Sunday, September 30, 2007

Drunk and miserable in Yaumati?

One early morning on Jordan Road, I saw a man lying on the sidewalk. A short while later a policeman roused the man, and tried to get him to stand up. But the man could not get up to walk away.

When I passed by that spot about half an hour later, having finished my breakfast, the man was still there, sitting in this position. This man was probably feeling miserable with a hangover. Hopefully he realized that he needed help, and found it.

Jesus said, “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, only the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” [Gospel according to Mark, chapter 2, verse 17] Only when we feel miserable enough then we realize we need help. It is not that some of us don’t need God. Just that some of us realize it, and some don’t.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:3] When we feel bad enough to cry out to God, and admit to Him that we need Him, there opens the possibility of salvation from our sins, and reconciliation with God.

I believe it was Karl Marx who said “religion is the opium for the poor.” It is true that man-made religion can only offer temporary relief from human suffering, and is ultimately futile. But communism has been proven to offer no better solution to the human condition, and many believe it is worse. We may feel it is not easy to find the true God, when in fact Jesus has been there waiting for us with open arms all the time.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Jogging on the Tsim Sha Tsui East Promenade

Looking south from the footbridge linking Hung Hum with Tsim Sha Tsui East (尖沙咀東). From this point, it is about 2 kilometers along the waterfront promenade, pass the New World Hotel and the Intercontinental Hotel through to the Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry. It is also about 2 kilometers in the opposite direction. Starting from the footbridge northwards, pass the Hung Hom Ferry, Whampoa Garden (黃埔花園) and Laguna Verde (海逸豪園) through to the Fishermen’s Wharf.

So it is a nice jog of 4 kilometers from the Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry to the Fishermen’s Wharf, most of it along the waterfront. If you live in Kowloon, this is probably the best place for jogging, and a good way to prepare for the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon next year.

The view is great, and it keeps changing. Depending on the time of day, you will see people fishing, walking dogs, jogging, exercising, and plenty of tourists. To avoid the crowds, go early in the morning.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Guilt and Repentance

Regina Yip apologized to the public for making mistakes in the promotion of Article 23 four years ago. It was a big turn around for her, who only last year said she had nothing to apologize for over the now-shelved bill. Some questioned whether this was really a genuine apology. Or was it just a tactical move to remove an obstacle in her bid for the Hong Kong Island by-election on December 2, for the seat in the Legislative Council left open by the death of Ma Lik, the former DAB chairman. “Otherwise, why has she refused to apologize in the past?” Others felt her body language did not quite match her words. I cannot, and do not wish to judge whether her apology is one from her heart. But she did get me thinking.

While a public apology is hard enough to come by, genuine repentance is even harder, and much more valuable. Jesus once said that it is not those who call Him their Lord that get into heaven; only the ones who obey God that get into heaven.

Only those who truly feel the gravity of our sins and shortcomings will repent of our sins. And only then, will we be truly redeemed, and be reconciled. It is, of course, important that we be reconciled with the people around us. But it is much more important that we be reconciled with the one who really counts – God.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bruce Lee (李小龍)

Bruce Lee is immortalized in bronze on the Avenue of Stars (星光大道) in TsimShaTsui. He is one of the most famous Chinese persons all over the world. Even though he died suddenly in 1973, at the age of only 43, he has done enough to ensure that his name will remain in people’s minds for a long time.

But what does it mean to be remembered? What good is it that people come to stare at your statue? That people admire you? That people say good things about you? That people remember you warmly? -- If you are no longer around to enjoy it? That you don’t even exist?

So we implicitly assume that we will be around in some form, be conscious in some way, -- when we seek to build a kingdom that lasts a thousand generations, or to make a name to be remembered, or even just to provide for our families when we pass away.

