Saturday, June 30, 2007

Umbrella Generosity

A man was huddling with his kid under a shelter. He had to cross the street but it was raining. He didn’t know what to do.

Suddenly a young man thrust an umbrella in his face. “Take it.” The father hesitated, perhaps he was thinking: how am I going to return this to you? “Cannot let the kid catch the rain. I am almost home. Don’t worry about it.” The young man put the umbrella in the father’s hand and walked away.

I was amazed. Thinking quickly for a change, I pulled out my camera and followed the young man, trying to take his picture to prove to myself he is a real person instead of an angel. But he walked too fast, and disappeared inside a fitness center.

So I turned around and tried to catch the father instead. Yes, he was the one with the green umbrella. It was a rushed shot, but you should still be able to make out the kid in his arm.

I did not make this up. My youngest daughter was with me and can bear witness.

Friday, June 29, 2007

A Girl in Science

Over the years I have taught some very good students, and many of them are girls. In the last couple of years we have been working with the Hong Kong Police to develop a competency (abilities) – based human resource management system. J was one of my students who was doing her final year project as part of the collaboration with the police. She met with police officers to discuss their requirements, integrated the information into a competency hierarchy (tree), and wrote computer programs making use of the information. She also had to make a number presentations to senior police officers, including superintendents and inspectors. She must have been very nervous but never showed it. The officers were quite impressed.

After she graduated, she sent me a thank you card including these words. We teachers like to say that marks are not the most important. However, we are not sure whether the students agree. It is therefore very heartening to hear these words from J. She is now working in the Information Systems department in a large bank and I am sure she will have a very successful career. I would love to tell you who she is but I won’t do it without her permission.

I have other good students and stories to tell, but do not wish to make this too long. So next time, perhaps.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Girls and Science

We have been developing an innovative short course as part of the Form 2 general science curriculum with an elite girls’ school. The “Robots Exploring Science” course uses robots as a tool to teach problem solving skills, programming, and some basic physics concepts such as speed, power, gears, light, etc. The course is very well received and we are beginning to work with other schools to adopt this course.

In the process, we also made some interesting observations. Some of the girls told us they are very interested in science, do not find it very hard, are planning to study science-related subjects, but do not plan to have a science-related career.

It is rather surprising but upon closer reflection, is actually consistent with a worrying trend in Hong Kong. In secondary school, most students want to study science subjects. But interest in university programs in science and engineering has declined significantly. Even some science and engineering graduates choose to work in business, finance, etc. Does that have something to do with the leaders of Hong Kong down-playing science and technology as part of the Hong Kong economy?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Luxurious apartments – Hong Kong style

These “luxurious apartments” are standing one block away from the quaint little 冰室 in the previous posting, and right next to the dilapidated 九龍城碼頭. It is surrounded by 40 year old low rise apartment blocks without elevators. Hard to imagine why people would pay more than 10,000 dollars per square feet in such surroundings.

Presumably it is because the old airport, where the trucks are parking in the foreground, will be developed into valuable space, bring up the value of the neighboring properties, which in turn will be re-developed. In the mean time, the giant wall of “soon to be valuable” apartments will sit for years in a huge construction site. By the time the construction site metamorphoses into desirable space, the giant wall itself will have become quite aged.

How much are we HongKongers willing to suffer to earn our money?

Monday, June 25, 2007


Remember these 冰室s? We used to go there for 紅豆冰, 菠蘿冰, 雜果冰. Now most of them have evolved into 茶餐廳s. This is one of the remaining few, and it is still standing at a street corner near 九龍城碼頭 - for now. Someone was making a video there last Sunday, perhaps to preserve the memory before the developers obliterate it. Of course, even 九龍城碼頭 itself may not stand there for too long.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Government Official Logic

In the IEd hearings, I heard the following argument: I do not remember whether I did “X” or not. But I am an experienced government official, so I know it is wrong to do “X”, hence I would not have done it. So I did not do it.

I did no wrong. Now I am wrongly accused of doing something wrong. It is because I tried too hard to do my job. It is an intolerable insult of my dignity. I resign in protest.

There is some twisted logic in there, don’t you think?

Friday, June 22, 2007

What do we do in heaven?

In our Thursday Bible Study Group yesterday, we were studying resurrection and we wondered about what we will be doing in heaven, when we get there. The Bible didn’t say too much about it, but it did mention rest, worship, and service. On first glance, it may not sound too exciting. But upon serious consideration, there seems to be a lot more to it.

After strenuous exercise or exhausting work, and a cleansing shower, don’t we appreciate the exquisite feeling of total relaxation? The harder the work, the better it feels, right? Don’t we sometimes find that the music, the singing (ours and others), and the atmosphere in the worship service is so enjoyable that we just want to keep going, repeating the same hymns again and again without getting tired? Sometimes when we are doing things for someone we love and we are in the right mood, don’t we feel so good we want the moment to last forever? That, to me, is a bit of heaven on earth.

