Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Outstanding (female) students

Each year in our university, one student from each of the six faculties is named the Outstanding Student of the faculty, and one of the six is named the Most Outstanding Student of the university. For 2007, all but one of the six are females, including the Most Outstanding Student. That includes even traditionally male-dominated faculties such as engineering, and construction & land use. The lone male is in communication. In fact, this has been the pattern in recent years. In one year, all six of them were females.

What does that tell us about the gender bias? Does that mean females are smarter? They work harder? Professors are biased towards them?

On the other hand, in many faculties and departments, male professors still outnumber female professors by a large margin.

【恩雨之聲】in 天水圍

On Saturday, 24 March, 2007, Showers of Blessings (HK) 【恩雨之聲】 will organize a walkathon cum evangelistic meeting in TinShuiWai in collaboration with churches there. The purpose is two-folded. On the one hand, it is to raise funds to continue to produce and broadcast real-life testimonies aiming to help people live meaningful and bountiful lives. On the other hand, it is to ask for God’s blessings for the district. Hence at the end of the walkathon, there will be an evangelistic meeting with a movie and music.

Further information can be obtained from the poster attached, and from the SOBEM web site at www.sobem.org.hk . The 【恩雨之聲】 programs are real life testimonies as told directly by the persons involved, not re-enactments or dramatizations by actors. They are normally broadcasted on Sunday evenings at 11 PM on Asia TV, Local channel 亞視本港台.

Please help to spread the word about the programs, the needs of 【恩雨之聲】, and the needs of 天水圍.

Monday, February 26, 2007


While on a topic related to TinShuiWai (the Wetlands is in TinShuiWai), recently a good friend introduced to me an interesting little book with the title "天水圍十二師奶". 天水圍 has been in the news a lot these days, for all the wrong reasons: suicides, family violence, youth delinquents, etc. The area is characterized by low income, few jobs, poor facilities, and long distances from the city. No wonder there are problems.

This little book, as the name implies, describes 12 women who demonstrate great resilience in the face of severe challenges. In a lot of cases, there is a man who have admitted defeated – given up looking for a job after set backs, giving in to destructive tendencies, ... It is the woman who is struggling to keep the family fed, the kids going to school, and the family together. They deserve our admiration and the society’s help.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Birds in Wetlands Park

Went to the Wetlands Park today, in a trip organized by our youngest daughter’s Sunday School. We were really surprised to find so many birds in one place outdoors in Hong Kong. There were many kinds of ducks, herons and so many others that we could not name. It was just amazing.

All these in a place only a 35 minute bus ride away from TsimShaTsui, and just across the street from housing estates in TinShuiWai. The place was well designed and managed. A great place to spend a day.

Another surprise was the many volunteers who set up telescopes to help visitors to watch the birds. There were lots of telescopes set up, and the volunteers were courteous and knowledgeable. The visitors too, were largely well-behaved.

The only problem was that there are too many of us visitors, and I was told it was not considered a crowded day. I shudder to think what it must be like on a really busy day.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Roadside Temple in Aberdeen

Roadside temples are not uncommon in Hong Kong. This one, however, caught my attention more than the usual.

First of all, it was actually sitting in the street, rather than the sidewalk. (How did it get there? How come no one removed it?) Secondly, it was devoted to the God of the Sea. This, in itself, is not too surprising, since this is Aberdeen, where there is still a substantial number of boat people around. Thirdly, the woman worshipper was wearing the more traditional hat of the boat people, which is not seen too often these days.

Fourthly, the temple was smack in front of a branch of the Hong Kong Bank. One being a symbol of Hong Kong’s fading, traditional, maritime, Chinese past. While the other a symbol of the rising, modern, terrestrial, British (but also increasingly Chinese) present. I was just struck by the incongruence of the juxtaposition.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Kite in Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter

On Chinese New Year’s Day, I spotted this Black Eared Kite in the Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter. I wasn’t quick enough to catch it swooping down to the water for fish. But I did catch it and others circling above the water afterwards.

The shelter was filled with all kinds of boats because of the New Year’s Holidays. As a result there weren’t much open water there. The kites seem to have become very familiar with the environment and were able to fish in the narrow channels among the wall-to-wall boats.

