Is it really Hong Kong?

Having lived in this city all my life, I can hardly believe that the beautiful scenery shown in this photo is actually Hong Kong. This stunning picture of morning fog looks almost like a Chinese ink painting.

For once, we can proudly say that it is not all concrete jungles here.


Wellcome Images

These two beautiful images are among the winners of this year's Wellcome Image Awards. More details about the competition and the other 19 winning images of 2011 are available at the official website of the competition.


Animal instinct?

Another shattering earthquake in New Zealand. Again in Christchurch.

I feel for the people of New Zealand, especially those who have lost loved ones in the tragedy. It is important that the families of those who are still missing do not give up hope, and I pray for the miracle that at least some of the missing ones will be rescued alive.

Prime Minister John Key said the disaster "may be New Zealand's single most tragic event". A friend in New Zealand told me that her 94-year-old aunt has coped very well with the earthquakes all her life but not this one which was very close to the surface and has wrecked havoc.

A few days before the devastating earthquake, more than 100 pilot whales were beached on Stewart Island. I wonder if the two tragic incidents could somehow be related?


"Every problem contains within itself the seeds of its own solution"

A friend recently forwarded to me a PowerPoint file with a story called "A Story about Two Pebbles", the moral of which is that "a solution exists for most problems, it's just that we don't always know how to examine all of the angles of the situation".

I remember a very similar quote from Norman Vincent Peale's book Enthusiasm Makes the Difference. "Every problem contains within itself the seeds of its own solution", this eleven-word formula by Stanley Arnold, is considered by Peale as "a masterpiece of insight and fact". Stanley Arnold was the president of Stanley Arnold & Associates, Inc., a company whose function is to contrive novel ways for its clients to increase the sales of their products. His clients, include Goodyear, United Airlines and some thirty other giant corporations, employed his company as the "idea factory". According to Peale, many business leaders who had employed Arnold's problem-solving talents regarded him as "America's idea man number one".

Stanley Arnold once stated that "the first essential for success is a client with courage, imagination, and detrmination". I can see how these two quotes of his complement each other beautifully. One needs courage to have the conviction that there are the seeds of solution in every problem. Then one needs determination and imagination to find out what those seeds are, just like what the moral of the PowerPoint story says, that we need to "know how to examine all of the angles of the situation".


Seeing with the heart

The purposeful or piercing way Piper "looks" at you sometimes, it's hard to believe that he actually doesn't have the faculty of sight. His facial expression clearly shows awareness and attention. Of course, his reaction to the movement and sound coming from a certain direction may well reflect that he is using his sense of hearing. But I am sure that he actually "sees", not with eyes, which he doesn't have, but with his heart.

It is certainly a handicap to have lost one's sight, but if, like Piper, one remains positive and sharpens his other sensory perceptions, and if, like Piper, one lives in a supportive environment, he may still lead a full and confident life.

It is also important to remember how lucky we are to be healthy. How stupid it is if we abuse the senses that we are endowed with.


Far from the madding crowd

I have always had an aversion to crowds. Ever since I was a small child, you wouldn't find me among the onlookers observing an accident or a fight, the festive revellers in a flower market or firework display, or the bargain hunters lining up for a fair or a pre-sale. There is no enjoyment in the hustle and bustle and it is never worth the energy and time.

Every morning, I go to the office about half an hour before the official start time. I enjoy the time when there are few colleagues around and I can quietly set up for the day. While doing that regularly means that I have less sleep every day, I actually have more time to use than those who leave home at the last minute because they commute in the rush hours and I commute before that, and the net outcome is that their travel takes longer because of the heavy traffic. Another benefit is that I have never been late for work.

Even when I get off the MTR I do not use the escalator that everyone flocks to. I would walk to the one that is a bit further away. By the time I get there, the crowd would have cleared somewhat and the escalator would have become less of a bottle neck.

That is how I would steer clear of the madding crowd.


"You gotta watch the ball"

When we look at great sports players, we tend to think that their success is down to their superior techniques and talents. Of course, these are important attributes, but there are some more fundamental aspects we may have overlooked.

Take Stefan Edberg, one of my all time favourite tennis player, for example. People marvel at his volley, his back hand and his second serve, which are some of the best tennis shots you can ever see. But I remember reading years ago what he said about the foot being more important than the hand when it comes to playing good tennis. I cannot find the exact quote now, but the following extract from the Internet quoted him as saying something very similar:

"The great Stefan Edberg once said that many people think of tennis as a game of hitting, meaning that the player with superior strokes, skills, and overall tennis talent would rule the day each and every time out onto the court. Edberg, in all his great serve-and-volleying wisdom, instead said that tennis was a game of speed, a game of running and movement, and more importantly, footwork."

