Sunday, September 29, 2002

Why is it that when there is more choice, it always takes longer to make a decision?

Case in point: shopping for a pair of trainers in Mongkok1. On one street, there is more than twenty stores selling every concievable trainer money can buy. I swear I went to at least ten. After thirty minutes, I knew I was starting to suffer from some sort of visual overload. All the shoes began to look the same and it was completely impossible to differentiate one design from another. Predictably, I left frustrated, more confused and without intended purchase.

1Mongkok. One of the most densely populated places in HK, if not the world. It is Hong Kong's version of "the Valley", where indigenous trends and incromprehensible local slang are spawned and incubated. The area is famous for the Mongkok mui (girl); not to be mistaken for the historic Wanchai one of Suzie Wong fame.

In addition, it's a district in Kowloon that is reknowned for its retailing, including its "old-fashioned" markets. There is one street that almost entirely sells electronic goods and another for sporting apparel.
All by myself
My grandfather left for Canada this afternoon. For him, it is the end of a v. long journey - more than a year of travelling, around Southern China and Sydney - that began soon after my grandmother died. It seems so strange - he's returning to Edmonton, to the place he now calls home and I'm staying in the place, which he once called home1.

It feels so odd. It has only been a few hours, but already the flat feels so empty and quiet. The place seems so much bigger, with just me inside. It's the first time I am living by myself, without family members or housemates around. Could that be what is spooking me?

Maybe. But I sometimes get an eerie feeling, which has something to do with the black and white ancestral photos, next to the large Taoist altar in the living room. Quite ridiculously, I'm always reminded of the old Chinese ghost stories I used to watch when I was younger. Ghosts and demons and Chinese vampires2...oh my!

I should stop writing - I think I'm scary myself! Well, at least I won't be alone, at least not in the technical sense - I found out the other night that there is a gecko in the flat. (Well, I hope it is a gecko. It's way too big to be a regular garden lizard...) I'm naming this new flatmate Ahh jai.

1My family is quite typical of the great Chinese diaspora that occured in Hong Kong during the 80's and early 90's. Most of my father's family emigrated - to Australia, Canada or the US.

2In Chinese folklore, vampires look like blue corpses in priestly garb. They hop, instead of walk, with their arms stretched in front of them. Humans turn, once bitten or scratched by their long finger nails. They are blind and seek humans out by a person's breathing. They are stopped by attaching holy notes to their foreheads and are afraid of raw glutinous rice.
My fellow Greek mythology dorks everywhere, have you heard?

Brad Pitt is going to play the near-invincible warrior Archilles, while Eric Bana will be playing Hector, in director Wolfgang Petersen's (A Perferct Storm) Troy. With a budget of US$140 million and a final runtime expected to clock in at two hours 45 minutes, it's going to be epic!

Who cares if Helen is supposed to be the most beautiful woman in the world... the cast is being filled with the most beautiful men!

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

eBay 2
Pheww... I just got outbid by a veteran eBay buyer (with over 280 purchases).

I placed a maximum bid of US$60.99 for a mint, unopened edition of Visionaire 34 - Paris Dior Homme (retail price US$175). Although, I was only the fourth bidder, with the previous bid made two days ago, it took only a couple of hours before my bid was overtaken.

The current bid price is still under $100, but I think I have had my fun. I think I'll stop now...
Food for thought 3
Christ! Mum emailed me with the results of a blood test I took, while in Sydney. Apparently I have high cholestrol - 6.0, when I'm suppose to have less than 5.2.

It's not as though I eat a whole lot of fatty foods. Then again, it could be hereditary, as my mum and her brother are currently taking medication for their cholestrol levels.

In the sagely words of Gwyneth Paltrow (By the way, did you hear that that bitch is now dating Prince Felipe of Spain? Please, couldn't she just enrol in a convent, become a nun and take a vow of chastity or something, instead of "tainting" all the heart-throbs of the world? Brad, then Ben and now Prince Charming!), I am a skinny fat person.
I was never particularly interested in the whole concept of online auctions. I really couldn't see the mass appeal of eBay at all... until today.

