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"