll roads and such. But, isn't the cost of a visa to enter China sort of like this? But what does this have to do with a free trade zone between Hong Kong and Shenzhen?

Hong Kong is Hong Kong
Shenzhen is Shenzhen

It would remain so under a free trade arrangement. Look at the city of Texarkana in the US. It basically straddles the border of three different states Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. You don't have to cross a border check point to reach any section of the city. Suburban communities often have a different culture and ethos than the larger cities they surround.

Who knows where we will be in the 39 years to go before 2047?

We will certainly be more fully integrated into the PRC. We can either embrace that change and try to manage it or be swallowed up by it.

If I lived in Shenzen, could I access your blog on the Internet? Would I still be able to check out news on the BBC web site?

In many places in Shenzhen yes you can just as the cell phone networks over lap. While this is an issue I think it is one that will become less important over time. As the Internet goes wireless this is going to be truer than it is today. The PRC cannot simply keep everything critical of their government out. The Internet is to vast and people are too creative. China will have to open up or it will have to become like North Korea. If it chooses the second option it won't matter where we are.

Can I post my comments on web sites without them being censored?

See the answer above. Having spent some time in the PRC getting my PhD (I know my spelling still looks like I am in form 5) I can honestly say that that I don't feel that the censorship there is as bad as it is often presented in the Western press.

Could I wear my range of t-shirts that have all sorts of vaguely political slogans on them?

Have you seen what they wear in China? My guess is as long as it is English you could probably do it now.

Can I openly ask my neighbors about what happened in Beijing in 1989, and why their kids have no idea about it?

I have done this with a table full of academics in Wuhan. What you cannot do is have such questions appear in the local newspaper.

Will the customs officers confiscate my bibles and all the magazines I bring in with me?

There won't be any customs offers at the Shenzhen check point to take them. One of the reasons the peopleand government of Shenzhen would like this is it makes them more free.

Can I ask why the mainland Olympic medalists are forced as a group to go to Hong Kong to perform in an embarrassing dog and pony show?

I doubt you could print it in a paper but you could probably ask. You might be surprised at how many people there agreed with you and how many didn't understand the question. But what does this have to do with the question at hand?

Can I trust my building management and security guards?

Can you trust them here? The home owners association in the building I live in looks to be run by triads, I don't think it would be worse there.

Hong Kong has many faults, but I wouldn't want to live in Shenzhen.

Less, crowded, less expensive, clean, well planned streets, better grocery stores lovely parks, bigger apartments are answers that come to mind. Besides, nobody is saying you'd have to. An arrangement like this would simply give you the ability to move there if you wanted to.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who might live in Shenzhen if the border was removed

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Palin offers conservatives a moment of truth

You may not agree with this guy but man can he write!

I do not normally write about US politics. I don't live there anymore but this election just got a little more interesting

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who'd have never dated a girl with the nickname Baraccuda

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Monopoly isn't just a board game

The post before last was one that I seem to have made before and is in effect, a laundry list of my political aspirations for the government of Hong Kong. There was one item though that was new and as I've thought about it over the last week or so I've decided that it might just be the best idea that I've ever had. So after some thought I am going to take some time on this rainy afternoon to flesh out that idea a little more fully.

The major issue that I have with Hong Kong is that the city is really run by a group of monopolies in the construction, banking and shipping industries. These monopolies use their power and influence to maintain outrageously high real estate values, incredible bank fees, and huge profit margins in their businesses at the expense of everybody else. Let me be frank, they have a right to make all the money they can. I am not begrudging them the fact that they are filthy-rich. I don't want what is theirs. But, the wealthy do, I believe have a duty and responsibility to those less well off, those whom they employ and to the greater society at large. Hong Kong businesses fail almost all of these areas. They expect employees to work too many hours for too little pay and don't care how how much their inhumane practices cost the greater society.

While not much of a defense big business can say it isn't just them. The small business here are just as abusive as the large. The work harder, longer, be more loyal to the company, don't grumble about your low pay and be grateful you've got a job culture has infected all levels of the society and it is very often true that the boss works as many hours as the employees. It still doesn't make it right; especially since often time the reason they must do this is because they have to pay confiscatory rents and fees. I realize that I am making a moral argument from what could be called a Western perspective that ignores Chinese culture; I don't care. (That doesn't mean I'm ready to adopt a 32 hour work week like France either!) Employers here do not value their employee's as humans. I think it was Voltaire who said, in reference to military service, that: "You cannot ask a man die for a few pence a day, to inspire loyalty you must electrify his soul." It appears to me that the same is true of a career. Companies cannot succeed by constantly hiring the lowest paid workers, working them to death and then training new workers. They will eventually run out of people who can or are willing to work in such conditions. Those that do work for you cannot be depended upon to produce a quality product. What that means is that the prosperity experienced in Hong Kong is, I believe essentially unsustainable, especially given the very low birth rate here because as soon as anyone can leave here they will. I can't say that I blame them.