An even more fundamental piece of advice Stefan Edberg had to offer was given in an interesting situation - during a changeover in a match between him and Todd Martin. Here is how Todd Martin recalled it:

"At one point, I went through a game where I missed two or three volleys. He of course had missed two or three volleys the whole day. We're sitting there during the changeover, and I finally just said: 'Would you mind giving me a lesson one of these days on how to volley?' So he said: 'You gotta watch the ball.' And he was serious! One hundred percent serious! Here is possibly the best volleyer ever, and he's telling me to watch the ball. I thought: That's too good. I'm worrying about how low I am, whether my racquet head is up, how much spin I'm putting on the ball, and he says: 'You gotta watch the ball.'"


Too much of anything

A Hong Kong medical research study shows that about one million people in Hong Kong are addicted to at least one of the following: smoking, drinking, gambling, Net surfing, shopping and making love. with 700,000 smokers and 200,000 drinkers, treatment of the health problems related to smoking and drinking alone has accounted for 8% of the medical resources.

Addiction is characterised by the loss of self control towards a certain substance or behaviour, to the extent that one can only be satisfied by consuming or doing more and more. One also has a feeling of craving when not having the chance to consume or do it.

I am conscious that Net surfing is on the list. It is very much my daily habit. It is a fine line between a habit and an addiction. Habits, not to say addictions, are very powerful and difficult to cut out once formed. There are good and bad habits, of course, and how one classifies Net surfing depends very much on what your purposes of going online are. But the bottom line is that it is never a wise thing to do to have too much of anything, so the research study should serve a a good reminder.

I like the caption of a cartoon in which two people are having a conversation and one is telling the other: "Yeah, the internet's full of information, but after a day broadening my superficial knowledge of casual interests, who has the time to think?"


Turkish delight

As a Liverpool fan, my favourite chapter of Carra: My Autobiography has to be the one on Istanbul, which chronicled Liverpool road to winning their fifth European Cup. It helped me re-live the moments when I sat before the TV and was completely overwhelmed in witnessing how Liverpool recovered from being 3-0 down at half time to defeat mighty Milan in the greatest comeback in a European final ever. As Carragher said, "The agony eased by the ecstasy of victory summed up the ... three hours. I'd plummeted to the deepest pit of misery, only to instantly recover to ascend the highest of peaks."


My first e-book

The first e-book I ever finished reading with my Kindle was Carra: My Autobiography, which, as the title suggests, is Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher's story of his own life.
The book made enjoyable reading, not only because I am a Liverpool fan but also because I find the great footballer an honest, humble and very likeable person.

He did not hesitate to talk about the darker side or moments of his life. He actually began the book with one such incident. He started by talking about how, one afternoon when he was seven, he faked injury because he did not want to continue playing football under torrential conditions and was given a good hiding by his father. This, he said, was the defining moment of his career, "a lesson in football and in life I'd never forget". Good for him, it was the first and only time he faked injury.

Carra also talked about his bad attitude when he played football as a schoolboy:

"If anyone tracked down former colleagues who played alongside me as a schoolboy, I'm sure they'd hear a selection of horror stories regarding my attitude. They hated being in my team. I had no concept or appreciation of other players' limitations. Perhaps I was still lacking an understanding of my own ability, believing anyone could reproduce my form if they put their mind to it. More likely, I was intolerant of less talented footballers to a point where I could be accused of being a bully."

He talked about how his dad got a twelve-month jail sentence for tax fraud.

He talked about how he missed the birth of his son, choosing, much to his regret later, to go to Switzerland to play a decisive Champions League match. It was a moment he still looks back with a sense of shame.

But despite these blemishes, Jamie Carragher is a football icon that is adored by Liverpool fans, and he knows the reason better than anyone:

"It wasn't simply my football ability the fans were yearning for, it was my personality and character. The Kop loved me for what I represented. I was now being valued as a symbol of what a Liverpool player should be."

Way to go, Carra, you deserve the status of a Liverpool legend.


A body to die for

Slimming company Royal Bodyperfect was recently raided by the police and some employees were arrested after they were suspected of using rigged scales in order not to pay up after promising customers to have their money back if they reached target weights.