There are a lot of enjoyable things on earth: nature, food, music, art, beauty (in people, science, mathematics, design, …) ... They are part of God’s creation and hence part of what God is about. The more we understand God’s creation and are able to enjoy them, the more we understand God and the more we will enjoy heaven. That’s my limited understanding. What is your view?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Jesus I Never Knew

I have to thank my wife who recommended this book by Philip Yancey to me. Our perception of Jesus is often clouded by 2000 years of history. Jesus is this white man with long hair and a beard. He is always calm, infinitely patient and never gets angry. We read about him knowing that he is going to die and be resurrected, that the world will not end for at least 2000 years, that the Roman Empire will crumple and be replaced by others. We encounter Jesus in comfortable circumstances and are free to choose and worship whoever we want.

But Jesus was this Jew who was more likely to be darker, without a beard, and unattractive. He got sad, angry, disappointed. The people who encountered him first hand were mostly poor, oppressed, brutalized, rebellious, suspicious of and even hated each other. He was a messiah that was weak, a king that had no power. He asked his disciples to take up the cross, probably after passing by rebels nailed to crosses by Romans. He had miraculous powers but refused to use them to re-establish a Jewish kingdom a la David and Solomon. His follows deserted him when he died. Yet he transformed them with his resurrection, and proved to this world that the way to overcome evil is not with force but with love and sacrifice.

I had inklings of this image of Jesus before but Yancey was able to paint a much more complete and convincing picture for me. And it is factually based on the Bible, strictly speaking, the Gospels. I strongly encourage you to find our about it yourself, if you have not yet done so.

Aftermath of the IEd Hearings

Was it a resignation to take responsibility? If so, it should be applauded. More likely, unfortunately, it was an astute political move to remove a problem. Sadly, we do not have enough officials who have the courage to shoulder and admit responsibility. Although there is no shortage of people good at putting the blame on everyone else except themselves – on all aides.

As for us who are watching on the sidelines. I believe we should try to put ourselves in the position of those in the spotlight. That way we will have a better understanding of why people make mistakes, and how to avoid them in the future. That’s what God did. He became a man, so that He could experience what we human beings experience – to better help us.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Simple Pleasures

Do you know this location? The sun was setting. People were fishing, walking dogs, playing with kids, chatting, and relaxing. I was watching some birds fishing after my 40 minute jog.

The girls’ laughs caught my attention. They didn’t have fancy clothes, posh surroundings, or gourmet food. But they had a great view, light breezes, music from a radio, and each other. And they were obviously having a good time. You really don’t need to have a lot of money to enjoy life.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What was this man doing?

Walking by a housing estate in Shatin on a rainy Sunday, a man standing in a window caught my attention. Was he trying to jump? It didn’t seem plausible – it was only the first or second floor, depending on how you count. You probably can’t kill yourself that way, even though you will sustain serious damage.

The man was actually removing an air conditioner from a window. That in itself is nothing remarkable. What was scary, at least to me, was that he had no safety harness on him, not even a rope securing him to the building.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Miracle

L is an 80+ year old lady. She did not receive much formal education. But she is smart, hard working, an astute investor, and stubborn. Most of her children are Christians, and for many years they have tried to persuade her of the authenticity of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Yet she has always resisted. One of the major reasons she gave was that she had committed herself to some Buddhist deity years ago. Now that this deity has made her children prosperous, it would be traitorous to abandon the Buddhist deity for the Christian God. For many years it was a stand-off. Her children kept trying hard. But it seemed she would not give an inch.

A short while ago, out of the blue, L started to ask about the requirements of becoming a Christian. That, naturally, created a buzz among her children and the sizable pool of relatives, friends, and churches praying for her. Yet she still refused to pray the believer’s prayer, saying that she had to take care of something first.

Last Sunday L went to the Buddhist temple to say goodbye to a bunch of deities. One by one she told them she was not going to worship them anymore, that even if she were to come to the temple again, she would not burn incenses to them. That evening, she prayed the believer’s prayer with her youngest daughter over a long distance phone call.

That is a real miracle. Who knows, that after so many years of apparent stalemate, that L would suddenly make up her mind to become a believer? Knowing her, and from the decisive actions that she took, it is a clear decision and a genuine conversion. And we know that we should never lose faith, and never give up.

Lucky(?) Turtle

This was one lucky turtle. The 70+ year old lady bought it with 100+ dollars. She said to the turtle, “… find a safe place to hide and do not get caught again …” before releasing it into the harbour. She said it will bring good fortune to her family and Hong Kong. Over the past 10 years, she told me, she has released 500 turtles, each costing 100 to 500 dollars. And Hong Kong seemed to be doing well.