We do believe in life after death after all.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋)

Today is Mid-Autumn Festival, a day on which the family traditionally gets together for dinner, fruits, and mooncakes. I remember we also had 楊桃, 沙田柚, 芋頭, 菱角, ... And my father would make 楊桃, 兔子 燈籠 (lanterns) for us. I always like 蓮蓉月餅, but I also grew up to be quite fond of 金華火腿月餅, which my father also liked. On such a date, it is important for the family to be together, signified by the complete, rounded moon.

蘇軾 gave us a good excuse to drink:

明月幾時有, 把酒問青天 …


Like many of us, he lamented:


If we seek perfect, long-lasting happiness in this life, we are doomed to be disappointed. The moon does not stay full, and people do not stay together forever. Two years ago on this day, my family was in Hong Kong and I was alone in Suzhou (蘇州), watching a perfect full moon rising in a famous garden (網獅園). But the separation was only for a few days. This year, my eldest daughter is studying in the USA and the separation is much longer. In this incidence I don’t feel particularly sad because it is for a good reason, even though it is not perfect nonetheless.

In the long run, however, there is bounded to be real sadness, sickness, death, and more painful separation. The best we can hope for is perhaps:


That is, to live long and a eventual re-union, or fellowship over long distances. Even that, can only offer temporary respite. Our real hope is in the longer term future, literally out of this world, in the afterlife.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sai Kung Fish Tank

One of my favourite sights in Hong Kong - seafood tanks. Here you can find 東星班, 蘇眉, 老鼠斑, 青斑, 老虎班, 花尾躉, 金鼓, 紅鮋, 帶子, 瀨尿蝦, 澳洲龍蝦, 印尼龍蝦, 竹節蝦, 中蝦, 花蝦, 南非鮑魚, 青島鮑魚, 墨魚, 魷魚, 澳洲加菲蟹 (Garfield Crab - no kidding!), 溫哥華蟹, 花蟹, 紅蟹, 羔蟹. 肉蟹, 象拔蚌 (geoduck), 大蜆, 蟶子 (razor clam), 石螺, ...

I enjoy watching them, even more than eating them. I know, some of them are being depleted. And more of them will, if we keep on eating them. But they are so tasty! Raised seafood simply cannot compare. Perhaps one day we will find a way to farm seafood that taste just as good. But until then ...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Kau Sai Wan (滘西)

A pristine (almost) bay and beach on Kau Sai Chau (滘西洲) near SaiKung. It seems inaccessible except from the sea. There does not appear to be any roads, and the hills are steep.

There were no people around when we got there in the morning. But within 15 minutes, there were 10 boats just like ours were moored in the bay. Another half an hour, 50 people were deposited on the beach by small boats. A few, like me, swam the roughly two to three hundred meters from the cruise boats to the beach.

The sands were exquisitely white. The water was warm and clear. With my head in the water, and armed with nothing but swimming goggles, I could see little fish, shells, rocks, and an occasional hermit crab. Unfortunately there were also an occasional beer can.

The sun was bright but there was a strong breeze. Floating in the water and imaging myself a dolphin, I almost forgot about my other life (my normal human self) and in particular an urgent, headache-generating phone call that I received just as we entered the bay.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Jelly Fish

This little guy was swimming in Hoi Ha Bay (海下灣) in Sai Kung (西貢) back in 2002. It was not big, just a few inches long. It was colourful and looked harmless, seemingly just floating around nonchalantly. But I stayed out of its way anyway.

The place was beautiful. The water shallow and clear, and full of little creatures such as this little jelly fish, other small fish, snails, and more.

It was also subtly dangerous. We waded out further and further, until at least 50 meters from the shore, and yet the water was still only up to our knees. Before we knew it, however, the tide changed. The water level started rising rapidly, and our shorts got wet. Fortunately we scrambled back to shore before it became really dangerous

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Father and Son?

A man was pushing an older man in a wheelchair along a sidewalk. They stopped at a street corner. The man sat down facing the older man. They sat there for quite a while, exchanging a few words occasionally. Actually I think I saw the man speaking to the older man, but I am not sure whether the older man ever said anything.

