An accurate description of this movie would be...

Moulin Rouge meets Kill Bill.

Wondering what movie it is? If you've seen it, you're probably nodding your head right now. If you haven't, I wouldn't recommend it.

The movie is none other than Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd, featuring Johnny Depp as the very creepy barber doing very bloody shaves (and Borat doing Borat things...). As usual, Tim Burton sets are a pleasure to watch, even though they are sometimes a bit crazy. I'm not the biggest fan although I do appreciate the hard work behind the scenes (pardon the pun).

Bottom line... if you have to use Kill Bill to describe a movie, and you have to mix it with a musical, the results are difficult to appreciate.

By the way, revenge isn't that sweet. You can't change the past. Accepting is the best way.

Patriots Game

The reader should note that I've actually watched the record Patriots Steelers game while in a Shanghai hotel. Even though I knew the Pats would crush the Steelers (My manager is a Steelers fan... I hope she doesn't read this blog... heh heh), I still watched the game until 2 in the morning. At least they skipped all the time outs. =)

Anyway, Pats are 16-0 in the regular season! Even though that's an amazing achievement... what's more important is the next three games.

I feel like a Yankee fan. Even though the Pats were down by 12 points in the second half, I was never worried. Sigh. Nah, why sigh? Yeah, a bit of cockiness is nice.

Tomorrow, the Knicks host the Bulls. Man I miss ESPN and sports in the USA.


4 movies in 48 hours...

Only because I flew. (There's a fifth movie too - The Warlords - but it ain't within those crucial 48 hours...)

United business and United first were good experiences. Shouldn't they be great though?

Anyway, I saw three movies on the flight: Superbad, Resurrecting the Champ, and Stardust. The first day in New York, I saw I am Legend with PNGF.

Superbad - things I learn from the inflight entertainment magazine - Seth Rogen started writing the script when he was 13. THIRTEEN! The man is a genius. Wondering who he is? He's the fat guy from 40 year old virgin... or the guy from Knocked Up. The great thing about him is that he doesn't even have to try to be funny. Nothing like Jim Carrey. Rogen is just his usual self and the script (written by him) does everything funny. Superbad is a hilarious movie and I'm glad they didn't make any cuts for the airline version. At least given what I saw I don't think there were any cuts. I was actually wondering if any kids were watching. Thankfully not. I can't explain how funny the movie was... it's just very juvenile and very funny. Highly recommended.

Resurrecting the Champ - Josh Hartnett and Samuel Jackson give adequate performances in this movie about a falling sports reporter finding light and then finding out life. The usual Hollywood shit, really. I'll point to one part of the movie when the reporter told his son that he is good friends with John Elway and he son was so proud of daddy. This was, of course, a lie and that daddy said it only to make his son happy. The movie tried to make a neutral judgment on such lies. Why bother? All of us lie a little bit, mixing in some truth (he did meet Elway before) and folklore to please our friends and family. I don't think one needs to justify it. Recommended if you have time, and especially if you are a fan of Samuel Jackson. By the way, the female lead was the girl from Cold Case, though I never really placed her...

Stardust - A Claire Danes sighting! Not quite recommended. Ops, I leaped into consultant mode with Answer First. This was okay. Robert De Niro had a short cameo - as usual, he gives a half ass job for roles he don't really care about. Oh, and a Michelle Pfeiffer sighting! Interesting to see how aging actresses play an ugly woman role. Did I say not quite recommended?

I am Legend - This Will Smith special reminds me of Mission Impossible 2.0 and 3.0 - all movies that just show off the lead actor but offer nothing more. Will Smith gives a great performance as the sole survivor in New York City. Even though the movie sucked, he does portray the loneliness very well. However, that's about it. It's kind of eerie to see a deserted NYC while in NYC. The movie was basically Dawn of the Dead... zombies running amok in the city. Nothing special really; not recommended.

The Warlords - (Why isn't there a Chinese IMDB!?) A very grim movie by a grim director. Peter Chan Ho San has made a career out of small budget movies that touch on basic human love and some tear jerking. He doesn't disappoint even this was a depressing war movie. The depiction of realities of war was similar to that in Cold Mountain - very bloody, very real, very depressing. With all the turmoil around the globe, it makes one think of how small one person really is despite their own imaginations that they are greater than everybody else combined (Thank you, Bush). We all are subjects of reality. Reality, unfortunately, is not a subject for us.


Slap me please

While I'm on corporate bashing... I'm currently waiting for a standby seat to New York City for United. The seat is basically free... a buddy pass from a friend at United puts me at the bottom of the United customer ladder. Even those who used miles have a higher status on standby.

I lined up at Premier to start with, and was told that I should line up at Economy because I'm using a buddy pass.

So just let me make this clear... I've been a loyal customer to United for more than 10 years and it doesn't count anymore just because I'm using a free ticket. Thanks for the slap in the face, UA.

(Then again, I am flying business and first to NY... I love you, United, I love you).


Google Blogger, you suck...

I never understood why Picasa web album has space limits. If you can give me 6GB in email space, you can give me more in picture space. It's not that difficult.

Anyway, I'm about to give the Blogger team a lashing. It all, however, started with the incompetent Picasa web. I'm almost at the limit, so I cleared some space by deleting some pictures from the "Josekin's Blog" album.

Turns out doing that deletes pictures in my blog as well!!!!

And of course there is no warning.

I hate you, Blogger and Picasa Web Album team. At least give me a warning.


Habitat for Humanity Hungary - Merry Christmas

This is what brings a BIG BIG smile to my face. In fact, it is the best Christmas card I have ever received.

Dear Josekin,

The holiday season is soon going to start and I would like to thank you for being a part of Habitat for Humanity Hungary's life in 2007.  

As a small gift, I am attaching a drawing by Reka Pap from Csurgo. Reka is 9 years old. Her parents, her sister and her moved into their new Habitat home in 2006. The drawing is called: "Christmas in our New Home."

Thanks to the help and dedication of many people like you, 19 Hungarian families will celebrate Christmas in their new homes that they built or renovated with Habitat for Humanity Hungary in 2007. Next year, we hope to serve 77 families, thereby doubling the number of families served in our New Construction program and serving six times as many families in our Repairs&Renovations program as last year.  

