Thursday, May 29, 2014

Baby Carrier

An interesting way to carry a baby.  Not sure how comfortable it is.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Girls in Science

A team of students in our service-learning subject is running a series of workshops on science and technology for a primary school.  Today they are learning about electricity.  Using the newly-acquired knowledge, they are building a motor boat driven by electrical power generated by a solar panel.  Our students prepared well, and are surprisingly good teachers, given that they have received little training as teachers.  They are able to engage the children.  The children participate actively, and seem to enjoy the workshop. 

The girls are engaged and seem to enjoy as much as the boys.  There does not appear to be obvious differences between them, in terms of level of interest and ability.  Why is it that, when they get to senior secondary school and particularly university, the majority of girls drop out from science, and even more extremely, engineering?  What is it that we, as teachers and parents, do wrongly?  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Great Salmon

My wife bought a 6.2kg fresh salmon.  We fed our party with salmon sashimi.  We stewed the head with tofu, bitter gourd and bean paste for the two of us for dinner.  We deep fried the skin for snack.  We were going to pan fry the bones.  But we were just too full, so we gave the bones and the tail away.  The salmon was great.  We basically consumed everything except the scales, the gills and the guts. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mui Wo to Discovery Bay (2)

On the beach of Silver Mine Bay (銀鑛灣), nine dragon boats were laid out on the beach.  The are awaiting the fitting of heads, in anticipation of the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival.   

The hills above Mui Wo were covered with bushes of rose myrtle (山稔,崗稔, 桃金娘).  They are now flowering.  In a few months’ time, they will bear berries about 1 centimetre long.  When they ripen into a dark purple, they are quite sweet and tasty.  

Outside the monastery near Discovery Bay (愉景灣), we encountered this scary long-haired caterpillar.  Not sure what kind of scary moth or butterfly it will turn into.  

When we returned to Mui Wo (梅窩) by ferry for dinner, someone was feeding this colony of cats on the sidewalk.  Apparently they were eating seafood.  I could not figure out what kind of seafood it was, but they seemed to be enjoying it.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mui Wo (梅窩) to Discovery Bay (愉景灣)

This is a popular hiking trail that is relatively far removed from the city.  This is also one of the places in Hong Kong where you are likely to encounter more Caucasians than Chinese.  And certainly more locals than mainlanders. We started from Mui Wo.  Soon we were high enough to see the whole Mui Wo and Silver Mine Bay (銀鑛灣). 

We could also see the entrance to the bay, where a fast boat encountered a slow boat.  Which is which?

In the distance we could see Cheung Chau (長洲), famous for the parade of the kids and the bun mountains. 

There was Hei Ling Chau (喜靈洲), where there was an asylum for lepers. It was closed down a long time ago, when leprosy was eradicated.  There is now a typhoon shelter, which does not seem to be heavily used.  How many fishing boats are left in Hong Kong anyway?  

Then there was Peng Chau (坪洲), just off the shore from Discovery Bay.  It was so close that we were sure we could swim over.  In the distance we could even see Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.  

It was an easy hike, but quite enjoyable.  We saw just a few people, perhaps because of the heavy weather and the impending thunderstorm.  The good thing was we could enjoy the trail in peace.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Food and philosophy

My wife and I had dinner with our good friend S and his wife a few days ago.  Both S and I like traditional Chinese food such as small pot rice with Chinese sausages (臘腸煲仔飯). Because we don’t see each other often, the wives allowed us our indulgences  in not-so-healthy dishes. By the way, the one on the left is a 老鼠班, and the one on the right is a juvenile  蘇眉.  We did not eat them. 

What we enjoyed the most, however, was the conversation.  S reads voraciously - religion, philosophy, history, …  We have some common interests, but we don’t always agree.  This time we debated whether many Chinese people are behaving dishonestly and dishonourably nowadays, and whether the Communist has successfully weakened and perhaps even wiped out traditional culture.  We draw on our readings and personal experiences, in academics, and business.  

What is extraordinary is that S is a very busy and successful businessman.  He travels all over the world, making deals and fending off challenges.  His reading and studying is strictly for personal interest, not for material gain.  In contrast, academics get paid for their reading and study, at least in their own specialty area. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Ngau Chi Wan Village (牛池灣鄉)

There is a small but interesting wet market at 200 years-old Ngau Chi Wan Village. 

It has many traditional items, such as this mountain of a wide variety of buns. 

It has these mud carps (鲮魚, 土鲮) cut into two in a very strange way. 

It has these grass carp (鯇魚, 草魚) bellies, complete with the air-filled bladder (鰾).  

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Tai Hum Village (大磡村)

On my way to Ngau Chi Wan, I ran past (what remains of) Tai Hum Village.  It was once a vibrant community of pretty stone houses and squatter houses. More than 10 years ago, it was totally obliterated to make way for “development”. Nothing was done for more than 10 years, until very recently.  The only house from the village that still stands is the stone house where the famous actor Roy Chiao (喬宏) used to live. It is still visible in the photograph, behind the construction for the Shatin-Central-Link (沙田至中環綫). 