Don't you wish you can fly like that? I do.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Give Me All Your Money

In the past few days a popular female former news anchor (張慧慈) have been in hot waters for some comments she made on love and marriages. Apparently she told a reporter that her criteria for deciding whether to marry her boyfriend was whether her boyfriend would be willing to give her all his money. The first said no. The second said “of course” and became her husband. They have been married for 10 years now.

For this, she was called greedy and shallow (貪錢兼膚淺) and crowned “ultimate Hong Kong girl” (極品港女). I do not quite understand this criticism. I would think it is a good test to see whether a man really love a woman, and vice versa. Love is supposed to be a total commitment. You would give your life if you really love someone. Money is – just money. I would think it is the minimum requirement (on both parties, of course) for marriage.

Love should be as beautiful as this lotus that I saw a while ago. Without it, marriage is just a limited-liability contract.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hung Hom Bay in 1995

This was the view of Hung Hum Bay in 1995. The picture was taken looking out the window on the eigth (top) floor of the Mong Man Wai Building, towards the East. On the right hand side we could see North Point of Hong Kong Island. On the left, the hills of Lei Yue Mun of Kowloon.

The airport was still in Kai Tak at the time. And planes could be seen landing and taking off every minute or so. In the morning one could see the sun rise.

Now it is a continuous wall of buildings covering the whole frame of the photo. Too depressing. I won’t show it here.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Chinese New Year Card Designed by Special Students

This past Christmas some of our staff and students went to the Hong Chi PineHill Special School to help in a Christmas Party. On last Saturday morning, we brought in 12 of the students that we met at the school, ages ranging from 8 to 17. A team of our Computing students taught them how to make electronic cards for Chinese New Year. Here is a sample made by a girl.

It was quite challenging. It takes more time and patience to teach these kids because of their special needs. One of the boys got a bit upset midway through the 2 hour lesson because he wanted to play computer games before finishing the task. So the social worker took him outside to cool down. After a while, he was able to come back to finish. The youngest girl, at one point, grabbed a piece of candy and wanted to eat it without getting permission, stalled for several minutes but eventually was persuaded to wait until the end of the lesson to eat it. Most of the other kids, however, went through the lesson smoothly.

I was surprised, in fact, that there were not more incidents, given their special needs. In the end, it was a lot of fun all around. The kids enjoyed it. Our students enjoyed it. There were a lot of laughter and picture taking. And they had lunch together. Our students put in a lot of effort to make this event happen. And I think it was worth it.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Where is Mount Sinai?

A friend (a great friend) recently lent me Professor Colin Humphrey’s book “The Miracles of Exodus”. Prof. Humphrey tries to find scientific explanations for the miracles associated with the Israelites’ exit from Egypt. His view is that natural explanations of the events in the Exodus do not make them any less miraculous. God can work in, with, and through natural events, causing natural events to happen at a certain time and place to achieve His purpose.

In the process, he argues that the Israelites crossed the Red Sea at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba, and then arrived at Mount Sinai – present day Mount Bedr in Saudi Arabia.

His arguments seem convincing. Regarding Mount Sinai, it is in the land of the Midians, which is in the north-east of present day Saudi Arabia, on the east coast of the Red Sea. Mount Bedr is a volcano, matching the smoke, dense clouds, fire, tremors, trumpet blasts, … in Exodus 19. It is within a eleven day walking distance from Kadesh Barnea, as mentioned in Deuteronomy 1:2. It is an isolated mountain, as implied by Exodus 19:12, which says to put limits around the mountain. …

Of course, Mount Bedr is only one of the many candidates put forth as the Biblical Mount Sinai. It is a fascinating story anyway.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Squirrel at Confucius Temple in Taipei (台北孔廟)

We found this squirrel at the Confucius Temple, eating bread on a tree. Note the stash of bread to the left, overflowing a hole in the tree. When it was finished with a piece of bread, it would run back to the hole, pick out another piece, and run back to its perch to eat. It seemed like it had been eating for a long time, and was never going to stop. The stash of bread looked large enough to last for a while.