Legally, this is a case of alleged scam, probably because the company has taken a step too far. But how about those omnipresent slimming advertisements featuring slim beauties and making the claims that the companies can help their clients shed their weight or reduce their waistline in a matter of days? Are they not a bit fishy too, even though the companies have not gone so far as to get themselves in trouble with the law.

But it's the same story. The fact that we are bombarded by these advertisements everywhere means that such services are in great demand. Their rampage, like so many other dodgy phenomena, is no less than what this city deserves.


"Please mind your steps"

This is probably another attempt of the MTR to upgrade its service.

When I got off the MTR today, I saw an MTR employee standing next to the door of a carriage announcing to the boarding passengers where the train was heading to. He sounded like a tout.
A few steps ahead, at the bottom of an escalator, a man with a megaphone was reminding the commuters to mind their steps.

Evidently, the various announcements in the stations, including the non-stop recorded reminder "Please mind your steps", in Cantonese, Putonghua and English, which accompanies your every trip up the escalator, is now considered not enough.

The two employees won't be pleased, but I would argue that their jobs are not needed. But then in such a nanny state in Hong Kong it is another story.


"Chief Mouser to the Cabinese Office"

If the post of "Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office" in the UK had been advertised worldwide, Parker would have been a strong candidate.

As things stand, the post, the main duty of which is to deal with the rat probem of No.10 Downing Street, has been offered to Larry, a four-year-old tabby recommended to British Prime Minister David Cameron by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

Larry is said to be "a good ratter", has "a high chase-drive and hunting instinct" and has shown "a very strong predatory drive". If these are the job requirements, Parker will certainly not let the boss down.

Maybe the only thing he is missing is a British passport.


"I always have some reserve"

On Chinese New Year Eve, my wife and I had dinner with my family. We had prepared some gifts for the family members, but more people turned up than we had anticipated and there were not enough gifts. When I whispered my concern to my wife, she said nonchalantly: “There are enough gifts.”

“But we had no idea that…”

“I always have some reserve.”

Such wisdom of hers is what I do not have and what always impresses me.


Holiday in Hua Hin, Thailand (5)

How does being able to live in this posh seaside resort and enjoy its buffet breakfast every day of the year sound? Better still, how about not having to pay a penny?

Too good to be true? Not for this cat. Most mornings while we were there, it came out and waits for scraps patiently under the guests' table. Some, like us, happily obliged. We don't eat meat and fish, but we would collect some and toss it at the cat's side. The hotel guests did not seem to mind its presence and neither do the employees.

The only day we did not see the cat was Sunday. Was that because it's a non-working day even for cats?


Holiday in Hua Hin, Thailand (4)

How does being able to live in this posh seaside resort and enjoy its buffet breakfast every day of the year sound? Better still, how about not having to pay a penny?

Too good to be true? Not for this cat. Most mornings while we were there, it came out and waits for scraps patiently under the guests' table. Some, like us, happily obliged. We don't eat meat and fish, but we would collect some and toss it at the cat's side. The hotel guests did not seem to mind its presence and neither do the employees.

The only day we did not see the cat was Sunday. Was that because it's a non-working day even for cats?


Holiday in Hua Hin, Thailand (3)

It may be just another well-engineered promotion gimmick, but this "SLOW LIFE" (Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wholesome, Learning, Inspiring, Fun, Experiences) principle is well practised in the ambience, dining and activities of this resort hotel. "We strive to offer you as much exposure as we can to this very concept without being intrusive," they say.

One area which shows their commitment is their own vegetable and herb gardens which provide for the consumption of the hotel guests. A stroll in the gardens to examine the produces is quite pleasant.

One evening, when we were having dinner in the hotel's Thai restaurant and the waitress came to apologise for keeping us waiting for the food because of the large number of diners, I reassured her that it was not a problem at all. "It's 'SLOW LIFE' the hotel is promoting, isn't it?" I said.


Holiday in Hua Hin, Thailand (2)

be still like the trees
hear the waves come and recede
forget sense of time


Chinese New Year design (1)

For the next few days, I will be posting some designs I have made for the Chinese New Year. For the one today, I quite like the double meaning of the line. It can be what the rabbit says to the tiger cub, as this is the time when the Year of the Tiger is making way for the Year of the Rabbit. It can also be what the tiger cub says to the helpless rabbit before turning it into a dinner.