I was simply procrastinating on the computer, as per usual, when I started fiddling around with Sherlock, Mac's clever little search engine. I went into its eBay channel and curiously typed in a couple of items to see if anything came up. Something did. Before the little voice in my head could shout, "Bitch, don't do it", I found myself registered and bidding.

I currently have the highest bids for two items. Come on, punish me with your comments!

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Food for thought 2
Argghh! I've lost three kilos since I've been here. I'm only 68kgs!

I know it cannot simply be the sauna-like weather conditions or the extra amount of walking. I have been eating less.

Firstly, the air pollution definitely factors in here. Simply breathing in the air outside is like constantly smoking cigarettes. As a result, I simply have no appetite. Apart from that, decent food here is so expensive.

In Australia, people are absolutely spoilt for choice and quality, when it comes to great, affordable food. Hong Kong may be seen as a gourmet mecca, but when you're on a limited budget, that's not what it seems. You can definitely eat cheaply here, but then you would often have to either forgo quality or hygiene (or both).

Also, I can't seem to find decent Thai or Vietnamese, of comparable quality to that found in Sydney. I'm even dreaming about gigantic bowls of steaming hot beef pho noodles, with mounds of raw bean sprouts and lashings of mint, chilli paste and lemon. Mmmm...

Other crappy news: something is wrong with one of my camera's memory cards. iPhoto won't recognise it's contents. What should I do? There's some great photos on there that I don't want to lose.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

The dodgy photocopying store behind the uni bus stop is back in business. I went there with a long list of ordinances (statutes) for them to copy. Don't worry, such practice is perfectly legit. It's just that I didn't think it was wise for me to print out the thousands of pages myself. It's far more economical (at 10c per page) to get them to do it and takes up considerably a lot less time.

Taking the ordinances back home was quite an arduous task, especially when I forwent the usual 103 that travels directly home. Instead, I took the minibus to the Central ferry pier, then the Stay Ferry, before the 7 bus. In the afternoons, I can usually take 15 minutes off the 103 journey this way. However, this evening, it took bloody 2 hours and left me completely knackered. I'll remember never to take such a route during peak hour again.

I would have loved to finish up for the week at 3:00, but I had to stay back after the Small Group (SG) for the Course Review Panel (which I was unluckily selected to represent my SG at) after 5:00. The meeting was actually quite interesting and was an excellent opportunity for everyone to complain about the course. It was the department's prerogative to hear about the students' concerns about the course. Naturally, as a born complainer and annoying critic, I gave my two cents.

The department staff promised food for the next meeting, which is always good incentive to return and participate. A suggestion made by one for alcoholic beverages was hastily knocked back. That could actually be a good idea, as I always thought inebriation brought about full and frank discussions.

PS: My DSquared fashion purchases consisted of a long-sleeve white T-shirt, with "BlameCanada" emblazoned on the front and "4DeanandDan" on the back (the designers are Canucks), and a pair of tobacco-coloured cotton hip-huggers. For snapshots of DSquared's A/W '02 collection, check out First View. They have this whole New-England-schoolboy-meets-Southern-hillbilly-meets-cowboy-trucker collection this season, including sleeveless tops over long Ts, beanies over caps and "picnic blankets" over jackets. All v. sexy.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Sunny days are here again (without the ugly humidity)
There is simply no logic to the PCLL timetable. Trying to figure the thing out would inevitably leave one with a big headache. Somehow, the "geniuses" who created the schedule have done so, so that every week is different with varying numbers of hours, lectures and tutorials. (I think they were trying to be creative.) For this week, I only had to attend one lecture each morning (grrr) for a couple of hours.

So what have I been doing with my idle hours after uni? Surely going to the library and studying is completely out of character? Quite true. Well, mostly I've been wandering around, walking the streets (in the non-prostitute sense).