Our Christmas Newsletter is available at the below link. Please take a look at it to see how your contribution this year was put to work to change the life of Hungarian families in need:  

I wish you and your loved ones Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year on behalf of Habitat for Humanity Hungary and all Habitat families in Hungary.

God bless,  



Josekin Lam



Finally. Movies...

Look, I haven't been in the theaters since Michael Clayton and Lust, Caution... highly unusual. I blame my travel schedule, which somehow had me going on 8 flights in 14 days.

Anyway, after my sweet upgrade for two nights, the third night I was moved to a smaller suite. A suite with one room, who knew!? With that suite comes... free DVDs!

Fantastic Four - put it this way... if it weren't for Jessica Alba... hold on... let me take a breathe... Jessica Alba... hmmm... If it weren't for Jessica Alba, this movie would be quite a piece of crap. My recommendation: watch Dark Angel.

墨攻 - awesome adaptation of a Japanese comic. Andy Lau delivers a solid performance as usual while the pan-Asian cast (this is a standard now... make a movie with one Japanese, one Korean, one Taiwanese, one Mainland Chinese, one Hong Konger, and you have a golder egg that can be shipped to all those countries) is solid with the exception of the Chinese actress who, while pretty, seemed quite out of place. Anyway, the movie is about the ideology to defend the weak from the aggressive in numerous wars vs. helping the aggressive achieve unification and therefore less wars in the future. Sounds familiar, huh? Recommended.


Here's why I don't like Hong Kong...

Well, Ms. Iris Cheng seems to think that having more than 30 pairs of shoes is the definition of happiness. This HSBC ad is completely tasteless on so many levels:
  • Presumably, Ms Cheng from Quarry Bay has more than 30 pairs of shoes. Thanks for remind all the girls with less than 30 pairs (99% of the population, no!?) they are living an inferior life.
  • Iris, if you are repeating your footwear pattern every week, and your only aspiration with your savings with HSBC is to quadruple the number of your shoes, you have some serious issues.
  • What about Mr. and Mrs. Cheng? Your daughter sounds like a materialistic bitch who thinks 30 pairs is the minimum to be cool. A bit ashamed, I hope? Oh, wait, maybe you taught her that.
  • And please don't forget Mr. Cheng-to be, who is now on red alert. Don't even bring up the in-laws...
  • I'm going on a limp here to say that most members in the Iris Friend Circle (IFC) are happy with their shoe situation by HSBC definition. They now may leap into the "repeat in a season" competition. I'm not sure if this is tasteless or not.
Luckily, there are those outside of the IFC and are blissfully unaware of the HSBC ad. Let's hope they either don't see the ad, or see it and ignore it, or be just slightly ticked off like me. Bless those who see the ad and develop a new aspiration to fill the shoe racks - they'll need all the help they can get.

On the flip side, Hong Kong has a pretty nice airport. Woo hoo!


Sweetest Upgrade!

The day wasn't smooth at all. I've come to realize working away from the team is extremely inefficient. Despite what technology can do for us, we still need to see the face in order to work closely together. The tone can be interpreted many different ways and, more often than not, does not represent what the speaker intended.

Back to my story. I'm working inefficiently from Hong Kong with my team in Shanghai. Eventually, did get things done and rushed to the airport. I knew I mis-timed it and so I missed my flight. The next one was an hour and a half later. I got off the stand by list and cursed myself for timing everything so tight.

Naturally, when I landed, I realized that I didn't have enough Taiwanese dollars to take the cab to the hotel! There was an ATM at the airport... except that it didn't work with my card. Both machines at both ends of the terminal didn't spit out cash. At least I got a good work out walking from one end to the other (most consultants work out by running from the terminal entrance to the gate area).

Oh well... I got on the cab (By the way, the Taipei airport cab line is very difficult to figure out. Some sort of union has some sort of rules for some sort of drivers and destinations. I'm still figuring... yet I digress) and asked the driver to get me to an ATM in Taipei so I can pay him afterwards.

By the time I got to the Grand Hyatt, it was almost 11pm. The following conversation took place...

Receptionist: Mr. Lam, our hotel is full. Would you mind being upgraded to the diplomatic suite?
Lam: Of course... as long as I don't have to pay for it!
Receptionist (without prompt): You may never want to live in our regular rooms any more...

Well then. Without further ado:

The study

The living room

The living room 2

The kitchen

The bedroom
The bathroom (steam room and jacuzzi)

Unfortunately, one of the most important invention in human history still looks that same as the regular peasants... so I won't honor it with a picture.


It's the toilet, man... what did you think it was? While you're at it... imagine this world without toilets!? I think it's slightly worse than "world without TV remotes."

Oh... while you are wondering how long this post is going to be... no worries. I feel obliged to tell you what goes on in a diplomatic suite, which, by the way, is only about USD1000 a night. Yup, it's one of those weird things you do: you get something nice and you want to measure it in dollars, even though it came to you free of charge. Why are we so materialistic!?

When I woke up the next day to ponder my good fortunes, I noticed that a bottle of whiskey is opened already. While I didn't pay much attention to it during the day, it immediately came to my attention at night... hmm... maybe it's complimentary. Thanks to my colleagues who have flocked over, I placed a call to the front desk:

Lam: Hi... I noticed an opened whiskey bottle in the room...
Front desk: Oh, I'm sorry. We'll get a new one for you right away.
Lam (like a child who just did something wrong): Um... so we can drink from the open bottle, right?
Front desk: We'll send someone up right away.

(5 minutes later)
Someone: Don't worry, sir, you can still drink from the open bottle. They don't go bad.
(Well, that's not why I called...)
Lam: So... all this (pointing to racks of liquor) is... free?
Someone: Yes, sir.

Woohoo. We drank away. I know I know, I sound like an immature child given a new toy. Then again, I feel like you need to know these things... including the sweet sound system in the room: two awesome B&O system (one in the living room and another in the bathroom). Made me want to get them... badly.

Okay, enough with the high life. I feel dirty.


I must have done something right...

I'm staying in the Taipei Grand Hyatt Diplomatic Suite... not sure if that means President's Suite... but I went into the "hotel room" and got lost. Took me a while to find the bedroom.

More on this later... I'm too psyched about it. As of now, I love consulting.