This scene repeated many times in early mornings in Hung Hom during the past year. If we all take time to look after our seniors like this man, Hong Kong would be a much happier place for everyone, don’t you think?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Public Reading?

After visiting the Airport Freight Forwarding Center for a project last Saturday, we went to the mall in TungChung for lunch. There I was surprised to find a large number of people reading. They were mostly reading newspapers, not books. Still, it was rather unusual to find so many people reading in a public place, except perhaps in a library. Some of them were even making notes. How odd!

Then I looked up. And as slow as I was, I had to notice the Jockey Club Off-track Betting Center (賽馬會投注站). These people were not really reading. They were studying the horse racing or soccer betting pages! This was a Saturday after all. But studying is the right word – they were totally concentrated and serious about it.

Image these much energy being put into more productive studies such as information technology, engineering, science, business, literature, music, arts, design, …, Hong Kong would have been transformed into a truly knowledge-based society in no time!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

“The Brothers Karamazov”

The irrationality of life and the purifying effect of suffering are the central themes of this classic novel by Dostoevsky, a master story-teller. In 1849, Dostoevsky was arrested as a member of a secret utopian society and sentenced to death. He was tied to the post to be shot, then he was told the sentence was changed to eight years of penal servitude. For him, prison meant solitude, suffering, but also self-judgment and the beginnings of spiritual regeneration.

He said of his experience in prison, “I am a child of the age, a child of nonbelief and doubt … until my coffin closes. … in such moments one thirsts like ‘parched grass’ for faith and finds it precisely because truth shines in misfortune. … yet sometimes God sends me moments in which I am utterly at peace.” The coexistence of faith and unbelief indeed remained with Dostosevsky all his life.

He also met in prison a young man named Ilyinsky, who was serving a 20 year sentence for parricide. He did not believe Ilyinsky was guilty and later he learned that the man had been cleared, after serving 10 years of his sentence.

The Brothers Karamazov told of Dmitri Karamazov, a sensual, impulsive, and poetic first child of Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, the wicked and sentimental profligate. Dmitri was engaged to the elegant Katerina Ivanova but subsequently fell for the earthly seductress Grushenka. When Dmitri’s father tried to lure Grushenka away with money, he went beserk. Dmitri also has two half-brothers, the atheist intellectual Ivan, who fell in love with Katerina, and the quiet novice monk Alyosha.

When Fyodor Pavlovich was found murdered, all the evidence seemed to implicate Dmitri. But Dmitri pointed his finger at Smerdyakov, Fyodor Pavlovich’s lackey and rumoured illegitimate son. Grushenka and Alyosha believed him and defended him vigorously. Bit by bit the human drama unfold. Fascinating, particularly how the characters responded to suffering and to each other. This is one of the best books I have even read.

Some people consider novels a waste of time, because novels do not discuss serious issues in a serious manner. My feeling is that the human conditions reflected in novels such as The Karamazov Brothers make much deeper impacts on their readers. Even Jesus often presents His teachings in the form of parables, essentially message-laden stories.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Identity Checking and Game Playing

Police officers checking the identification of youths outside a game parlor in ToKuaWan土瓜灣. It is a common scene in Hong Kong but it got me thinking. Disregarding the possible dangers associated with game parlors, it is still a great pity that so many young people waste their time playing so much computer games. (I do not object to playing computer games per se. It is excessive playing that I am objecting to – whatever that means :) )

Some may disagree, and point to the social “value” of playing computer games with friends. And the development of certain gaming “skills”. Indeed, some researchers such as Jonathan Thiele of Missouri Western State University have discovered a reduction in reaction time among those who played video computer games extensively. Daphne Bavelier and Shawn Green of the University of Rochester (my alma mata) also found that action video games can sharpen vision, enabling players to identify letters in a cluster better.

However, this is really a red herring. Do such “gains” justify the amount of time and effort expended in acquiring such “skills”? And are these gains not also available from other healthier activities? I have met university students both in mainland China and Hong Kong who play computer games for hours and hours each day (one Shenzhen university students said eight). How many hours do you spend on them? How about our children? Do we even know, or care?