I had been meaning to go to the new Museum of History for a while. I got the opportunity to do so, yesterday. (Free admissions on Wednesdays, folks.) It is really encouraging to see the development of such an institution in HK, where the general impression folks get is that local Government and business would rather forget parts of the past (with its incessant drive to build bigger, brasher, taller towers and let's-reclaim-as-much-of-the-harbour mantra.) A clear example of this is the destruction of most of the historic buildings in Central. (I almost wept when I saw the pictures of the original Alexandra House. Absolutely exquisite and a complete contrast to the bland structure that stands on the site today.)

"The Hong Kong Story" is the permanent exhibition in the museum. Though there are galleries that display HK's prehistoric past and natural environment, the main emphasis of the exhibition is on the past 150 years.

Quite recently and in virtually every economic article, writiers and analysts have pessimistically stated the inevitable demise of Hong Kong as a strong economic entity. In many respects, they all have quite valid arguments (particularly if the Region sits idle and there are no reforms to the economy). But more importantly, I think many of these folks should take a refresher course in HK's history, particularly that the last 50 years. Apart from some "happy" and short-lived years in the mid-90's where the economy spiralled to deliriously stratospheric heights, the ex-colony has faced some of the most insurmountable problems, both economic and social, which make the recent concerns seem small by comparison. (Although HK's social progress is absolutely astounding and is the true "miracle" of the place, I'll concentrate on its economic development. I might even talk more about it if folks are interested...)

During each decade, HK has had to evolve its identity, not just for economic expansion, but economic survival. During the Korean War, with the embargo on Chinese goods, many (even the SCMP) heralded the demise of the colony, as its role as an entreport was suddenly cut. What did people do? They turned to manufacturing - everything from plastic flowers to toys to underwear.

The 60's came around, with a new set of problems. During the Cultural Revolution, Mainland sympathisers held riots on the street. Many considered the "end" was near then.

How about the 80's or even the 90's? Would you think people would remember the events after the Joint Declaration in 1984 or Tianamen in 1989? Wouldn't you think more than 50,000 people from the educated middle class emigrating annually would be a real sign in the lack of confidence in the future of the place?

I think I've moved a little bit away from the topic. Anyway, although there were some exclusions, including reference to the British governors of the last 40 years that did raise my eyebrows, in general, I wasn't disappointed with the place at all.

In other news, I found out where DSquared is sold. Needless to day, I did indulge. Shame on me.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Does anyone know the url for Hemlock, a self-proclaimed "obnoxious expatriate"? I have been trying to find his website on the internet with no avail. He used to publish a satirical paper called the Not The South China Morning Post.

Hemlock writes a "journal" on daily life in Hong Kong, which one will find is deliciously evil, sometimes mean-spirited, often scandalously defamatory, but always v. v. funny. He has also uploaded some of his favourite exotic recipes to share.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Raining cats and dogs
The weather has changed. After more than two weeks of insufferably hot and muggy weather, its become v. wet, yet slighty cooler. If one can call 26C cool weather.

A Tropical Typhoon Warning No. Eight (my first) was hoisted up by the Obversatory on Wednesday afternoon. As a consequence, classes at uni were cancelled. Typically at such times, office workers take off, school lessons are cancelled and businesses shut up. I hurriedly took off for home, when I heard that we could. I didn't know how serious I needed take such a warning, but sided on the more cautionary side. From the jammed phone lines, incredibly queues for taxis and buses and the congested streets, there seemd to be great urgency for people to return home. I arrived back home at 2:30.

At 4:00, I received a call from HongKongPhooey, a couple of hours after the official warning had been erected. He was casually returning home from the train station. He had spent the afternoon at Festival Walk, after his classes were cancelled. It seemed some people weren't at all worried about an imminent typhoon "attack".

