Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Long lost loves

In bicycle slang a rider's favorite bike is sometimes called his "True Love" and 30 years ago this week I bought a bicycle at the end of April that still qualifies as my true love. It was an odd bike for me at the time because I was an aspiring racer and it was a touring frame. However, I didn't have a car and needed a bike I could put racks on and use to carry groceries. The owner of the bicycle shop played in a 1950's rock band and needed a period instrument. I had an old Fender guitar and amp that I traded him for a used Dawes Galaxy Frame and $150.00 USD worth of wholesale parts. I'm sure the Guitar was worth more than that in terms of cash but I got the better end of that deal by miles and miles and miles of smiles.

I don't know how a 1970's Dawes was fitted out at the factory. I honestly have no idea. I built my frame up with a chromed double-butted fork, a TA Cyclo-Touriste crank with what was then called "Alpine" gearing and today would be called a "Compact double" That means a 34/50 tooth chain ring set and a 13-28 6 speed freewheel. Suntour VX-Road derailleurs, bar-end shifters and hubs rounded out the drive train. The bike sat on wide Ambrosio tubular rims that I doubt could be found today but then neither could the 32 mm wide silk corded touring tubulars. The obligatory Brooks B-17 saddle, SR stem and Randoneur bars plus Dia Compe Centerpull brakes rounded out the basic bike. A rear rack and Silca pump along with Campagnolo pedals and toe clips finished it off. After I rode the bike about a month I stripped it back down to the bare frame and had the frame repainted a metallic brown and the Nervar lugs outlined with yellow pin stripes, new decals were applied and the whole thing clear coated. All-in-all I spent about $200.00 more on the bike than the credit given to me by the shop. A $350.00 bike back then was the rough equivalent of a $1000.00 bike today so it was nice bike.

But the cost was a bargain. This bike was just special. The long wheelbase and slack angles provided an amazing ride especially when combined with the comfortable Brooks saddle and wide tubular tires. It just seemed to float. With a rear rack, fenders and generator light the bike weighed only about 27 pounds which is lighter than many Mountain Bikes today.

I sold my Japanese made racer that summer and the next racing bike I purchased was from Italy. But, it was the Dawes that I would choose to ride. Yes, it steered like a barge. No, touring bikes don't climb hills well. But it was stable, tracked true, insanely comfortable and magnificently versatile. What it lost in going up the hills it more than made up for in descending the other side. Plus, the fancy lugs and pin striping made it gorgeous. I loved this bike.

I have had my current bike for 9 years since 2000 but I bet I rode that Dawes more in a month than I've ever ridden my Battaglin. The Battaglin is a Triathlon frame. Even though I've refitted it with flat bars, a tall stem and triple crank it is still a triathlon bike. It accelerates fast. Turns on a dime. Is really fun in a lot of ways but it rides like a jackhammer and has tires so narrow that if I am not careful fall into the slots of Hong Kong storm drains. Because I've developed some problems with my ankles I can no longer do the Triathlon thing. I would like to ride more and not so much for exercise as pleasure. Since my job is right beside the long bike trail that runs up to Tai Po I could but it is just so hard to make myself get out. I need a bike I want to ride. A bike I don't have to think about, that I can trust not so much with my health and safety as with my enjoyment.

I have been hording bike components for several months. I don't like a lot of the more modern stuff. Bicycle components since about 1995 have too many gears, are too ugly, not repairable and look like cheap plastic even though they cost like they are made of gold. I've managed over the last several months to collect an almost complete NOS Suntour XC-Pro drive train except for a set of Ringle hubs. I'm planning to build a new bike and relegate the Battaglin to the wind trainer. This new bike will have wide enough tires to not fall in to a storm drain grate. Be geared low enough for a middle-aged guy to enjoy riding, be able to mount a rack as well as fenders if I want while running 32 mm wide tires and do all sorts of things I currently cannot do with my retired Triathlon bike.

It will probably be a (Growl, curse, grumble, mutter) Mountain bike frame which means ugly, designed for 650C wheels and a suspension fork with an aluminum frame. I wish it could be another Dawes Galaxy. I don't think I can afford one of those frames on my school librarian salary even if they were available in Hong Kong. They're welded now anyway so I couldn't have that great pin striping around the fancy lugs. But even a welded Dawes would be a Dawes.

Shortly before I got married in 1986 I was run off the road by a gravel truck. I landed on a concrete culvert and while I was not hurt the crash separated the rear triangle of my Dawes from the main frame. My wife allowed me to buy a Cannondale touring frame as a wedding present. I rode that until we moved to Hong Kong in 1990. It was a great bike. It wasn't my Dawes. Nothing else will be. Nothing else will ever come close.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who still misses his first true love.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I agree with Jackie!

Jackie Chan has taken a lot of flak over his statement.

My question is "Why?" Is he not entitled to his opinions? More than that, I agree with him though for different reasons.