Come to think of it, I am not sure it is good fortune for the turtle to be released. First of all, the turtle was probably raised, not caught. So it may or may not be able to handle the open water. Secondly, this is the Victoria Harbour, where people dare not swim! Thirdly, it looked like one of those “Brazil” turtles which seems to be fresh-water ones. Can they survive in sea water?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mapping Crime

We can take incidents of crime and mark their locations on a digital map. They can then be grouped according to specified criteria, such as how close they are to each other, to discover hot spots of crime, with each spot/group coded by color and shape of marker.

We can divide an area by a regular grid, and color code the areas/cells by the density of crime in that area. The darker the color, the more serious the crime situation.

We can mark crime hotspots with ellipses to indicate their extent. We can then compare the hot spot patterns between different periods to study their evolution over time, between crime types to study their differences in behaviour. We can check, for example, whether the crime patterns between the May 1 and October 1 Golden Weeks are similar, or whether pick-pocketing and robbery happen at very different places and times. We can study the correlation between crime and weather, convenience stores, banks, night clubs, MTR stations, … Whether striking at crime in one place simply drives them to another, and where, …

Some police officers in charge of intelligence are highly interested in our work. Research and development can be fun and practical too.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

God and Communism

Some Communists think Christianity and communism have many of the same ideals: equality, sharing, and justice. Yet the Marxists pursuit of that vision in the Soviet Union had produced the worst nightmares the world has ever seen. Why?

Seventy some years of communism in the Soviet Union had proved beyond all doubt that goodness could not be legislated from the Kremlin and enforced at the point of a gun. Goodness simply cannot be imposed externally, from the top down; it must grow internally, from the bottom up.

God’s power, in contrast, is internal and noncoercive. Such power may seem at times like weakness. God made himself weak for one purpose: to let human beings choose freely for themselves what to do with him.

I have ideas similar to those expressed above. But Philip Yancy expressed them much more succinctly than I ever could, in his book “The Jesus I Never Knew”. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Are we becoming more Chinese?

On a spectrum of identity as follows: “Hongkoner” – “HK first, Chinese second” – “Chinese first, HK second” – “Chinese”, Where would you place yourself?

According to poll published in the South China Morning Post today (13th June, 2007), 5% less Hong Kong teenagers identify themselves as “HKer”, the number for “HK first” remains the same, the number for “Chinese first” increased by 6%, and the number for “Chinese” is more or less the same. Overall there is a rise in Chinese identity among the young.

Some attributed this effect to civic education. Do you agree? Do you think the national flag raising ceremony and national anthem being sung at school have enhanced the sense of belonging? Call me cynical, but I tend to think the strength of the mainland economy probably have more to do with it. And possibly that fact that more of our teenagers were born in the mainland?

The pool also revealed, interestingly, that while more said they were proud to be Chinese, they also tended not to establish good relationships with mainlanders. And most said Hong Kong people were superior to mainlanders.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007


The man in shorts was walking towards me on the elevated walkway. Suddenly he turned his head to the left and spat over the rails of the walkway. I stared at him, stunned in disbelief. How can someone do that so blatantly? I must have disgust written all over my face. Yet he displayed no emotion. No embarrassment, no shame, no anger either. It was as if what he just did was the most natural thing in the world. What do you do with something like that? I turned around and snapped this picture after he walked past me. At that moment I was not proud to be a HongKonger.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Small Mercies

S was pulling out his umbrella when he came to the end of the foot bridge. It was a very strange design, leaving a 10 meter gap between the footbridge on the left and the shelter of the building on the right. What a nuisance, he thought, forcing me to open my umbrella and then to fold it up again in 5 seconds. If it weren’t raining so hard I would just walk across - the people who designed it must have been idiots.

He noticed two persons in wheel chairs at the end of the footbridge watching the rain. What an odd place to watch the rain, he thought to himself. They didn’t seem to be enjoying it either, and they were blocking the path. Being a slow thinker, by the time he realized they were probably forced to wait there because they had no umbrellas, he had almost reached the other side.

Looking like an idiot himself, S turned around and held out his umbrella. The young man understood immediately; perhaps he had been waiting for such a gesture for a while already. He rushed his wheelchair down the gentle slope, with S playing to catch up. The small umbrella couldn’t quite cover the two of them and the wheelchair – all got quite wet. S turned around to escort the young woman across, with similar results. The two thanked S profusely anyway. And having shared a big laugh at their state of wetness, they bid each other farewell.

A very small gesture of mercy in poor weather – which seemed to brightened the day for all three of them. I couldn’t help to think, though – what happened to all the people who walked past those 2 before S?