Rains and strong winds did come, but there was no typhoon - it headed straight past the Region. The day after, some folks at uni nonchalantly stated that was a complete over-reaction by the Observatory, that the weather registered a mere Five or Six in their books.

Like earthquakes in California, I guess you're only a local, when you can say such a thing...
Brad Tomberlin
Omigosh, this is hysterical. Nevertheless, I need to do some damage control...

On Friday, CreatineMonster received an email from the Group Moderator for one of Bradly Tomberlin's Yahoo! fanclubs, concerning the statement I made in this blog (a while ago) that CM was Brad's husband. (Hyperlink in the right-hand column.) In that email, the moderator asked CM to prove that he is married to Brad. Of course, CM is not his husband. I was merely joking and was simple a reference to the "devotion" he has to the "Men's Health" cover model.

To my knowledge, Brad is heterosexual and has not, at anytime, met CM, let alone been CM's husband. Apologies to those who were misled by my comment.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Dead boring
I miss my bed. Even though I bought a new queen mattress last week, it doesn't feel as good as my bed in Sydney. It's really getting to me. I haven't had a good night's sleep since getting here. I think mere lethargy will soon turn to full-fledge psychosis.

In other news, Liz and Xavier have decided to share a flat together. They have decided to rent a three-bedroom place in Kowloon Tong for HK$15,000 (US$1,900) per month (excluding utilities), which beats their current place of accommodation. Like all the other Aussies at CityU, they were unable to obtain dorm rooms, so they had to suffice with renting a serviced "apartment" (more like hotel room with ensuite) for HK$7,800 (US$1,000) a month. Who would have thought, hey?

Subjects are being taught in complete blocks. During the next few weeks, the whole subject of Professional Practice shall be taught. Today, the expected two hour lecture was cut to just one.

Afterwards, I attended I highly unpublicised speech on campus by Justice Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court in the plush surroundings of the University Board's conference room. He popped into Honkers after a judicial tour of China sponsored by the Asia Foundation. Most of the conservative justice's comments remained quite tame and uncontroversial. (Unless there are requests on what he said, I'ld pass on boring folks to sleep this once.)

The highlight of my day was riding on the Campbell's Soup Bus to uni. Check out some of the photos here.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Omigosh, PageOne sells Visionaire. To call it just a "magazine", is to say FDR was just an "American President" or Madonna is just a pop singer. It is one of the most inspiring materials in the design/fashion world. Each quarterly edition is meticulously crafted, has a special theme and is limited to 4,000 copies.

They are selling five past "issues" (No. 35 is on "Men" and has photos of Casear by Jeff Burton), as well as their current one, at their Harbour City store. How much does the No. 38 issue produced in collaboration with Tiffany & Co. (the "Love" edition is held in a specially designed Tiffany book case) cost? A whopping HK$1,885.

Take a deep breathe. I'ld be crazy to buy it, right? Well, a guy can dream...
Professional Practice
I had to attend a "English Language Awareness" panel on Saturday morning. For an hour and a half, the lecturer, Nathanson, and two fabulous guest speakers, Margaret Ng and Anna Wu, talked about the importance of possessing fluent English in the legal profession in HK.

It may be surprising to hear that there needs to be such a talk here, considering it is fundamental to have a strong standard of the language to understand the laws effectively and the laws of the Region are based on English laws, etc, but the dire levels of English competency amongst recent local graduates being called up to the Bar or qualifying as solicitors have compelled the University to take action. (That's one of the reasons why there are so many Australian-educated folks at PCLL. UNSW alone has more than 20 out of 83 at CityU and 12 at HKU this year.)

In order to address the decline in standards, the Department of Professional Legal Education have implemented a new program of English Immersion, where PCLLers are strongly urged to speak, think, listen, read and dream in English on and off campus for the whole year.

