Monday, November 30, 2009

Minsk - the aircraft carrier in Shenzhen

What is an old Russian aircraft carrier doing in Shenzhen?

This is the 273 meter ong, 42,000 ton Minsk, launched in 1975, and decommissioned in 1993. As an aircraft carrier, it was not particularly big. It carried 12 fighters and 20 helicopters.

It is now anchored off Yantian, and is part of a military theme park called Minsk World. This photo was taken from Shautoujiao on the Hong Kong side.

It helps to remind us how fast the world can change. The USSR, for much of the 20th century, was one of the two superpowers of the world. It was also the most frightening and repressive country. It is still not without its problems. But it is now much less scary.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cow etiquette

On our 印州塘 hike last week, we passed by a cow looking at us intently. Initially we thought it might have been showing us a bit of hostility.

As soon as we finished taking its picture and walked on, however, it stepped onto the path and walked nonchalantly the opposite way. It turned out it was just waiting for us to pass.

Later on, we encountered another one head on, on a similarly narrow footpath. It refused to budge, and neither did we. Actually we did think of moving off the footpath to let it pass. But it was muddy swamps on both side. We even considered retreating to the last junction to let it pass first.

A stalemate developed that seemed to last forever - in reality it was probably less than a minute. The cow decided that we were not going to move first, and stepped gracefully into the mud - to let us pass. I have to admit the cow bested us in gallantry.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Abandoned School - 小瀛學校

This school is in 荔枝窩村. It is now used as a kitchen. To serve the tourists on weekends.

慶春約 is an alliance of seven villages, of which 荔枝窩村 is one.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Abandoned School - 啟才學校

This school is in 谷埔村. At least part of it was built apparently only in the 1960s. But it is now abandoned.

谷埔村 is in 沙頭角, north of 鹿頸. It is on the south shore of 沙頭角海, which is a restricted area. Shenzhen is on the north shore of the bay.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Abandoned Villages

Our 印州塘 hike took us through many old and abandoned villages. Some of the houses were built only in the 1960s. But many of them are now unoccupied.

Some are completely taken over by vegetation. Others are locked up but kept relatively tidy. Perhaps the owners are awaiting buyout by developers?

Hong Kong is small. Yet tranquility is still available. And not too inaccessible. One just have to walk a little. Before the developers get there.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Conscious Coma

Read in the newspapers today about Rom Houben. A man who was thought to be in a coma for 23 years, since 1983. Yet he has actually been conscious all the time. He was in a near-fatal car crash. When he came around, he could hear his doctors spoke, but he could not communicate with them. He could not open his eyes, could not talk, could not move, and did not repond to stimulation. He screamed, but no sound came out. After a while, his doctors gave up trying.

Yet when doctors did a PET scan on him several years ago, his brain was found to be functioning almost normally. Now he can communicate via a computer with a special keyboard activated with hid right hand, which is capable of minimal movement.

His case is similar to that of Jean-Dominique Bauby. Whose experience has been written into a book and subsequent movie, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly.

What exactly is consciousness? How do the brain’s functions relate to consciousness? How do we determine whether a person is conscious? It seems there is a continuum from completely brain-dead at one extreme to full consciousness at the other. At what point is a person conscious? When is a person not a person anymore?

Can consciousness be independent of the brain? When the brain is dead, can consciousness survive?

Monday, November 23, 2009

印州塘 紅樹林 (Mangroves)

Went hiking with some old schoolmates yesterday. The route was: 烏蛟騰 -> 上下苗田 -> 三村 -> 印州塘 -> 荔枝窩 -> 分水凹 -> 谷埔 -> 鹿頸。 On the way, we passed by old villages, deserted villages, abandoned schools, abandoned fields, abandoned cows, 100 year old trees, saw a lot of butterflies, crabs, clams, fish, egrets, ... and lots and lots of mangroves. Here are some of the mangroves.

The most common type is 水筆仔. It drops a pencil-like fruit with a sharp end onto the soft mud. The fruit plunges into the mud, and just starts to grow. Amazing.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Suing a Tycoon

Three small investors sue the former chairman of a big company. They claim to have lost money in their investments in the company because of misleading statements by the then chairman. They are now suing in the Small Claims Tribunal, where the money involved is limited to $50,000 or less. Parties in Small Claims Tribunal actions are not allowed to hire lawyers because it would disadvantage less well-off complainants.

The tycoon refused to appear in the tribunal. He is asking the tribunal to transfer the case to the High Court where he can employ a legal team to argue his case. This is reported in the newspapers today. The claimnants, naturally, oppose the request, saying they do not have the money to hire lawyers. Moving the case to the High Court puts the claimnants at a severe disadvantage. And may in fact force them to abandon the case.

This is disturbing. It is unfair that the rich can bully less-well-off people with their money. It should not happen in a place like Hong Kong. The lawyers who work for such people should also be ashamed of themselves.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Emperor of Kowloon (「九龍皇帝」曾灶財)

曾灶財 claimed to be the emperor of Kowloon, and put his unique brand of “calligraphy” - or graffiti, as some people insist - all over Kowloon. When he was younger, he was energetic enough to be many steps ahead of the government, who seemed intended to wipe them off, or cover them with paint.