There are plenty of other hobbies, sports, etc. which are equally, if not more, enjoyable and also bring much more tangible benefits at the same time. Why do we insist on wasting our lives away this way?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sugar Apple 番鬼荔枝

Take a look at these humongous 番鬼荔枝. Next to them are some regular-size oranges. They are unlike the 番鬼荔枝 that I was used to. Not only are they much bigger. They are also very sweet and contain much fewer and bigger seeds. I just found out that they are also called sugar-apple or custard-apple. Highly recommended if you can find them. Pick the bigger ones. They are usually better.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

University Classrooms

This is s snapshot from the video “Prangstgrup – Reach! A Lecture Musical Prank!” on YouTube. The video is quite amusing and highly recommended. Question for thought: what would you do if you were the lecturer?

This is probably an American university classroom. Did you notice how the students are seated? This is quite a large lecture room and most of the students are seated towards the front. Most of the seats in the front rows are in fact occupied; most of the seats in the back rows are not.

In contrast, our Hong Kong classrooms are usually the opposite. The students tend to stay away from the front rows. It is almost as if our students are afraid of the lecturer. More likely, they are afraid of being called on to answer questions. What is your experience and what do you think is the reason for the difference?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Aquarium Plaza 香港水族廣場

Do you like this fleet of yellow submarines? I found them at the Aquarium Plaza in North Point.

This place is a bit like the aquarium street in MongKok. Except this is indoors, with air-conditioning, hence much more comfortable. Hence you can find 錦鯉, 金魚, 珊瑚, 小丑, 醫生蝦, 斑馬, 鬍鬚鯊, 珊瑚蝶, 孔雀, , , 水母, 黑帆翅, 藍紋, 藍圈八爪魚, 墨魚旦, 海棉, … and much much more.

This is a fantastic place. And you don’t have to spend any money if you don’t want to. Isn’t Hong Kong a great place?

Don’t know what this is. Just that it looks like something straight out of Matrix (the movie). I mean those cute but fierce robots that stormed the place where Leo (Sorry, it should be Neo - Thanks, Christine, for pointing it out.) and the other rebels were hiding out.

Now, why did God create something like this? How did he come up with something like this? And if this is the result of natural selection, it baffles me no less.

Don’t know how they stained these. But they make great wall papers, don't they?

Monday, September 10, 2007

"Changing Minds" by Howard Gardner

I was attracted to the book by the author, who was famous for his theory on multiple intelligences. The title was intriguing, suggesting insights into convincing other people of our viewpoints.

To me, mind changing occurs everywhere. In teaching, when we try to convince our students to learn/accept a new concept (new to them, that is), to change their behavior (e.g., to work more systematically, to pay attention in class), to change their perception (e.g., that communication skills are at least as important as technical knowledge), etc. In preaching. In trying to win any argument, in fact.

The book presented a framework of mind changes: four "entities" (stories, theories, concepts, and skills), a range of "arenas" (nations … self), and seven "levers" (reason, representation, … resources, and resonance). Then a number of cases were discussed in the context of the framework.

What I got from the book was mainly two points. We will need to represent what we would like to persuade our audience to accept in multiple and appropriate representations. And ultimately, to create resonance in our audience. Nothing earth shaking there. In fact, I found the book a bit theoretical, rather than solidly-supported by hard scientific research. The writing is also slightly formulaic.

But the book did help me to reflect on my own teaching. I would recommend to do a quick scan of the book, rather than an in-depth study.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

能謙, 能誠 - 信仰基督教的生命情操

In chapter 8 of the Gospel according to John, there is a well-known story. A woman caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus. According to the law at the time, she should be stoned to death. ]]Jesus was asked to express his opinion. He, in turn, asked those who were without sin to throw the first stone. One by one, all the people left without throwing a stone. Obviously, all have sinned. Eventually, Jesus told the woman she can go, but she should not sin anymore.