Nathanson introduced the topic by trying to explain the apprehension of young Hong Kongers to speak English - a misplaced sense of patriotism (it would be betraying the motherland to speak the tongue of the formal colonisers), fashion (with the development and maturation of an indigenous popular culture, Western culture influences do not dictate youth to the same degree as before) and fear from being seen as inarticulate and stupid (hey, I have the same feeling speaking Cantonese!). The standard of English in the Region has declined at the University and in the community in the last few decades. Anyway, it was all quite interesting, but as Margaret Ng said, "it is not relevant to the topic at hand".

Marget Ng is one tough cookie. Educated at an Oxbridge college, called to the Bar and currently a member of Legco (HK's form of pseudo-parliament), she played the bad cop in the panel. Discarding all niceties, she plainly stated that without fluent English, one would not be marketable (and in capitalistic HK, virtually worthless)! In answering a question on Chinese patriotism, she said that it would not only be a disservice to oneself and one's career, but a disservice to the future of HK and the Motherland, as its only advantageous role is being a conduit between China and the rest of the World.

Playing the good cop was Anna. As befit for one who is the Equal Opportunities Commissioner, she kiindly urged people to commit to the program.

Although it was all v. interesting, it is near impossible to enforce the scheme. From the conversations in the lecture theatre this morning, you could see that the talk didn't persuade many!

I'ld pass about writing on this morning's lecture. I don't think anyone learnt anything. It was another one-and-a-half-hour uni day.

Afterwards, I spent ages in line to obtain my student card. I couldn't imagine how it could take that long to take a photo and print out some stuff - it wasn't glamour photography. Anyways, waiting behind a group of exchange students, I realised that the theory CreatineMonster and I developed in Sydeny - that foreign students always look better than local students - could be transposed to the student population at HKU (it is so true in USyd and UNSW). An hour and one unflattering digital photo later, I was finally allowed to get on with my day.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

End of a tradition
Like the students of the preceeding year's PCLL, HongKongPhooey and a few other CityU fellows travelled all the way across the harbour to the hole-in-the-wall printing shop near HKU, notorious for selling complete photocopies of expensive legal texts for as littles as HK$40 (US$5). (Can you see the irony of breaking the law, in order to become better lawyers?) Upon arrival at the place, they realised they had walked into an undercover raid by customs officials. To their good fortune, the officers sternly warned them off, as it was not the consumer that they wanted to arrest.

Well, according to the SCMP today, customs officers arrested 14 people from 8 shops in Kowloon Tong (where CityU is), Mongkok (HK's version of "the Valley"), Tsim Sha Tsui and the Western district (HKU) in connection with illegal photocopying of books. Customs seized 618 photocopied books, 38 photocopying machines and 8 binding machines.

Under the Copyright Ordinance, the maximum penalty for piracy is 4 years' imprisonment and a $50,000 fine per infringement.

This comes after news of several other highly-publicised raids of CD/VCD/DVD-pirating establishments in recent weeks. Who knows, at this rate, the Government might actually succeed in lowering intellectual property right infringements in the capital of piracy.

Friday, September 06, 2002

Day One
The first official day of PCLL began with a prize-giving ceremony for the class of the previous academic year. UNSW made a strong representation amongst the prize-winners, with Miss Vivian being awarded one for Professional Practice and Virginia coming first out of 380. Congrats to them.

Those who suffered the two induction days were joined today by the rest of the year (those who studied locally, external London LLBs and around 30 "repeaters"). Like the electronic College of Law earlier this year, the PCLL course has just gone under "major" reform and we are the guinea pigs.

The University cut back the number of this year to 320 considerably. The Dean made the same joke in his opening address, as he did two days ago, about how it was the students' perogative, this year, to find a sutiable husband or wife amongst the PCLL-ers, as well as to study hard. Ha ha, not.

After wondering for ages on my class schedule, we were finally given our course timetable for the semester. Thankfully, I don't have many large breaks in between classes, there are many half days, and there are only two weeks in which I have to attend Saturday classes/lectures! Still, unlike those leisurely types at CityU with four, HKU PCLL-ers have at least five days a week.