By the time he died in 2007, after many years of illness and limited mobility, most of his calligraphy had been removed by our government. This one on a wall outside Kai Yip Estate (啟業) in Kowloon Bay, facing Kwun Tong Road (觀塘道), was one of those that survived up until then.

Upon popular request, the government promised to preserve them, if not because of their artistic value, at least on account of them being a more colourful part of our collective memory.

Sadly, I have to report that the calligraphy was no longer there, as of month. It was covered by a layer of dull grey paint. The government will probably not admit to doing it. They will likely say: we didn’t order it to be removed or covered, and we don’t know who did. Such is our government, typically not responsible for anything that we care about.

It is rather ironic that the paint the government uses to cover up Tsang’s calligraphy is so poor that it sometimes wears away, exposing the calligraphy again. So there is still hope.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Cat's Stare

The cat's stare is a bit unnerving. What was on its mind? Does it have a mind?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Little Chicken Eggs (雞蛋仔)

This place in Hung Hom selling (雞蛋仔) is very popular. Most of the time I pass by, there is a small crowd outside. Their 雞蛋仔 is crispy on the outside and soft inside.

The trick is simple. They use a fan to cool the 雞蛋仔 after they take it out of the pan, before giving it to you. Just like so many things in life, it is the attention to the details that distinguishes it from run-of-the-mill products.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stone fish (石頭魚) - steamed

The stone fish is said to be the most venomous fish in the world. Its spines can easily puncture your feet through your shoes. It can cause excruciating pain, a great deal of swelling, muscle weakness, paralysis, shock, and in the extreme cases, death.

It also tastes good. The skin has to be removed, and thoroughly cleaned. Then it does not look so threatening, or ugly. You can still see its humongous mouth (centre), and huge pectoral fins (both sides). It can be steamed normally. The bones are big and hard, making it easy and safe to eat. The flesh is firm, milky white, and really good.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Seven sins - higher resolution

Here is a higher resolution version of the poster. For those who wants to read the comments on the poster.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Seven sins of university students

A poster appeared on the democracy wall in a university, accusing students of 7 sins: (1) skipping classes; (2) sub-standard homework; (3) pre-marital sex; (4) cheating; (5) selling their bodies for sex; (6) overly materialistic; and (7) abusing the democracy wall.

It is interesting to note that (1), (2) and (4) are mainly academic issues. On which the majority agrees. Those are real problems that some academics are trying hard to tackle.

On the sex-related items, (3) and (5), the votes are fairly even, reflecting an increasingly amoral attitude in the society.

Some people feel those issues are outside the scope of university education. I disagree. Morality is a critical element of a human being. And a university should provide a complete, all-rounded education for our young people. It should not limit itself to vocational, and easily measurable matters.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rulers of Hong Kong

A tycoon buys an insurance company in Taiwan. He hires a former mininster of finance to manage the company.

A tycoon in real estate wants to expand his business in China. He hires a former secretary of the housing department to help him manage the business in China.

A big organization wants to expand its education business. It hires a former secretary of the education department to be the executive for the business.

A tycoon hires a former police commissioner to help to manage one of his banks.

Another tycoon hires another departmental secretary to help manage his ferry business.


So who are the real rulers of Hong Kong?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

豬耳繩 (朱義盛)

豬耳繩 is Cantonese slang for cheap or faked jewelry. Apparently the term originated from a shop in Foshan (佛山) near Guangzhou (廣州)named 朱義盛, which specialized in jewelry made of plated gold. The name understandably became an euphemism for faked, or simply cheap jewelry. I have no idea how it degenerated into 豬耳繩.

This particular shop is in Yaumatei (油麻地). It is delicious irony that it calls itself “Honest Company”. Perhaps they are honestly selling “real” faked jewelry? Instead of “faked” faked jewelry, whatever that means?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The market at dawn

At 6:30 AM, the Yaumatei wholesale fruit market had already finished most of its business for the day. Boxes of pears, melons, oranges, apples, persimmons, bananas, sugar canes, ..., had been bought and loaded onto trucks, destined for retail stores all over Hong Kong. Later, I saw some of those boxes being delivered at the Mongkok wet market on Nelson Street.

A long haired cat was guarding a small mountain of fruits in boxes. Its legs were covered with fur. I bet it’s nickname is boots, or mittens. It did not mind me taking its picture.

Vegetable stores were being set up.

Big slabs of meat were waiting to be cut up.

Fish were being chopped up. Blood was smeared onto bodies to make them look fresh. They were indeed fresh - I could see them wriggling, with hearts beating, even with their heads chopped off. I don’t know exactly what it is about fish that fascinates me so much.

Fresh tofu was being delivered to a sidewalk snack shop. Hours later, they will become delicious deep-fried tofu. At that moment, they did not look very appetizing, nor hygenic, sitting on the sidewalk and open to the elements.

Many men, mostly middle-aged and above, were dozing off on benches. Isn’t it more comfortable at home?

Another mystery to me: Why is it that most of the people dozing off on park benches are men? While those picking off recyclables from garbage are women?

A side walk dim sum place was doing a brisk business. I was tempted to eat there. But the place appeared to be quite full.

Working girls were still working on the street. Were they just starting? Or wrapping up? I guess they don’t really have fixed work hours.