Having a sinful nature, we human beings cannot be perfect. Sages in all cultures, including us Chinese, have tried very hard to find ways to improve ourselves. And many have succeeded, but only partially. Through their efforts, much progress have been made in understanding human nature and the universe. Yet no matter how hard we try, we cannot be totally satisfied, in an honest assessment of our lives. And in the end, no one can escape death, the ultimate consequence of sin.

Jesus, the Son of God, had made the necessary sacrifice, dying on the cross for our sins, so that we can be reconciled to God. To complete this reconciliation, however, we need to be properly humble and accept Jesus’ love and sacrifice.

Dr. Wan cited the case of his mother-in-law as an example of what can happen when someone believes in Jesus. She had a difficult live and was quite bitter towards a lot of things. When questioned, she admitted that the gods that she prayed to never responded to her personally. When it was suggested to her that Jesus, as the true God, will respond to her personally, she decided to give it a try. Apparently God did respond to her. She had developed a personal relationship with God and she is now a Christian. She is also much happier, and no longer bitter as before. Christians have a different outlook on life because we have hope.

People often turn to God as the last resort, when all their efforts proved inadequate and they have nowhere else to turn. And those who are sincere will succeed in finding God. But we don’t have to wait until we are desperate. God has been waiting for us for a long time. All we need to do is to give Him a chance.

These thoughts are what I gathered from 溫偉耀‘s sermon at our church this morning on this title. I cannot repeat his wonderful sermon in detail, but I think I understand and agree with the main points. At the end, quite a large number of people, many of them seemingly quite young, came forward to accept Jesus. I felt God working among us and was deeply moved.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Haunted House at Ship Street 灣仔船街南固臺"鬼屋"

The famous haunted house on Ship Street in WanChai was only about 50 meters away from the bustle of Queens Road East. Hard to imagine, wasn’t it?

When I went there one late afternoon in the spring, the sun was still shinning, it was warm and everything seemed fine. There were some people standing and talking near the junction of Ship Street and Queens Road. As I walked up the street towards number 55, suddenly I realized I was alone. The sun was blocked by some big trees and the place was much cooler. And there were nobody in sight.

Ship Street ended in a series of rising, broad steps. At the end of which was another set of long, narrow stairs. I examined the stairs. They were just wide enough for two persons to pass, shoulder to shoulder. They led up to the house and nowhere else. If I went up, and someone blocked my path, I would be doomed.

I really wanted to see the house. So I screwed up my courage and went up. The entrance was blocked by a locked gate, so I could only peeked inside through the grating. There were not much to see: mostly red brick walls and broken windows.

I don’t believe in the existence of ghosts in the sense of people becoming haunting ghosts when they die. But I do believe there are evil spirits who are no friends of us. And I certainly believe there might have been living people doing drugs there or otherwise do not welcome my presence. So I retreated hastily after snapping a few pictures, which was my main purpose in the first place.

I went there at the spur of the moment. It wasn’t planned and I do not plan to do it again. I promise.

Roaming Cows

We were going hiking near Sai Kung when we ran into these cows. They seemed totally nonchalant, and could not care less that a taxi was trying gingerly to pass.

Apparently some farmers in the New Territories released their cows when they stopped farming some years ago. Some built houses over the land, others simply rent the land out for storage of containers. There is now said to be more than 200,000 such men who are “entitled” to build a house for each of them over the land, because they are descendants of villagers. Many of them no longer live on the land, and some have moved overseas. Do we even have so much land in Hong Kong to build all these houses for them? Why is it only men who have the “right”? And what about those of us who were also born in Hong Kong and still live here, but who happen not to be descendants of villagers – which is most of us? I do not mean to stir up trouble. But it just seems somewhat unfair.

Coming back to these cows (some of them may not even be cows - not female, I mean). The farmers stopped farming a long time ago. But these cows look too young to have been around for so long. So they are likely to be descendants of those first generation “emancipated” cows of Hong Kong! Judging from their demeanor, they don’t look too wild to me. I would love to be able to talk to them – to ask them whether they enjoy the life in the wild. It seems they do.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Miracle of Israel

The Jewish established their first kingdom in the land of Israel about 1000 years before the time of Jesus Christ. Then Jewish kingdoms and states ruled intermittently in the land for about 1000 years. The land had been conquered by Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans during that time.