During the lunch break, I took time to wander down the mountain from the University on Bonham Rd to Queens Road West in Western. The name of the district is more to do with the geographics of the area on the HK island, than its description. Sai Wan is one of the more Eastern-looking areas around - what I imagine Hong Kong was like in the 60s and 70s.

On such a hot, humid and hazy day, it would be absolute insanity to walk back up the "hill". However, I did. Note to anyone: do not pass by the Western wet market during weather like today - the eminating smell from the unrefigerated meat is horrendous!

During the afternoon, everyone headed to their Small Groups (SG), where we were made to introduce each other. We were given bizarre instructions on how to give appropriate feedback (v. grade school-ish, but necessary, I guess). I was "elected" (or rather drawn randomly from a pile of names by my peers) to become the Group's Representative. (No one volunteered and I gave the wonderful idea of picking someone randomly by paper.) Every fortnight, there is a meeting with the Department of Professional Education on how to improve the PCLL program. Hooray for me, not.

Afterwards, there were some painful hours watching demonstrations on how to do legal research on Westlaw, Lexis and HKLII, which was rather obvious. At least the Westlaw demonstrator was cute.

All in all, it wasn't all that terrible. Rather, I think it'll be quite a promising year.

And yes, there is class tomorrow - Professional Practice: English Language Awareness!

Thursday, September 05, 2002

I have uploaded some photos here.

Look closely, there's even one of me...
Changing gears
I am absolutely buggered. Even thought it's only the first day of University, my brain is still in holiday mode. It'll take some time to shift it to first gear. Be warned, I may not sound coherent...

Today, I started the Postgraduate Certificat in Laws (PCLL). Folks who studied law abroad are obligated to attend a two day induction course in Hong Kong law, prior to orientaion and the commencement of classes. A 100 or so students from Australia (around 12 from UNSW), England and so on were crammed into the theatre to hear two excessively long lectures - one on the sources of law in HK (where the Professor sought fit to define "hierachy" in several different ways and bore everyone to sleep) and the other on HK land law (which was surprisingly interesting, as all HK lands, apart from St John's Cathedral, are leaseholds, not freehold land).

A completely moronic thing happened to me, which is quite unsurprising. On Monday, I went over to the bank to pick up my ATM card. Not more than 5 minutes later, while attempting to extract some money from the machine, it swallowed my card. I hadn't even made one transaction! I went back to the teller, to explain my stupid predicament (I couldn't read the Chinese characters on the screen and waited too long before pressing the buttons), before she smiled and gently told me to return after 11, the next day, to retrieve the card. Anyways, I didn't go there on Tuesday, but headed down to Central to retrieve the darn thing today.

I have given up on waiting for a dorm room. Although the previouse plan was to stay at my grandfather's flat for the short-term, he has agreed to let me stay for the next school year. He leaves for Edmonton at the end of September, so I'll be living in a four bedroom place in the "suburbs" of Kowloon.

Since I'll be staying here for a while, I have begun to make my room a bit more "comfortable". I bought a new mattress on the weekend. I've had difficulty sleeping on the current one, as it is as hard as a concrete slab.

The internet company delivered my ADSL modem this evening. By installing the thing myself, I'm saving HK$600. It took me more than an hour and the assistance of a v. patient customer service rep before I got it up and running.

I knew the overheads were going to be big, when I got here, but it seems like so much. I've already handed in my request for the Firm's fee reimbursement and living expenses grant at their Exchange Square office (Think Oliver Twist, but more desparate). But it doesn't seem like I'll get anything out of them anytime soon. I need to buy a full-length mirror and a microwave in the next week...

Monday, September 02, 2002

Still alive
Umm, for does who care, I'm not dead. I've just been quite busy and without internet access. A really long blog to come, I promise.

The course orientation starts on Wednesday. I get broadband installed that evening as well, so the next entry will be in a couple of days.