Sunday, April 28, 2013

Giant cockroach

Why did someone put a giant cockroach in front of a hotel in West Kowloon?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Jade 翡翠台 vs Pearl 明珠台

In the gymnasium, I often have the misfortune of being bombarded by multiple TV channels at the same time.  Many machines nowadays have TVs set up in front of them, and many people turn up the volume either out of habit, or because the place is no noisy.  I often have to rely on the captions to follow the broadcast. 

That experience, however, led me to discover one thing: Chinese speaking channels such as Jade are typically much shriller than English speaking channels such as Pearl, at least during the “golden hours” between 8 to 10 PM.  Jade is typically playing some Chinese soap opera.  The “actors” and “actresses” speak theatrically, actually howl rather than speak, scream, and engage in shouting matches all the time.  Pearl is often playing some program about travel and nature.  Even when it is playing serials, people speak with normal voices.

There is a dramatic difference when Pearl switches to commercials - the loudness of the sound suddenly turn up by an order of magnitude, and return to normal when the program resumes. On the other hand, there is no noticeable difference when Jade switches to commercials - it is equally loud.

It is an amazing cultural difference.  Or is it simply the crassness of Hong Kong Chinese TV broadcasting?

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Tremendous advancements have been made in neural science research, helping us understand how our brain works.   In Incognito, David Eagleman points out that we are conscious of only a small part of what goes on in our brain.  We are not normally aware of how we move our feet while walking or riding the bicycle, or how we move our fingers while typing or playing the piano.  Men are attracted to women with dilated pupils, paler (blond) women, and women at the peak of fertility in their menstrual cycles - without knowing why.

The brain is a massively parallel machine, with many parts performing the same function using different methods.  It is like a democracy with many factions competing to determine the final, single outcome.  There is no single “me”. 

We are also highly influenced by our biology: genes and the delicate balance in the functioning of our brain.  A man is much more likely than a woman to be in prison and a murderer.  A gentle and well-liked man can suddenly become violent or a sexual maniac who cannot control himself - because of damage to the frontal lobe of his brain.  We can, obviously, be easily influenced by alcohol, cocaine, other drugs, and the environment around us.  For example, only a small number of men are actually in prison or are murderers, and the probability of doing so is heavily influenced by the way that they grow up.

These are all very fascinating and convincing.  We may not be fully in control of ourselves - that I have to agree with. But then he suddenly claims that “all activity in the brain is driven by other activity in the brain,” ...  “we can’t find the physical gap in which to slip free will.”

There is obviously a big jump from the solidly-backed-up “we may not be in complete control” to the yet-to-be-proven “we have no control at all.” The book makes a lot of convincing observations backed by solid research; then it suddenly slips in a conclusion with tremendous implications with a flimsy pretext.  This is the result of either carelessness, or sneaky sleight-of-hand.

This is one of those many books that open with a bang but close with a whimper.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wonderful Miniatures (2) - shops

Here are more miniatures: a shoemaker’s shop (鞋鋪), lanterns at an incense shop (香莊), a jeweler/goldsmith’s shop (金鋪),  and an “ice” (冰室) shop .

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

National (Political) Education (Brainwashing)

Lam Woon-Kwong is one of the few in the political establishment who has a reputation of being relatively fair and honest. 

At a symposium on education yesterday, which I happened to have attended, he reinforced that impression.  His message was that education in China has always had a political purpose. For more than 2,000 years, education in China have not encouraged freedom of thought. Chinese governments have always used it to promote a way of thinking to facilitate their rule.  Hence the failure of the Hong Kong government to push through its plan to make blatantly-biased National Education a separate, compulsory subject was considered a serious political setback for the Mainland government. 

This idea is not something completely new.  Nevertheless, it is a breath of fresh air to hear it admitted as such by someone in the establishment.  I hope he continues to speak openly and fairly.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Wonderful Miniatures

There is an excellent exhibition of miniatures going on right now at Tsing Yi.  In my opinion it should not be missed.

On the one hand, the models are really great works of art.  They are very detailed, well proportioned, and life-like.  On the other hand, many familiar scenes that are dying, or have already died out, have been recreated.

There is this 7-storey resettlement block, just like those there were in Shek Kip Mei or Kwun Tong, where people cook, wash, play, eat, buy, sell, ..., and just plainly live.  I had many friends and relatives who lived into those blocks, even though I did not live there myself.

There are kerosene stoves, crock pots, rick cookers, photo frames, bunk beds, calendars, old telephones that you have to physically dial, ...   Items that we were all so used to. 

There are these sheds built of corrugated metal sheets that used to be by the ocean at Mount Davis.  I used to live in Kennedy Town right next to Mount Davis.  In primary school I had many classmates who lived at Mount Davis.  So those houses bring back fond memories.

There are these old buildings on the waterfront at Cheung Wan, with old trams, cargo ships unloading, collies carrying the cargo, trucks loading, fire-engines fire-fighting, ...

Well, I am posting a few of my favourites.  But it is best that you find out for yourselves. Enjoy.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Ching Ming (清明節) - the good and bad of it

This is Ching Ming Festival.  So we went grave sweeping at my grandparents’ graves at Aberdeen Cemetery. As usual, I took a detour to pay my respects at Cai Yuanpei’s (蔡元培) grave.  As usual, someone had been there before me, and placed flowers there.  He died in Hong Kong in 1940.  It has been 73 years, and still, many people remembered him.  He was a great man, a great president of a great university.

I would not be so kind to the people who decided to block off the main access road leading to the west side of the cemetery, forcing people to climb up and  down many flights of stairs to get to the graves and columbarium.  In fact, forcing many older people, including my 80 year old mother, to give up.  Many people who were old or otherwise having difficulties walking struggled unnecessarily.  Many more people endured long and annoying jams because the narrow and winding stairs were not meant to handle so much traffic.

I checked.  The normal access road was clear, despite some construction.  In fact, there was no work going on today.  The only thing blocking the access road was a gate installed to “protect” the construction.  There was no real reason why the access road could not have been opened to allow the people normal, albeit slightly narrowed, access.

What an idiotic decision of a government who do not care enough to spend just a tiny bit of their time to consider the needs of its own citizens, to unblock the access road for just one day, on the one day when most of the people want to pay their respects to the dead. 

What a bunch of idiots.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Happy Easter!

Some problems of the world are due to nature. Earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, and floods are out of our control.  To a large extent, so are diseases.  Ultimately and definitely, so is death.

Beyond that, we humans inflict much more suffering on ourselves and one another.  Cambodia is blessed with fertile land, abundant water, and baking sun.  It is said that one just have to throw seeds of rice into the ground at the rainy season, go to sleep for 3 months, and then come back to harvest.  The land, the rain, and the sun will do the rest.  If you take way the wars, the genocide, the corruption and the exploitation, Cambodia can be paradise on earth.

Jesus Christ died for us so that we can escape from the sin behind the suffering. It is, however, depressing - redeeming human race’s suffering with God’s suffering - and incomplete, if the story ends at that.  The ultimate suffering, death, has not been defeated.

Fortunately for us, Christ is resurrected, overcoming death Himself and freeing us from the despair of death.  A Cambodia without war, genocide, corruption and exploitation is probably not yet heaven.  But it gives us a glimpse of it.