It'll happen... eventually

Last Saturday, I flew to Beijing. Earlier today, I flew from Beijing to Shanghai - by the way, we sat on the tarmac for almost doubt the flight time due to the snow. Two days later, I will fly from Shanghai to Hong Kong. Three days later, I will fly from Hong Kong to Taipei.

Yup, flying more means more things like this happens.

Anyway, last Thursday I traveled back to Hong Kong with a colleague of mine. We both tried to work in the taxi: I gave up after 15 minutes; he lasted half way before almost throwing up... which made me think about "it'll happen eventually":
  • Throws up in the cab while working on laptop
  • Drops laptop while placing laptop on check in counter
  • Burs lap while creating blank slides
  • Drops laptop while placing laptop on handle bar of luggage
  • Develop tendinitis due to carrying opened laptop on the lid
  • Drops laptop with laptop on lap and waking up from an unexpected nap
  • Leave laptop in the magazine pocket in the plane
  • Drops laptop when (Chinese taxi) driver swerves to pass other swerving Chinese taxis
  • Leave laptop in security scanner
And I'll freely admit that I've thought about the beauty of having a Crackberry about 1,325 times this past week.

Naturally, I'm writing this blog because I narrowly missed my (first time!) flight to Taipei. Next flight is an hour out. Sorry, I wish it was more dramatic like my Bain Boston trip. Maybe next time... not.


Finally, I can do a visa commercial...

34-inch high pants: $170 (Thank you, SS, for the inspiration)

Bad shirt: $60
Black glasses: $38
Tape, name label: free
Dressing up as a nerd for the company Xmas party and walking around Central (think Wall Street meets Times Square) in nerd outfit: priceless

Footnote: All figures in HKD.

Note: diligent readers have noticed that I put "No #1" while it should have been #2. Well, that's what the sign says. I'm just the messenger.


No #1

In Beijing right now. Went to a bar with an old friend and used the bathroom there. It's a Chinese old school squat toilet... smelled like shit but acceptably - acceptably only - clean. On the wall is a sign:
  • In Chinese: "请勿大便"
  • In English: "Don't shit here"
  • Also in English: "Please do not #1 here"
  • Also in English at the very bottom: "If you need to shit, please get a doggy bag"
Why are bathrooms such an adventure for me!?

Thank you for smoking

Great movie. I haven't watch a smart movie in a while, and "Thank you for smoking" absolutely blew me away. When the movie started with the smoking advocate (the guy from Erin Brocovich, I think) pointing towards a teenage cancer patient saying "it's in our best interest to have him stay alive and keep smoking," I knew this was going to be good.

The famous Mark Twain quote "Lies, damn lies, and statistics" should ring true with the movie. The irony that our society now so focused on whether an argument is true is really not that focused on the truth is appalling. Our "hero" in the movie professes that he only makes fact-based statements because "that way, I'm never wrong" and doesn't worry about why he is making those statements.

In other words, answer my way no matter what your question or argument is. Sad as that sounds, it is how most people engage in quarrels.

Highly recommended movie.

In other news, several of my friends have watched Blood Diamond and then denounced diamonds and resorted to other types of rings. Some data on De Beers/Tiffany/etc sales pre- and post Blood Diamond would be awesome. Anyway, several of my friends (all ladies) have indicated that they refuse to watch Blood Diamond...

If you believe a frictional movie, sure, stop buying diamonds as a protest. Better yet, go to Africa to make your protests. If you think it is indeed frictional, it wouldn't hurt to watch it either (that's me). And of course there are those who are afraid that the movie is a fact and so refuse to see it. How does that address the truth??? I'm just saying.


Difficult to overcome...

The Patriots are difficult to overcome: two words, Tom Brady.

The Red Sox are difficult to overcome: if Johan Santana signs.

The Celtics are difficult to overcome: KG, PP, RA... my god.

My curiosity was too much to overcome: it's not an eagle, it's a black kite. My random finds are also difficult to overcome: on the list of Hong Kong birds is the great tit.

My conclusions are difficult to overcome: Facebook will eventual fall; I got this message "xxx has added you as a Top Friend. Your popularity is going up! Click here to see just how popular you are now :)" Woohoo! My popularity is going up!

Workaholic-ism is difficult to overcome: as fresh MBA grads, I feel more complete and accomplished when I become very busy and finish my work at 1am. Not so much when I leave at 7pm.

Things I should overcome but can't: TV at night... blogging at even later night...



Like I said before, I don't care much for the elections in Hong Kong... predictably, the democratic party won this battle. Anyway, here's what I've observed throughout the days leading up to the election. I'll let you pass judgment.
  • The slogan for the democratic candidate is "vote with your conscious." As far as I can tell, her agenda has something to do bringing democracy to Hong Kong, something she has labeled "real democracy" while labeling others' methods "fake"
  • The slogan for the main rival, pro-China of course, has something to do with... actually, I'm not sure, because she never really talks about her views on policies... she's busy defending herself from a past mis-step in policy making.
  • The slogan for a pro-democracy newspaper is "Report happiness, report sadness, and report fairness." The same newspaper issued a special edition on election day urging people to vote for the pro-democracy.
  • "Dire election situation" is a similar tactic used by both sides to urge people to vote. This is suppose to bring out "supporters" to vote for their respective party.
You'll pardon me if I can't take this election too seriously. These are the headlines of various newspapers in Hong Kong
  • pro-democracy paper: Democratic party candidate celebrates decisive win
  • pro-democracy paper: Democratic party candidate wins by xx,xxx votes
  • pro-democracy paper: Democratic party candidate wins by landslide
  • pro-China paper: Pro-China candidate loses by a little
  • pro-China paper: Pro-China candidate wins support from voters
  • pro-China paper: Subway merger goes smoothly
Man, just thinking about this makes me sad.

Hong Kong Green

When tourists think of Hong Kong, they think neon lights and crazy crowds. Little do people know that Hong Kong is actually 60% green. Virtually all the mountains are designated parks and protected from construction.

I've hiked a few times, but not quite enough. Here's hoping that I can increase the frequency. There's the Wilson trail (50km) and the Trail Walker (100km), both I would love to try at some point.