The Chinese, especially those on the Mainland need to be controlled. They cannot be free because they have had a government for 60 years that has told them that there is no such thing as morality, and that ethics are a ploy by the establishment to keep the poor poor. Therefore, is it any wonder that that there are now hundreds of millions of Chinese who have no qualms about cheating, robbing stealing and behaving as if there is nothing important except them personally getting rich?

Freedom only works in a moral or at least ethical society. Chinese society is neither. Maybe it will not always be so.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who still hopes for a free China

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Age of Pirates or Modern Politics?

I am a big fan of pirate video games. They are my favorite genre of game. Sid Meyer's "Pirates" is a great game. I've also played "Port Royal" versions 1 & 2 and "The Age of Pirates." I am currently waiting for "The Age of Pirates 2" which is due out soon. I've looked into "Pirates of the Burning Sea" but don't like the mass online games. Of course all of these pale compared to the best pirate video game ever produced which was "Sea Dogs." The rights to the Sea Dogs sequel were purchased by Disney and the game was changed at the last minute into the "Pirates of the Caribbean" game. This was sad because Sea Dogs 2 would have been a better game and the PotC game was not great unless you download one of modification builds from the good guys at Pirates Ahoy. But, despite the so - so game, the PotC movies are possibly my all time favorites and I generally have a Pirates marathon when the really pretty-smart - looks 20 years younger than she is wife goes away for business.

One of the best scenes in any pirate movie is the opening sequence in the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie where all the people are being hanged for being, knowing or having even the slightest association with a pirate. The condemned are shuffling along in their chains to the gallows when one small boy starts to sing and before long the whole row of people waiting to die are singing this pirate song:

Yo, ho, haul together,
hoist the colors high.
Heave ho,
thieves and beggars,
never shall we die.

The king and his men
stole the queen from her bed
and bound her in her Bones.
The seas be ours
and by the powers
where we will we'll roam.

Yo, ho, haul together,
hoist the colors high.
Heave ho, thieves and beggars,
never shall we die.

Some men have died
and some are alive
and others sail on the sea
– with the keys to the cage...
and the Devil to pay
we lay to Fiddler's Green!

The bell has been raised
from it's watery grave...
Do you hear it's sepulchral tone?
We are a call to all,
pay heed the squall
and turn your sail toward home!

Yo, ho, haul together,
hoist the colors high.
Heave ho, thieves and beggars,
never shall we die.

The reviewers who didn't understand that movie didn't listen to the song.

Something else that I find interesting about this movie is how it so accurately reflects politics today. Pirates, real pirates like those in Somalia of course are criminals. But what if we lived in a world where everyone was a criminal? What if the criminals were more honest than the law abiding? What if the law where only a shell for something more evil still?

In PotC3: At the World's End, Jack Sparrow is hunted by Davy Jones because he made a Faustian bargain with the devil and the bill is due. But Davy Jones himself is captured and used by men more evil than he who are in the government and who wish to bend the world to their own political and economic ends. Thus, the real pirates are not Jack Sparrow, Hector Barbarossa, Will Turner, Sau Feng and Elisabeth Swan but the very government. It is a tricky double plot for the pirates are still pirates but they are also heroes.

That is kind of like many great leaders. Whether Thomas Jefferson, Sun Yat Sin or Mastapha Kemal all great leaders can be viewed as either heroes or villains. Sometimes, many times in fact, they were indeed both.

It is an odd thought that an evil government threatens the liberty of honest people and criminals alike. But it is true. When justice is denied to one group it is denied to the other. When a government usurps the freedom of its citizen it becomes a piratical entity and must be opposed. It is all the sadder that often time those who lead us against great tyrants are themselves small tyrants.

When people or governments, who should know better, usurp history twisting it to an end that furthers a World View rather than bending their World View around the facts of history they become intellectual pirates. They steal our history, my history and plunder the present for their own gain. In doing so they have taken far more than material wealth. They have taken our cultural heritage by refusing to admit the good in our past but only the mistakes. They are evil and must be opposed.

My concern is that at least for the moment, those greater Pirates appear to have won. The politically correct, the socialist idiots, the lies of the political left and those who call evil good appear to have carried the day. In doing so the pirates have become the authority and I have been reduced in their eyes to a pirate simply for wanting to live as a free man. I am forced to ally myself politically with those I do not trust and whose motives I question. I wonder, if we will very soon be reminded of Elisabeth Swan when she asked "What will they see when they look at us? Will they see us cowering on a derelict ship or will they see free men?" I wonder if there will be anyone but me to man the guns and work the sails? I hope so.

But I don't like being a pirate nearly so much in real life as I do in a video game.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who seems to be saying "Yo Ho' a lot of late.

Monday, April 13, 2009

"A" before "E" except for 60% of the time

I really enjoyed the essay linked to above.