The bread was obviously given to it by people who visited the temple. It seemed like a good life. A beautiful, quiet temple with big trees on its grounds. Plenty of food that it did not have to work very hard for. Plenty of company – there were quite a few squirrels around.

I liked the temple grounds. I enjoyed the elegant temple, the exhibits reminding of the long history of China and the many interesting characters and stories in it, the children practicing the ceremonies, the beautiful big trees, the funny but lovely squirrels, the few leisurely visitors. Even the man who told us we should not step on the
門檻. At the end I was reluctant to get back to the city bustle.

Why is it so hard for us humans to be satisfied with the simple things of life?

Children at Confucius Temple in Taipei (台北孔廟)

When our family visited the Confucius Temple in Taipei in August 2006, a group of children happened to be practicing for a ceremony. They marched around, and went through all kinds of moves with the pheasant tails (雉尾), accompanied by serious sounding Chinese music.

The children were gregarious, as young children everywhere are. But they were also very serious and disciplined. We watched them for about an hour. There were some whispering, but very little slackening. Quite impressive.

Compared to Hong Kong, Taiwan seems much more steeped in Chinese culture. If Hong Kong is part of China, it is very hard to see why Taiwan is not.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sun Yat-Sin Mausoleum (中山陵)

This is the Sun Yat-Sin Mausoleum at Nanjing during the May 1 (Labor Day) weekend in 2006, when I was there for a conference. Thousands and thousands of people visited the mausoleum. Yet it had a hushed calmness around it. People were respectful, speaking in low voices. Dr. Sun is truly someone deserving our utmost respect. He devoted his life to the singular vision of waking up and saving the sleeping China with revolutions.

Now the leaders in Taiwan are rewriting history textbooks - belittling the significance of Dr. Sun, among other changes – in pursuit of their own agenda. That is a deplorable act.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Public Birth Announcements in China

On a bulletin board on a main street in YangXin County in Hubei province, each birth in the neighbourhood is announced. Details such as the parents’ names, place of work, date of birth, the child’s sex, date of birth, etc. are all listed. Presumably this is in the context of the one-child policy, to make public those who has more than one child, to put pressure on them … Privacy is apparently not a major concern in mainland China.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Buy your way out of jail time

In Dongguan (東莞), a Guangdong (廣東) city, offenders can pay to reduce their sentences. It was reported in the Yangcheng Evening News (羊城晚報), and subsequently in the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. In more than 30 cases, the dependants paid money to the victims of their crimes with the Victims’ approval.

In one case, a murderer had his death sentence commuted to life in jail after he paid 50,000 yuan to his victim’s family, while his two cohorts in the killings were given the death penalty.

On the one hand, everyone should be equal in front of the law. However, when the defendant pays for the victims’s loss and receives the victim’s forgiveness, shouldn’t that count for something?

What is not clear whether a defendant who could not pay but nevertheless receives the victim’s forgiveness is entitled to the same treatment. As it is, it does appear that the wealthy is given another way to escape their legal obligations.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Teaching Video Shooting to Some Special Youths

Recently we took on an unusual project. We were asked by some police friends to teach some youths under Superintendent Caution (警司警戒) to make videos, as part of our community service learning program. So on a Saturday morning, 10 police officers took 20 youths to our university, where a team of our university students taught them how to shoot and edit videos.

We told them the basics, gave them video cameras and asked them to go out on campus to interview and shoot the videos. These youths are under
Superintendent Caution because they have committed some light offences. They typically come from poor families and are doing poorly in schools. They were initially very passive and disinterested. It took a lot of plodding to get them to do anything, even to get into the elevator!

Many of them have never used a camera before. So learning to make videos - something new and unfamiliar and difficult looking – is hard. Part of the reason may be a fear of failure – what if I tried and could not to it? I would lose face among my friends! After very patient coaching and prodding and encouraging from our students and the police officers, about half of them eventually completed the three sessions and seemed genuinely interested. That’s a big achievement and we are planning follow-ups. We are all hoping that we can do a small part in helping them to build up confidence in their own abilities and to acquire interests in something healthy and useful.