Here are some pictures from the very easy (too) trail of Parkview to TaiTam to Quarry Bay.

The TaiTam Reservoir

I got lucky to get this amazing shot of an eagle (okay, it's probably too small for an eagle...)
Like the contrast

Hong Kong is green


Let's play

I don't know how it took me so long before I got a Wii. Now wonder Sony and Microsoft are running for cover. The Wii easily supplants all my old game consoles as my favorite. And I don't even have real games!

Two weeks ago, my colleagues and I were having dinner and decided that we should get a Wii and then play it at my home. Done and done. Next thing we know, we're still going strong at 2am.

Here's a video of boxing. So far, I've done all the sports, FIFA, NBA, some cooking game (don't ask), and some cheesy medical procedure game.


Laptop rules, napping, and saying goodbye

The Sports Guy just had an all day chat with his readers. It's for the Jimmy Fund. Here is one question from his readers:

"Rick (Boston): I have taken 2 poops during your chat, but taken the laptop in the bathroom both times. Just thought you should know this is must see chatting."

Reminds me of PNGF's story that someone was typing inside the bathroom at HPC. There are somethings that are unwritten rules about laptop usage. Not bringing it into the bathroom is one of them.

Here's another article that's worth reading. If you ask me what the moral of the story is:
  • tis not the importance of napping at work
  • tis the importance of "inemuri, which literally means 'to be asleep while present'"
Brilliant. For you all MBA fresh grads out there, note that inemuri can only be undertaken by "only those high up or low down." In other words, only entrepreneurs (high up) and bankers (low down) can inemuri. Sigh. I knew I should have been a banker.

A friend of mine is a lawyer. We were chatting and she told me that today she saw her client off to jail. Which made me wonder... how do you bid farewell in that circumstance?
  • Have a nice day? See you later? Take care? Don't drop your soap? Hand in there! See you in 20 years.
Instead, she said "see you in appeal." Makes me appreciate my job that much more.

Later, some news on my new toy Wii and the movie "Thank you for smoking."



Well, it had to happen at some point. Subway has finally made its way into Hong Kong.

Combined with the fact that our office has moved (temporarily) to the center of all restaurants, I'm literally 10 minutes from all the restaurants in Central. And of course, Subway is high on the... I mean it would be nice to have Subway every once in a while.

Steak and Cheese was good... though the bread really sucked.

Subway, Eat Fresh!


Thoughts from wedding

Holy crap, it's been 10 days since I last blogged! Past weekend: saw Sampras-Federer in Macao, bought a Wii, played too much Wii, worked a bit, and heard one of the most disgusting "I let him stay at my place when I wasn't around" stories.

Attended a good friends' wedding last Tuesday (missing Linkin Park concert, sigh).

First the ghetto story. Chinese weddings give you a little laisee (red pockets with a small amount of money) to thank you for coming. Since I was helping organizing, I put down the envelope on my designated seat at the banquet. Well, when I came back, the envelope was still there... but the invite and the laisee was gone. GHETTO.

I found out during the wedding that another good friend (also present) is engaged... through another friend. While prompting wrath from those who were not informed in person, I digress into my selfish little world.

I have never been asked to be best man or groomsman. PNGF says it's because my BFs aren't married (Best Friends, not Boyfriends). There is a more direct explanation: I'm not a good enough friend for such responsibilities. Yeah, that's kind of depressing, (I thought about this while on the tram, by the way... I knew it!) but then again...
  • most of my BFs got married when I was in a different place
  • more of them haven't gotten married yet
Ah, all those silly thoughts on the tram.


All in One

This is an all-in-one post.

Yesterday (Sunday) was election for Hong Kong's district council. I know nothing about these elections, so anything I say is basically from my behind. Not that different from reality. ha.

The job of the district council is to make districts, on a street-to-street basis, better. What does that mean? Well, based on the election material I get from my mail box and from the street, the district council will alleviate sound pollution and air pollution, take responsibility to add plants in a garden, reduce traffice (and therefore inconvenience). In other words, they are responsible to make my life better.

Well then. What will be the outcome? The winner will have to fulfill his or her promises. The loser will have to intensify his or her work at the district level to get a chance at the next elections. Either way, I win.

Oh, and the results. The pro-Beijing camp won by a landslide. The pro-Democracy camp will have their taste of victory in the legislative council, due next year.

I watched a Hong Kong movie called SPL. Stupid story, mostly horrible acting (Yum Tat Wah is still good as usual), great action shots. The fight scenes were very well done. It's not a Jackie Chan style of using the environment to fight; rather, more of a let's slug it out with fists and knives. Awesome shots.

On my Christmas wish list: a low-light macro lens. I'm thinking the Nikkor 60mm/2.8F. Also on the list is the 105mm/2.8F. Decisions, decisions.

Also on my list: Wii. Just because.

Yet another Japanese food place. SAE's traditional stuff was pretty good. I'd skip the fusion menu. Here are some pictures:

I have to say, sashimi mountains are better than sushi boats

One of the best shrimp sashimi I've ever had

The shrimp was very fresh. You can tell when your first bite consists of the feeling of having good paste. El dente. The taste was slightly sweet but not overpowering. A bit of lime helps to get a bit of freshness into the taste though I'm not a big fan. And of course the bed of ice helps the overall taste of the sashimi.

Delicious desserts


Gossip Magazine

Last month, I (barely) made an appearance on the front of a local Hong Kong gossip magazine. This gave me some insights on how these low life magazines worked. Oh, and if you are wondering why... it's cus I had dinner with a good friend who "works" in the entertainment industry. Yet I digress.

Truth: her birthday party with about 14 people, with a mix of gals and guys
Magazine: many guys are chasing her

Truth: we all take different transportations to the movies
Magazine: a Porsche is her mode of transportation

Truth: we leave the theaters
Magazine: three men surround her to get her attention

Truth: everybody proceeds to a night club
Magazine: she's desperate for men

Truth: she leaves alone
Magazine: nobody wants her

Truth: it's a birthday dinner, movie, party with a bunch of people
Magazine: she is dating a dozen guys

Some of my friends are angry that I am portrayed as one of the dozen guys. I'm actually more amused than anything. Plus I get some insights as to how gossip magazines work. Speaking of which, if you remember the porn cab, I'm starting to regret that I didn't ask more questions as to how his business worked - for example, if a family of three comes on, will he play Disney movies (thanks to RL who infused creativity beyond porn)? Why am I showed porn? All single men? What about two guys? I'm beaming with questions now.