Angry Clouds

Ink-black clouds, pouring rains, sky-illuminating lightening, deafening thunder – nature has been giving us a fantastic multi-media performance that human beings cannot match. What does that say about the God behind it? This picture was taken by my daughter from the safety of our house. In fact, we often sit in front of our windows to enjoy similar performance for free.

When we are forced to be on the street and trying to hold on to a flimsy umbrella, however, we might have a very different opinion of this performance. Funny, isn’t it? Depending on where we are, and what state of mind we are in, exactly the same thing evokes very different feelings. What does that say about our control of our lives and destiny?

Friday, June 08, 2007

What do you treasure?

If I believe my existence does not stop at my death, if I believe some things have long lasting value (and some do not), then obviously I should try to secure those things that do.

This picture was taken when I was flying over the Great Lakes region between Canada and the US. Just a random river and a random lake, but it was so beautiful. I have some other pictures over that terrain and I never got tired looking at them.

This was Mount Fuji, from the airplane on the same trip. Yes it was made by some natural process, but God must have created those natural processes. I believe beauty has an eternal quality to it, and it is one of many things that do.

I want to know this eternal God who must have created it, don’t you?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Life after Death

The sacrifice made by the June 4th victims made me think again about death and its aftermath. Life is the most precious thing that we have. Why would anyone be willing to give it up? It must be for something even more precious. For some, it is justice, others love, or a long lasting reputation. In any case, if my existence, hence consciousness, expires at death, would justice, love, reputation, or any other “valuable” things for that matter, be valuable to me – who does not exist any longer?

So if I am willing to give up my life, if I am not afraid of death, I must believe I continue to be conscious, hence exist, in some form, correct?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Hong Kong media on the June 4 Vigil

I did a quick check on media coverage of the event. The South China Morning Post, 蘋果日, , 都市 (free), and am730 (free) put the June 4 vigil on their front pages.

and 星島, it occupied one-quarter page on page 10.

頭條 (free) put it in a 2.5 x 5 inch column on page 10.

, , and 太陽 did not put it on the front pages, and I did not find out whether it is inside.

It is easy to see where they stand on this.

六四燭光集會June 4 Candle Light Vigil

They might have been naive. They might have over-stepped some bounds. But they have the courage to demand a more open and democratic China, with more justice and less corruption. They spoke for all of us; and they did not deserve to die. I feel obligated to tell them that I remember them, to show that I care.

I was moved that my whole family was there with me – my wife and my three daughters. My wife and I went to our first June 4-related protest at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa, Canada before it happened. My eldest daughter, who was born in late 1989, went to her June 4-related protest in her mother’s womb and has been coming to these vigils with me for a number of years. My second daughter has an examination tomorrow, yet she came with us. My youngest daughter is beginning to appreciate what happened.

Take a look at us. We are not just a number. We are real people who care. We are real people with a heart, not just a calculator in hand. Tonight I am proud to be a HongKonger. 今晚我以身為香港人為傲。

Monday, June 04, 2007

A View of Hong Kong Island

This picture was paid for with a minor sun-burnt. It was taken early last Saturday morning. The sun was bright and the running from the West Kowloon Promenade (西九龍海濱長廊) to Whampoa (黃埔) to take the pictures took its toll. I took the pictures and my daughter stitched them together. You are welcome to use it but please drop me a note if you enjoy it.

It is a real privilege to live in Hong Kong and be able to enjoy this view freely. It is almost “anytime” “anywhere” (on the Kowloon waterfront). The view changes with the time of the day and the weather; and it is always spectacular.

The skyline is only partly natural. Mostly it is man-made, but there is no real planning as far as I know. (Not sure whether it is a credit or de-merit to Hong Kong.) I like to think of it as a gift from God. And this picture is my little gift to you. I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, June 01, 2007


I thought nobody plays 海陸空戰棋 anymore. But the other day I was passing by a Hung Hom playground where people are setting up to celebrate a local deity 褔德公, and spot these people playing it. For those if us who never played it, or have already forgotten - Each player has a set of pieces: 總司, 軍長, 師長, 旅長, 團長, 營長, 連長, 排長, 工兵, 高射炮, 主力艦, 巡洋艦, 炮艦, 驅逐艦, 戰鬥機, 偵測機. Each piece has a specific ability. While it is being moved around its identity is hidden from the opponent, until it matched against a piece from the enemy… It was quite popular when I was small.

The person in the upper right hand corner with a painted face is obviously one of the actors getting ready to play in a traditional performance of 大戲 in celebration of 褔德公’s birthday.

As for 褔德公’s temple, it is on Whampoo Street 黃埔街. Yery small but popular.