Several proposals have been made but none was adopted. Other than the Diamond Hill station for the Shatin-Central-Link (沙中綫), there will likely be a lot of public housing, given the long-standing perceived housing shortage these days. 

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Real estate Antifragility

A trading company had been occupying the three lowest floors of a private building block in our neighbourhood for as long as we have been living there, that is more than 10 years.  Recently we were surprised that the trading company had moved out. It turned out that the owner of the building, Mr. L, one of the wealthiest man in the world, had decided to turn the space into a hotel, apparently in view of the increased and increasing number of tourists from Mainland China. 

The residents in the neighbourhood were opposed, fearing the increased traffic - both human and vehicular, trash, waste water, etc.  The owning company commissioned an environmental impact study which claimed that the environmental impact would be minimal. That was surprising.  A hotel with hundreds of guests making minimal impact on the environment?  It turned out that the study studied the impact of the supposed less than 20 staff members employed by the hotel, but not the hundreds of guests who sleep and eat at the hotel. That’s disingenuous to the extreme. Further, the supposedly independent company that did the study was partly owned by the tycoon.  That sounds dishonest.  So the tycoon makes the money while his neighbours pay the price of the degeneration of the environment.  Mr. L, of course, does not live in the neighbourhood.  So what does he care?

It also reminded me of something that I read in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book “Antifragile” and elsewhere.  He wrote “The worst problem of modernity lies in the malignant transfer of fragility and antifragility from one party to the other, with one getting the benefits, the other one (unwittingly) getting the harm.”  In the case, the tycoon and his company get the benefit while the neighbours get the harm.  It is not exactly “unwittingly”, but the end result is the same.  It is actually worst, because it is imposed blatantly.  

Do some people feel no shame?  Money at all costs? Evidently not.  How do such people sleep? Taleb actually talk about that as well.  But I will leave that for another post. 

Monday, May 05, 2014

May 4

Yesterday was the 94th anniversary of the May 4th Movement (五四運動) in 1919.  It is now almost 100 years after the May 4 Movement.  Yet it is still relevant.  It started as a demonstration against the spineless behaviour of the then nascent republican Chinese government in response to the foreign powers’ exploitation of China in the aftermath of the First World War. It was also a demand for cultural renewal and political reformation.  China has, to a large extent, strengthened its position in relation to other countries.  But culturally China is still in a mess, morally it is corrupt, and politically it is still dictatorial and repressive. Hence the continued relevancy of the spirit of May 4. 

Not many symbols of the movement remain in Hong Kong.  One of which is the grave of Cai Yuanpei (蔡元培) in Aberdeen.  He died in Hong Kong in 1940.  It has been 74 years, and still, many people remembered him.  I visit his grave once or twice a year, and often find company or flowers. He was a great man, a great president of Beijing University.  When the protesting students were arrested by the militarist government, he negotiated for the students’ release, and later resigned from his position in protest.  Few university presidents have demonstrated such courage since. 

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sons of Abraham

A year ago my wife and I started a Book Club in our church.  We meet once a month to discuss books related to faith.  Recently we are discussing this book by a Jewish rabbi and an Islamic iman.  

Jews believe themselves to be descendants of Abraham through his son Isaac.  Some Arabs believe themselves to be descendants of Abraham through his other son Ismail.  Muslims generally believe themselves to be spiritual descendants of Abraham.  That makes Jews and Muslims brothers of some sort. Why, then are they in such conflict these days. This wall that we saw in the Wes Bank, built by the Israelis to separate themselves from the Palestinians, is one of the many symbols of the conflict.  The graffiti is a symbol of the Palestinians’ anger. 

In this book, Rabbi Marc Schneier and Iman Shamsi Ali put forward their understanding of their own faith and scripture - and that of the other side - to try to find common ground. Schneier argue that in addition to “love thy neighbour”, we should also “love the stranger.  Ali argue that “jihad” means to struggle for good, to avoid evil, based on faith in Allah - more than armed struggle and domination.  They have worked to bring Jews and Muslims together in dialogue, in the face of severe criticism. 

Let us hope, and pray, that there are more people like them who are willing to stand up and reach out to the other side.  The alternative is just too ugly and scary to ponder. 

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Run Around Kowloon

What is the circumference of Kowloon?  This morning I discovered that it is roughly 21 kilometres, and it took me about two and a half hours to run around it. 

Along the way, it allowed me to take another look at the humongous hole in the ground which is the High Speed Rail Terminus, which has acquired another note of infamy.  Four years ago, the controversy centred around why it had to be so expensive, and why it had to be in that central location.  Now it is going to be even more expensive, and it will take even longer to build.  

Part of the reason, apparently, is that the MTR failed to drill enough holes at the site to study the geology, hence they did not anticipate that there are a lot of hard rocks there.  Or that they knew that it contained a lot of hard rocks, but did not account for it properly.  I do not know which is worse. 

In any case, it was fascinating looking at the site, seeing how vast and deep the hole really is.  Hong Kong has become an expert in building huge structures in the midst of dense urban areas.  But this scandal is giving us a black eye,