Eating alone

One of the things that people hate to do is eating alone. I admit that I don't enjoy it very much... then again, I don't dread it. Or at least that's what I always tell myself. The propensity to call a friend when dining time comes tells me that I'm probably a hypocrite. I too need company at a restaurant.

"Luckily," I've been able to put this to test in Taipei, where my last consulting case took place. I was the only person on the ground... and so I was also the only person doing pretty much anything related or not related to work. And yes, that included eating.

For most of three weeks (weekdays anyways), I ate alone. It wasn't bad though it had its moments. I tried to stay out of the spot light the first time, picking a corner seat so I don't look out of place and lonely (yup, I'm a hypocrite!). Then I got better at it. Second meal, I started to look up more and notice the environment. I started to note the operations of restaurants (man are they inefficient!). I took note of a couple flirting and then fighting in a span of 10 minutes. I even smiled at others who gave me weird stares.

Best of all, I took my camera. Here's my lonely (alonely?) set up at Ton Sushi, a well regarded sushi establishment near Taipei 101, the world's tallest building.

In sushi restaurants, you often get extremes. Either the stuff is not fresh and you're wondering why you shelled out $50 for some seafood that's been sitting in the fridge for a couple of days; or it was $50 very well spent on every aspect of the meal from the salad to the sushi to tea to dessert. Imagine my surprise when the sushi came with fresh fish and plain rice. I don't even think it is Japanese (read: vinegar!) rice. The fish was so good I found it hard to believe that the rice was sub par.

The following pictures are eel sushi and a assortment dish. Overall, still yummy... but the rice was a big big disappointment.


Flying week in and week out

Silly things happen when you fly so often:
  • Forgot to turn off phone as it goes off when the plane is LANDING
  • Left laptop in the seat pocket in front of you (not my story
Hey, I'm just saying. It's a matter of probability.

I've flown to Taipei the last three weeks and I've never noticed this announcement:
"It is illegal to take drugs into Taiwan. The most sever punishment could be capital punishment. Please pay attention to the video supplied by the Taiwanese government to learn about the details of the regulations."

(Repeat in Cantonese, and then Hongdarin - pretty bad Mandarin)

If you are wondering, I was probably in deep sleep my previous two trips. Anyway, I found the announcement funny so I prepared to pay full attention as instructed.

The video had bad video quality and even worse audio quality. This led to the next announcement:

"We apologize for the poor quality of the video and audio. Please be reminded that the highest punishment is capital punishment. Taiwan also has strict regulations on the import of vegetable, fruits, blah blah blah"

(Repeat in Cantonese, and then Hongdarin - pretty bad Mandarin)

And just to drive the point home, there was a final announcement:

"We would like to remind you that the punishment for bringing drugs into Taiwan is the death penalty."

I gotcha.


Without Techonology

"Damn, what did they do when they didn't have SMS/blackberry/etc?"

Chances are, you've thought about this question when you are furiously typing away during a meeting, on the plane, in the lounge... and you've probably also wondered how people lived without TV, phone, and all those gadgets that make our lives work.

Well, I've put that to the test last few week:
Internet - limited. Client site doesn't allow Internet access. There are several Warm to Cold spots around the office where I can hook to wireless networks.
Phone - good. I can't call. But I can receive calls. And send SMS.
Blackberry - luckily, I don't have one.
TV - virtually none. Hotel TV shows Taiwanese and Japanese stuff.

There were some frustrating moments obviously. Not having Internet is kind of nuts, but I've come to find that it isn't disastrous. Things take a bit longer, but they nonetheless work. Not having a TV hasn't even affected me a bit.

You know one thing I can't not have though? It's the air conditioning. I needed that.

Well, so in the end, comfort trumps convenience. =)


Time to wake up, baby!

I have a tendency to wake up several minutes before my alarm sounds. Don't know why. It just happens every now and then. Today, however, was a bit different.

I woke up to an earthquake! At least I thought I woke up to an earthquake.

Funny how the human mind works. Instead of snoozing - most evil invention #6 - for half an hour or so, everything cleared and I took a quick look around the room to see where I can hide. So instead of staying in bed, I was up immediately with all joints working.

Which leads to my next consultant / entrepreneur thought: an earthquake alarm clock!


You have another hour...

Watched Transformers at home last night (yes, that also means I finally have a TV after... oh... just 2 months in Hong Kong). Two points. The girl in the movie is quite hot (no good at acting though). The movie is decent, but very corny (come on, the defense secretary blasting a shot gun at Decepticons!?).

Nonetheless, as I carried no expectations whatsoever in the movie, it was cool to see my favorite cartoon come to life. Optimus Prime, how I miss you. I still remember the days where I would nag my parents until they got my Prime. And we're talking full size Prime here, not the mini one made of plastic. Of course the toy is nowhere to be found now. Anyway, I have one big question...
  • Hoover Dam began construction in 1931
  • The great great great grand father of our hero discovered Megatron in 1871 or something
  • So how would his discovery of Megatron in reveal that the Cube is in Hoover Dam?????????
I am perplexed. And how everybody suddenly converged on Hoover Dam is beyond me. How Megatron died (did he!?) is also beyond me. The fight scenes were kind of cool and the transforming wasn't bad at all.

In other news, housewarming / Halloween party was a bummer. The TV/sound delivery didn't happen since I was in Taiwan. So a party with no noise. Friday nights are not good for bankers. So I was the only one "dressed up." If you count dressing preppy as dressed up.

Had a pretty good Japanese meal. Pictures coming later. The tasting menu was $25 and the fusion menu was $45. Should have suck with the tasting menu... one of those cuisines where you can't do too much fusion on it. Raw fish... is raw fish.

When my reminder went off at 3:30pm, I quickly finished off my work product, packed and printed things I needed and started to leave the office. Out the door. Into the elevator. Then I looked up at the TV screen and read... 3:45pm.