More on this later

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Pedophile gets record 45 years in jail

Unfortunately, this didn't and wouldn't happen in Hong Kong. Here the slime would have pleaded guilty, showed remorse, and then be given 9 months in prison an a date with nice 20 something year-old female social worker who had just graduated from HKU.

The courts in Hong Kong should take a few lessons from the Israelis.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The blogger who does not have any sympathy for child molesters

Monday, April 06, 2009

20 picked up in ICAC raids over highway contracts

Not to sound petulant but I thought that the reason Hong Kong pays its Civil Servants such extraordinary salaries is so that they will not accept bribes. I'm sure the government will conclude that this means they need to pay the already over paid, under worked troglodytes even more to ensure that they cannot be bribed. That then begs the question, "Why do we need the ICAC?"

Here is a thought. Fire the entire civil service. Reset the pay scale to 1/2 of the current level. Abolish the over the top retirement and separate medical program (Civil servants even have their own hospital) Draw up a set of professional ethics that every civil servant must adhere to and have them sign it. If they violate it they go to jail. Make them use the health system they foist upon the population. Indeed, that is a good policy for any state that has a socialized medical scheme. The government officials should have to use it to the exclusion of any other. Anyone who wants their job back can then have it at the lower pay and benefits level.

I see that civil servant in the back over there yelling "But that violates the basic law! The government can't give any civil servant less money than they made in 1997!" I've got news for you friend, the basic law is meaningless. The government does more or less whatever Beijing wants. Besides the IRD violates the basic law when it assumes that all expatriots are tax cheats and makes them pay their taxes a year in advance yet the basic law says we are innocent until at least charged with a crime. By working on the presumption of guilt the IRD violates the basic law. The same is true when the police conduct mass breathalizer test on motorist, even if they catch a few drunks the cost is a massive reduction in personal freedom. You don't mind that. The labor department discriminates against Indonesian minorities by allowing employers to pay Indonesian maids less than those from the Philippines that is racial discrimination. The list of the ways that Hong Kong civil servants violate the basic law in ways great and small everyday is quite long. Therefore, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Fire them all.

If I am going to live in a fascist society then I want the governmental officials to be subject to the oppressive laws just as I am subject to them. It limits the brutality the state is willing to engage in if Joseph Yam or York Chow or Albert Au are subject to those laws.

It also turns a fascist state into one that simply has some rather draconian laws. Severe penalties can be a cultural norm. Having leaders who are above the law is not, it is evil. Paying civil servants 4 times the going rate for the same job in the private sector means that the state gets greedy civil servants who are more concerned with keeping their jobs than serving a civil society. That may not be evil but it is certainly not smart either. I also think that the evidense shows it does not make them less likely to take bribes.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who will accept a draconian state but not a fascist one

Friday, April 03, 2009

Hemlock Blacklisted

Well, well, well.

So Hemlock has been blacklisted by Google. Notice, there is no issue with Malware or viruses. He is just “Blacklisted”

I hope he wears this as a badge of honor but it means that he is going to have a hard time getting off this list.

Hemlock is not a blog for little kids but I cannot fathom why he would be blacklisted.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who hasn't been blacklisted yet

Thursday, April 02, 2009

We're #2

If THBT and the rest of the Hong Kong worked for AIG they'd be in deep trouble!

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who deos not make nearly so much money


There is a somewhat funny saying: “An optimist believes that we live in the best of all possible worlds and a pessimist is afraid that the optimist is correct.” The really smart, pretty, hard working and looks twenty-five years younger than she is wife has been telling me that I have become too pessimistic. I think in some ways she is right but I maintain that I am trying to look on the bright side except there isn’t one. That is part of why I’ve not been posting much. I can only write so many caustic essays. Kind of the Thumper Rabbit principle, “If you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all.”

But there is some good news. The late Nina Wong’s Fung Shui Master Boyfriend is about to get charged with fraud. He evidently forged the will that gave him the fortune that she stole from her even later husband’s family. That’s good. I still don’t like China-Chem very much but at least the crooks who earned the money have what is theirs. I think Nina Wong had her husband murdered and forged a will to gain control of the company and there is perverse humor in then seeing someone do to her what she’d already done.

Many places, most of them fascist including Hong Kong have gun control. Hong Kong also has “Tree-Control” As with most things a government does it works poorly. Recently a dying tree fell and killed a teenage girl. The tree couldn’t be cut down without government permission which evidently takes years to get. So, we can’t get an anti-air pollution law with teeth, murderers get 8 months in jail but people are prosecuted for cutting down a dying tree.

We’ve also had a series of scandals involving pharmaceutical companies that have packaged out-of-date or defective drugs. A lot of people would attribute this to “The profit motive” I don’t. I attribute it to the “I have no ethics because I grew up in the Hong Kong educational system” motive.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who is trying to find good things to say

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Future Present

Kind of an odd essay.

Until Next Time
Fai mao
The Blogger who should post more often