But minimum wage and working condition laws will only go so far in redressing this problem. If, and I seriously doubt this would ever happen, Li Kai-Shing and the other tycoons suddenly all get religion and decide that they need to treat their employees as at least animals rather than machines or slaves and Wellcome and Park&Shop stop colluding and the construction companies start selling flats by the actual size and all of the other private issues that oppress the poor in Hong Kong went away the central issue, the biggest monopoly of them all would still exist. That monopoly is that the government owns every square millimeter of the land and sea in Hong Kong. Because of this Hong Kong will never be a free society.

I do not care if we have universal suffrage, a zero percent tax rate free, beer, cigars and cocaine for everyone over the age of twelve. You are not free if you have no right to property because without property you live here only at the government's whim. More to the point, because the government owns all the land and controls the population's use of it to maintain the extravagant and excessive pay scale of the THBT, Permanent Secretaries, Executive Secretaries, Adjunct Secretaries, Under Secretaries, Associate Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Special Secretaries, Temporary Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries to the Assistant Under Secretaries and the rest of the loafers , weasels and French cuff wearing Catamites pretending to be civil servants enjoy there will always be a rather large underclass in Hong Kong because it will always be expensive to live here because it cost a lot to support the over paid, under worked government.

In a perfect world the Mandarins of all flavors, genders, aftershaves and hair-dyes would voluntarily lower their pay and benefits out of shame and embarrassment over the cost to the poor that their lifestyles perpetuate. Indeed, they are worse than the worst of the tycoons. At least Li Ki Shing employees people. At least Park&Shop does sell groceries, the government here produces next to nothing except hot air, helps almost no one and yet takes up a huge percentage of the GDP. But, the Mandarins have no shame and the world isn't perfect. Therefore, the best that we could possibly hope for is to provide them some competition.

It is simply pathetic to see candidate after candidate for legco offering the same worthless, and ultimately unsustainable solutions to the social problems here. Subsidies, and welfare payments simply will not solve the issue of livability in Hong Kong. Giving the poor free money only starts an inflationary cycle in which everybody loses. Stupid. But then what do you expect from HKU graduates?

That is why, for the good of Hong Kong and its continued survival as "Asia's World City" I am advocating that Hong Kong and Shenzhen negotiate a "Free Trade agreement that includes open borders. The flat that cost 3.5 million in Hong Kong cost about 800K in Shenzhen. How many people in Hong Kong would be better off with a mortgage of 800K than 3.5mil? The reason the poor and middle classes can't live in Shenzhen now is that it is so troublesome to cross the border. If we were to remove the border check points then Shenzhen would effectively become a suburb of Hong Kong where the middle and working classes could pursue life, liberty and the latest variety of dim sum.

If the middle classes and working classes could live in Shenzhen they'd not need government subsidies for housing. This would free up government funds to help the truly needy. This would also cause the price of real estate in Hong Kong to plummet but that is where the government, which has squirreled away trillions in property taxes over the years could offer a ONE TIME bail out because after all it was the government that caused the problem.

But then, low and behold it suddenly it becomes more affordable to live and do business here in Hong Kong Kong. Suddenly factories can operate here because rents are lower. Suddenly taxes are collected on industry again. Suddenly 53% of the population don't live in government housing and a large number of Mandarins can be laid off because the Housing Authority can shrink.

The cartels that run Hong Kong have a presence in Shenzhen but they don't run the place. That means that banking services would be cheaper and better through competition.

That means that Wellcome and Park&Shop would have to compete with Carrefour and Wal-Mart and the price of food would come down because the property cartels that own the big supermarkets here could no longer keep the competition out by charging them excessive rent.

It means that land currently used as a no-mans-land to keep people from walking from there to here or here to there would be available for development as residential, commercial or recreational venues.

It would mean that Hong Kong would have to adopt a tax system and a municipal pay scale that could be supported by the population and that is more in line with other cities world wide.

It would mean that the Hong Kong government would have to really look at ways of improving services and controlling cost rather than build "Iconic buildings" on the old site of the old police barracks.

It would also mean that the government of Shenzhen would have to become more open, honest and accountable. That it would have to live up to the same level of freedom and rule of law that Hong Kong does. Since those ideas are things that are already in the Chinese constitution it should be possible and probably not too difficult.

Would a free trade agreement between Hong Kong and Shenzhen solve all of the social problems problems in Hong Kong? No, of course not, but is is a better place to start than anything being suggested by any political party in Hong Kong.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who should have Donald Tsang's (THBT) job or at least be in legco