Now... I have been planning on departing for Taiwan at 5pm. For some reason, I kept thinking it was 4pm.  And it's not 5pm yet. In fact, quite far from it. So suddenly I have a whole hour to spend, which resulted in some work done and also this blog post. Quite unusual sequence of events. I'm quite good at timing. And now... I suddenly have another hour on my hands. (Just like day light savings, which also happened this weekend. Weird.)


Taiwan Taxi

I can't imagine what it is like to not have Internet access. But I'm getting close. I've spent most of this week without Internet access during business hours. Let's just say that it is excruciatingly painful. Doubly so when you are left alone.

Taiwan taxis are like taxis anywhere in the world. The drivers are slightly crazy and have an opinion on just about anything. Most are friendly (Shanghai the lone exception) and are curious as to who you are and what you do. All are talkative. Most are courteous (Shanghai is the lone exception). All are dangerous drivers. Cars are nice and clean. Most are small (Hong Kong, of all places, being the lone exception) size cars that can barely fit you in the door.

This particular Taiwan taxi, however, was mind bottling.

Travelling between two client sites, I slipped in the cab and quickly snoozed. The ride is usually 20 to 30 minutes long. I just had back-to-back client meetings and I was feeling quite tired… by the meetings certainly, but also by the prospect of the impeding work that I have to deliver. Anyway, I was drifting in and out of consciousness. I did try to stay awake and alert and notice the roads and where I am, but it only worked for a few seconds before I went back to nap again.

Yeah, so far it's like a regular cab ride. I finally woke up probably 5 minutes from the destination, noted that I'm very close to the destination, and started people watching from inside the cab. Suddenly, some corny music starts in the cab, stopping the radio broadcast. I looked back in the cab to see what is going on... and there it is, a porn video - yes, PORN VIDEO - was playing on the DVD screen of the taxi.

Did I say porn video?

Now you have to understand that this is a very awkward situation. Do I watch? Do I talk? Do I keep looking outside the window? Uh... and I hope the driver isn't distracted. Luckily, our man the taxi driver knew exactly what to do.

Taxi driver (TD): Nice, huh?

Slightly amused Josekin (SAJ): uh, yeah

TD: where are you from

SAJ: Hong Kong

TD: Can you buy these in HK?

SAJ: Yeah

TD: For how much?

SAJ (thinking): About $10 Hong Kong dollars

TD: Oh, that's $40... this one is only $20

SAJ: Oh, that's cheap

TD: Yeah, even in Taiwan you can only get one for $50

SAJ: Oh, how did you get yours then?

TD: I'm selling these for $20

Very stunned Josekin ( VSJ): ......!? Huh!?

TD: Yeah, you want Taiwanese? Japanese? American? I have Hong Kong too.

VSJ: What do you mean?

TD: No worries... I'll wrap them nicely for you. Just a regular VCD. You can play this at home. Oh, let me show you the Japanese one (changing discs)

VSJ: ......

TD: It's already very cheap... this price beats the entire market. Can't go lower...

(Arriving at client cite)

VSJ: uh, no thanks. , here's my stop. Thanks!

(All figures in Taiwanese Dollar, unless otherwise indicated)


Red Sox and Taiwan

Red Sox won the World Series... again!

And as I was watching game 4 (sort of) while on the beach, I was told that I have to go to Taiwan for a case. So here I am, on Halloween night, in Taipei, writing a blog entry.

Here's a pretty cool link to how to take better pictures.


Beach Time

In consulting, when you are in between cases, you are "on the beach." What does this mean? Well, as I've found out the last two weeks, it means all the hard work you put in during the case and all those lost nights are returned to you. Which means:

No need to be in the office*
Need to work on ad-hoc stuff
Time to get life outside of work back on track

*need to be ready to report within 2 hours if called upon

So yes, I do enjoy consulting.

Meanwhile, I think I just saw Gagne warming up in the bullpen with Paplebon and I threw up in my mouth. As a rule, if you have your best pitcher warming up, you shouldn't have your worst doing the same. Red Sox are ready to clinch another World Series... or so I hope.


Wrong Kong

A trail of thought that got lost somewhere... not that you would care. But I'll post it anyway.

Hong Kong has been consistently voted the "freest economy in the world." In other words, this means minimal intervention in the economy by the government, a move coined "positive nonintervention" that is so admired by the likes of Milton Friedman (and other U of C economists, I'm sure).

If you cared to read the above link, you will easily find the reason why Hong Kong is so successful: lots of big money merchants who fled from Shanghai to HK from communism being able to do whatever they want with their money and resources with minimal intervention. This is consistent with capitalism theories on the most efficient use of money leads to the best developments in the economy. Note that the key ingredient: big money people fleeing to Hong Kong.

Yet nowadays, when I read newspapers in Hong Kong, there are complaints about everything: more freedom in elections, social services not enough, support for low income families not enough, healthcare not enough, too much pay for civil servants, too much collusion among big businesses, more support on education, reduce monopoly prices on electricity and transportation, focus on urban development undermines cultural sites, etc etc.

Therein lies one of the biggest ironies of my home country... if you are keeping tab: freest economy, limited political freedom, a very free press, and too much freedom in certain sectors of the economy.

The aforementioned complaints breaks down into this:
1. More political freedom
2. Spend more to support lower class, health care, education, etc
3. Don't collude with big business

In other words...
1. Government give us more political freedom
2. Government spend more on lower class
3. Government to suppress big business

The Hong Kong government is the favorite target of Hong Kong people (media?). I cannot argue with point 1 and 2. Note that the same people asking for 1 have been asking for the last 10 years without much push (real push... everybody wants it mentally... but nobody is moving for it... such is the Chinese culture). Those who want 2 also oppose an increase in tax to pay for it. Hm.

The next favorite son to blame: greedy big businesses. This is where I get most confused. As I wrote above, the success of Hong Kong has been the result of government not interfering with big business. Now people want the reverse. Part of the reason is that big business equals Chinese government (think about THAT irony!!) due to all the money that is made in the mainland. Part of the reason is us consumers don't want to be screwed over. Big business (read: China) is taking over and making us give them all our money!

What about the reverse: big business also gives us a lot of employment and money to spend! In fact, many economists oppose tax brackets because it encourages (in US anyway) people to play with deductibles and miss the tax bracket. Also dangerous is that it discourages business from spending the additional income on its employees because they have to pay taxes.

