Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Israeli Diversity

The event that I attended in Israeli - the University Social Responsibility Summit - gave me an opportunity to better understand the issues of diversity in Israel.  At the Temple Mount, I was reminded once again of a very stark picture.  On the Temple Mount, on which the Jewish Temple once stood, there is now no temple.  Instead, there are now two Islamic mosques, one of them the glittering golden dome.  There are plenty of Muslims.   Jews are allowed there but not to pray.  

At the Wailing (Western) Wall, actually the west-facing side of the Temple Mount - the foundation of the Jewish Temple, there are plenty of Jews praying.   But presumably no Muslims.  

People once entered the Temple Mount through a set of very broad and long steps that approached the Temple Mount from the south.  You were forced to look up towards the sky, where heaven - God’s residence - is.  Now the southern entrance is completely blocked.  Instead, you sneak into the Temple Mount through a twisting, snake-like flyover rising above the grounds in front of the Wailing Wall.  It is a very weird sight.  

At the conference, someone presented a picture of the evolving diversity in Israel.  In the past 3 decades, the percentage of Arabs have grown, albeit modestly.  The percentage of orthodox Jews have remained stable.  But the Haredi, ultra orthodox Jews have grown the fastest.  I was told that they do not serve in the army, and generally do not work, concentrating on studying the Bible.  The percentage of secular Jews, those who serve in the army and contribute the largest amount of taxes, have shrunk the most.  

Each of these 4 major groups of Israelis generally live in their own neighbourhoods, attend their own schools, make friends with their own, and live segregated lives.  The University of Haifa is one of the few places where interaction among the different groups are encouraged.  

We plan to take some of our students here, to learn from some of the efforts of integration - a real challenge.  

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Haifa, Israel

Here I am, running along the ridge of Mount Carmel.  

I can see the bay of Haifa towards the north east, on my left when I was running towards the University of Haifa, offering stunning views. 

Many apartment blocks have solar power heating systems installed on their roofs - a testament to their intensive use of technology to survive in this piece of land.  

Actually the first view I was afforded was the Hanukkah Candelabrum (Menorah) at the airport.  

If course, I am not here for the run, as enjoyable as it is.  I am actually for the University Social Responsibility Summit.  Between the plane landing and the first meeting over dinner, I had a few hours, and the rain stopped right after we checked in at the Dan Panorama Hotel.  So it was fated that I should run.  

A friendly cat came out to greet me along the run. 

I was pleasantly surprised find so many famous people with streets named after them.  

All in all, 

a fine way to start my second visit to Israel.  

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A Book Club for Thinking Christians

My wife and I believe strongly that our faith should be well-informed.  One good way to be well-informed is to read, and to discuss what we read and believe.  Hence, we started a Book Club at our church several years ago, back in 2013 - I believe.  

Over the years we have read and discussed many books on a wide range of topics: The History of the Jews; Sons of Abraham; Yazidi, Islamic State, Caliphate & Faith; Church History; When Buddha Meets Christ - a dialogue between Christianity and Buddhism, Radical Islam, Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning; Daoism and Christianity, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship; … 

Recently we just finished a study on Martin Luther & The Reformation.  We studied Martin Luther’s life, how he arrived at his criticism of the then church, and some of the more controversial aspects of his life and faith.  We studied how the various Protestant denominations came about: Lutherans, Reformed, Anglicans, Anabaptists, Amish, Puritans, Baptists, …  We also discussed some of the major relevant challenges such as wars, slavery, colonialism, …  

In the coming months we may discuss the books of Yuval Noah Harari: Sapiens, Homo Deus and 21 Lessons for the 21th Century.  We wish to better understand how humans are trying to use modern technology such as artificial intelligence and biotechnology to become more like god, and the Christian response to that.  

Our objective is become thinking Christians - that our faith should be based upon sound knowledge and reasoning, that our faith is relevant to the real life challenges that we face in this day and age.  We usually meet on the first Saturday evening of the month.  Please contact us if interested.  

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Air dried Meat

Have you had air-dried pork liver stuffed with fat (金銀膶)?  Steam it.  The white pork fat turns translucent.  It has an unusual texture and quite flavourful, if you can make yourself bite into a mouthful of cooked fat.  

On the other hand, we all have had air dried Chinese sausages.  Some are stuffed with pork (臘腸). Others used duck liver (膶腸), etc.   Duck liver is my favourite.  But I like all kinds of sausages.  

Duck.  A bit too dry, and too little meat, to my taste.  

Pork belly.  Good.  But similar issues with the duck.  

But quail?  I should try it.  

Chicken (臘雞)?  Many years ago, when my wife and I were studying in the USA, it was not easy to find these stuff where we lived.  My father-in-law taught us how to make it ourselves.  We didn’t let them dry as much as the commercial products.  It was really tasty.  

All of them are good.  You can be assured of it.  

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A fish (fin 魚翅) tale

A bunch of professors from a local university in Hong Kong went to Xian to teach a class many years ago.  They went to a restaurant and found 魚翅 on the menu, at a very low price.  They wanted to make sure that it was really 魚翅.  So they inquired of the waiter whether it was really .  The waiter assured them the it really was  魚翅.  They were overjoyed, and ordered seven orders.  The waiter was incredulous, and wanted to be sure that they wanted to order seven orders.  They were sure.   This was what they got.  (I was not one of them).  

This really is 魚翅 fish fin.  Just not in the usual form that we Hong Kong people are familiar with.   For many of us,  魚翅  usually means shark fin soup.  

This fish fin is the “wings” of a ray, deep fried.  

You can find the raw material in some supermarkets, with the skin removed. 

You can also find them dead but still fresh, in wet markets.

To find the live specimens, you may have to go to the aquarium.  

This is actually quite good - tender, smooth and tasty. It is just not what many people expect.  

Friday, November 09, 2018

The racket that is a university

A public university receives its core funding from the government and the fees paid by the students (actually their parents) - to educate the students.  The university then pays the professors (instructors, lecturers, …).  The professors teach the students.  They also do research, to generate new knowledge, so that they can teach better, for the benefit of the students and society in general.  There is a saying about this: research underpinning teaching.  It all seems sound and proper. 

But, of course, the devil is in the details.  If you take a close look.  You will find that some professors teach a lot more than others, while some spend most (if not all) of their time in research.  In most cases, they are retained and promoted based on their research much more than their teaching.  The higher their rank, the less they teach, and the more they research.  Perhaps more importantly, the more their power in determining how the university is run and who is promoted.  It is a positive, reinforcing cycle.  

The government (actually the public that pay the taxes) and the parents pay the university (and indirectly the professors) to teach the students and benefit the society.   What really happens in many cases is that the professors research to advance themselves, while the teaching is delegated to the junior staff who remain junior no matter how well they teach.  I wonder how much the government and the parents are aware of that.  

This is, of course, a much simplified description, leaving out a lot of details and phenomenon that does not fit the description.  For example, research does benefit the society, usually in the long run, research professors do not mind teaching research students (who help them produce more research, but not undergraduate students who are no help in research).  But this racket is very real in many universities.  

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The evolution of a fish

This is perhaps “evolution” not in the most common sense.  Firstly, you got a live, swimming, leopard coral grouper, also called coral trout, leopard coral trout, 東星斑., from the wet market. 

Then it was scaled and gutted. 

Then it was steamed and buried under a mountain of shredded ginger, tree onions and Chinese parsley. 

Finally, hot oil and soy source was added.  In my opinion, a fish does not get any better than this.