A revolt by the Jews against the Romans led to Jerusalem and the temple being destroyed around 70 years AD. Around the year 130, another revolt led to another round of slaughter, mass expulsion, and the beginning of the Jewish diaspora. Some Jews remained in the land but the vast majority were scattered all over the world.

From around 636 onwards, the land was mostly in the hands of Muslims until the 20th century – except for a brief period during the crusades in the 12th and 13th centuries, when European Christians established a foothold.

When Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, some of them settled in Palestine. In the late 19th century, increased persecution in Eastern Europe and the rise of Zionism brought more Jews back to Palestine. In the 1930s, the Holocaust made the Jews more desperate and more determined to re-establish a homeland in Palestine. But opposition from Arabs also intensified in reaction.

In 1947, the British withdrew from Palestine, giving up on finding a solution to resolve the conflict between the Jews and the Arabs. The United Nations decided to give about half of the land there to the Jews and the other half to the Arabs. The State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948. The rest, as they say, is history.

It is a bona fide miracle that the Jews, having been displaced from their homeland and scattered all over the world for 2000 years, did not disappeared as a nation, and even re-established a homeland in Israel in the face of unbelievable hatred and determination to destroy it. Without God’s will, I don’t know how that can happen.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Where was the sun?

This was a picture of Causeway Bay early one morning, looking South from Kowloon. The sun was, of course, in the West (sorry, East - Thank you, Angeline), off to the left of the picture. Sun light was reflected once, off the glass wall of the Lee Gardens Building, then a second time, brilliantly over the Victoria Harbour. Neat, wasn’t it.

Lizard Oil (青龍油)

I was leaving Ap Liu Street (鴨寮街) in ShumShuiPo, having bought some special batteries for hearing aids, when a glimpse of a big lizard caught my attention. It turned out a woman was selling a kind of cure-all lizard oil. She had a lizard on her hand, while another was lying belly-up on the ground. Her partner was rubbing the oil on an old lady’s arm to demonstrate its curative power. When the woman spotted me with my camera, however, she started shouting at me. I had to beat a hurried retreat, and had no chance to try it.

By the way, those batteries were not for me. They were bought for my parents, and were much cheaper in Ap Liu Street than anywhere else.

Ap Liu Street is one of the most fascinating places in Hong Kong. More about it later.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A380 in Hong Kong

It flew over the Victoria Harbour several times this morning. Since the airport moved from Kaitak (啟德) in Kowloon City (九龍城) to ChekLapKok (赤臘角), big airplanes don’t appear in the city anymore. So this is a treat.

Without comparison to other airplanes, it is not easy to see how big the airplane really is. Still, it is thrilling to see this big machine flying near and even disappearing behind some of the tall buildings.

The pictures may be a bit grainy, because they were taken from a great distance with my PhD (Push here, Dummy) camera :)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Convenience Store crowd

While lots of people tried to make a living at the bustling Wholesale Fruit Market (油麻地果欄) early in the morning, a totally different scene played out several blocks away in Temple Street (廟街).

There was a crowd of mostly young people sitting outside a 24-hour convenience store. They didn’t seem to be doing anything. Some were talking, some were drinking, some were napping and some simply seemed dazed. They didn’t look particularly threatening. But I decided to play it safe and took the picture from half-a-block away. It looked like they had not slept all night, but still had no intention to go home.

A great number of lives are being wasted away. Whoever’s fault it is, it is a great pity. An Irish Salesian brother (who is now a priest, Father Newberry 李文烈神父), who taught me English in Form 2, heads an organization (協青社) formed to help such youths. He calls his work 執仔. I have tremendous respect for him and what he does because it takes great courage, dedication, and love. And I am sure it comes from God.