I wonder what the solution is. Increased government intervention runs against what made Hong Kong. At the same time, no intervention will fuel more cries from the people (media?). I believe the HK government should focus on education and healthcare. All the commercial stuff leave it up to the people and the media - they seem to have enough free time to protest against businesses. And perhaps they ought to know: it is not because the government is useless and passive (it could be... I just don't know), but also should consider that their passivity has propelled Hong Kong to its current prosperity.


On the tram back home

One nice thing about taking the tram home is that I have 30 minutes of calmness. For instance, yesterday coming back from work:
  • I think I can do this (i.e. consulting) for a while
  • How did I survive my first case without scratch
  • I have a new format for slide #4 (disrupting calmness)
  • Where can we hike this week
  • I wonder how the pictures turned out from last week
  • I miss Alan
  • I miss PNGF
  • Beach time is nice
  • I should organize something social - I used to do that a lot in Boston... what happened
  • What should I talk about with my staffing manager (disrupting calmness)
  • I should buy a new lens for macro photography... I really need one
  • A Wii could be nice at my home
  • Should I go to Mong Kok for a set of stereo
  • I need to exercise
  • Food is so cheap in Hong Kong
  • Basketball, perhaps...
  • What if the Red Sox win another World Series
  • The Pats and the Colts are playing next week. I want to see that game
  • HK TV sucks
Ops, my stop now.


Weird pricing schemes

I got myself a TV over the weekend. What I couldn't figure out is the following paying options:
  1. Pay $10K now
  2. Pay $10K in 12 monthly installments, interest free
  3. Pay $10K in 18 monthly installments, interest free
  4. Pay $10K in 24 monthly installments, interest free
Is there something U of C didn't teach me here?

(by the way, I added a tag for "consulting" so I can keep track of my comments on general business suggestions and questions. This particular pricing scheme seems to be out of whack with whatever the company is trying to do)


White Food in Yellow Land

First things first, congrats to Tufts Jumbo being mentioned in a sports column!

BSLW once commented that Hong Kong has no good white food, just like Chicago has no yellow food. I set off to prove him wrong.

First stop was Le Mieux Bistro, tucked inside an industrial building in Chai Wan. There are many restaurants like this now because of crazy rents in Hong Kong. Good chefs find a cheap location and set up shop inside and rely on word of mouth to get business. Unlike many HK restaurants, they rely on price rather than turnover to stay afloat.

Here's the menu: Sashimi of scallop, Japanese Angel Prawn, slow cooked salmon and sea whelk, seafood raviloi (their spelling mistake!) with tomato lobster sauce, roasted Australian beef tenderloin and sword fish loin, chocolate cake with raspberry sorbet. Coffee or tea. All for $33.

Definitely the best sashimi I've had in years. The shrimp beats (gasp!) Oishi's. Extremely fresh and well put together dish. The seafood ravioli had very good sauce... and I forgot what was in the ravioli. Beef was so so - threaded beef isn't my type of steak. But the swordfish and dessert were excellent. Okay, so I do realize that this verdict supports white food is no good in HK... but at least the dessert was on par!

Cooked shellfish, sashimi scallop, salmon, and shirmp

Second testing grounds was Caprice at Four Seasons. This French bistro opened not too long ago and has been touted as one of the best in Hong Kong. Indeed it was. In addition to the appetizer (escargot and warm foie gras) and starter (lobster and seabass) and dessert (Rasberry dessert) we (PNGF and I) ordered, we also got pampered with small food items in between.

The escargot came in soup form. There were some escargot in the asparagus-based soup and there were also three wonton-type escargot that you can dip into the soup. The asparagus soup was very well made and the taste of the escargot was better than most I've tasted in Paris, mostly because the flavor of the escargot was not overpowered by garlic oil. Rather, the asparagus soup brought out the ever faint flavor of the snails.

Warm foie gras wasn't bad. A bit too mushy for my tastes.

The seabass was a good dish. Most seafood dishes in Hong Kong are with the very high standards that locals have set up (not so much for Japanese food, I don't understand why). Fresh seabass cooked to perfection.

The star of the night was the lobster though. It was well cooked and served with a vanilla foam. The sauce was both from the lobster oil (in lieu of butter sauce) and a hint of vanilla. I thouroughly enjoyed this dish. Something was missing though: only one claw could be found! I know that the lobster tail is where all the meat is... but still... I'd like to see both claws. Given all my Boston experiences, I think this one comes damn close (Boston ones are old school and would never try anything adventurous like this).

Lobster was comparable to Boston ones
And the little dishes that they serve in between dishes wasn't bad either. The following is the last one served up after our order of dessert AND a free sample of chocolate.

Marshmallow dish was satisfying (I couldn't wait to take pictures...)
Last but not least, I also went to Cru, apparently a frequent visit for bankers in Hong Kong. I've been there twice and both times I was led there by someone working for a big bank. I remember the sesame tuna was good, as well as the prawn skewers (a bit on the salty side for me) and pumpkin salad. I ordered a seafood pasta dish that was quite well made. But the key to the night was the Mars Bar Cheesecake. I'll let the picture do the talking.

Mars Bar Cheesecake is evil

I'd say white food is quite good in Hong Kong. Now I am craving for a decent piece of steak.


All roads lead to the office

I'm evaluating how I should get to the office from my home, and I've broken them down into three categories (remember, I bleed consulting): speed, price, and comfort. This is from fastest to slowest.
  1. Taxi: fastest at about 15 minutes, cost $30, and always entertaining while listening to the driver bitch about whatever
  2. MTR: about 30 minutes, cost $4.6, likely inside a cramped cabin followed by walking on busy Central streets, lots of trains so no waiting
  3. Tram: at about 35 minutes and $2, I can always get a seat and enjoy the breeze... though it is truly old school without air-con and wooden hard seats (by the way, the tram is surprisingly fast because it has its own tracks and not slowed by traffic)
  4. Bus #5, 5B, 18: at about 40 minutes and $3.7, they bring me right up to the building like a cab, I usually can get a seat on the bus too
I picked... tram. There's something about riding an old transportation vehicle and enjoying the old districts zip by you while enjoying the breeze. Just love that feeling.

And the fact that I will be spending about $40 on transportation to work per month. Sometimes, being cheap excites me. I can't explain it. Maybe I need a raise. haha.

(all figures in HKD)


Michael Clayton, and more on Lust, Caution

Michael Clayton

When I heard that the writer of Bourne series worked even harder on the script of Michael Clayton (George Clooney), I decided to go see it with PNGF even though I had no idea what it was about. I knew it had something to do with lawyers... so it's got to be some struggle between good and evil. Someone mentioned it was Oscar-worthy too.

Well, I came out the theater satisfied while slightly disappointed. Satisfied because there were some fine performances and the movie was overall captivating and meaningful. Slightly disappointed because it was so predictable. (Not Oscar worthy, by the way... maybe the supporting cast)

Back when I worked for AG, one of my colleagues decided to go to public policy because she often found that our clients are not "worth defending" because they make so much money. This movie would be perfect for her.

Anyway, the movie is less about the evil corporation. Michael Clayton is the focus of the movie. The movie is about the transformation of a person. A series of events have planted the seeds for Michael's transformation and one big change just lit the fire (quite literally). I think one of the key questions I came out asking myself is how long can one person be in a shitty situation. Michael kept taking it in the movie: from his friend, his boss, his firm, his client, his family. In fact, this is a man who takes shit for a living. Reason? Because he has bent over and accepted it. I will not be that person... and I also thought seriously on whether I will be the person who gives shit. No answer on that one yet.

Verdict: Go see it.


Last time I mentioned excessive sex scenes in Lust, Caution, an anonymous comment linked to a HK commentator who discussed why the sex scenes were necessary. My response: yes, for some audiences. No, if those scenes switch the attention to sex - something we as humans do on a regular basis. People in Hong Kong make this into such a big deal. Sure, the three scenes have more love involved progressively. I think that's quite obvious. Some of the positions are quite provocative and have meaning of more compatibility between the two characters. I understand all that. What I also understand is that the focus is shifted to the superficial visual understanding of the story. Most of the audience come away talk about balls and boobs and sex. And that bothers me.

May the record show that Lust, Caution is not about sex! It is about forbidden love and how love does not trump all. Reality does. Situation does. Fear governs the male lead - the scene where he dives into the car in escape ranks as one of the funniest moments in such a serious movie. Love and loyalty governs the female lead - her constant struggle between the sides is painful to fathom. Patriotism governs another male lead - he is so blinded by the grandeur of nationalism that he misses the love that is in front of his eyes (which could have ironically saved everybody).

Yet when push comes to shove, reality takes over. People die because of love. People survive because of reality. And that's what Ang Lee is trying to tell us.

Fortune Telling

Funny how I've been in Hong Kong for years and never visited the legendary 黄大仙 (Wong Dai Sin - literally the Great God with a last name Wong... why am I explaining this!?) temple. The temple attracts many to go and make peace with the gods after their regular work day… and of course learn their futures from the nearby fortune telling stalls.

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect. I've always associated Wong Dai Sin with lower class Hong Kong. As a child, I learned that the temple is chaotic and there's a lot of smoke from all the praying. I knew there was an MTR station to it, but I didn't know exactly which line it was on or how far it is (I got crap from FK and DT when I thought it was in the New Territories � it's actually in Kowloon).

Anyway, I've never thought of the Taoist temple as a tourist attraction. Since one of my aspirations while in Hong Kong is to follow the guide books and experience Hong Kong as a tourist, a visit would be quite novel.

So last weekend, PNGF, who's over here for 10 days, and I went together disguised as tourists. There's something unsettling when you walk out of an ultra modern subway system and an old temple sits right next to it… together with a bustling mall (some stores selling incense, no less).

Colorful entrance to the temple

The temple itself is very colourful (pardon the English � the Brits have it right). There are a few of them littered around the premise and each one of them represents different gods. The Confucius one is for education, for example. There's also a deceivingly peaceful pond and garden tucked behind the temples � don't miss it because it's very rare in Hong Kong to be able to enjoy a peaceful moment within the city. The main temple is where all the action is �people offering fruits/food/whole pig (cooked) to the gods, incense burning everywhere, people on all fours praying, people just praying, children running around as grandparents try to make them pray. Quite a scene.

The main temple and all the praying patrons

However, the real deal in Wong Tai Sin that attracts all the tourists (I'm guessing this is a relatively new thing for HK tourist…?) is the fortune telling. Here's how it (the simple version) works:

  1. Get a bamboo container that has many bamboo sticks inside � if you are facing the main temple, the booth is on your left
  2. (You can also get the instructions there if you are confused as to what to do)
  3. Kneel on your knees facing the temple � anywhere will do
    Ask the gods a question, any question (e.g. what does my career in the next 2.5 weeks/months/years look like? Should I move to a new apartment? Is my partner having an affair? Is surgery going to cure my friend's cancer?)
    Shake the bamboo container facing up (if in doubt, observe others)…
  4. …until ONE bamboo stick falls out
  5. There should be a number (1 to 99 or something) on the stick; write down the question and the corresponding number
  6. repeat the question, shake, write routine until all your questions have been asked
  7. Take all your questions and numbers and head to the fortune teller!
  8. They charge HKD30 per question… and they will upsell you with more fortune telling stuff

Back to our fortune telling adventure. 很邪 (very supernatural/superstitious):

I shook mine good while concentrating on my question… and the stick with the #38 fell out.

PNGF shook hers and it took a while; many bamboo sticks stood out and finally one came out: it was #38 also!

Guess who pitched the Red Sox into the ALDS that day? #38 Curt Shilling! This is all making sense!

Back in reality, we were wandering to the fortune telling stalls and we picked one that indicated that he spoke English. I hide my Cantonese and asked for a fortune telling session, and he led us to another lady.

She sat us down and picked out a piece of paper that corresponded with #38 (that's right, PNGF and I both got the same paper), which is a medium lucky number. On the paper was a poem about a famous idealist poet 陶渊明 who quit his job and went to live on a farm because he didn't want to compromise his morals in politics.

Basically, this is how the fortune telling works: the lady answers your question based on the story on the paper. In our case, since the story is about someone who won't compromise and took the unemployment route instead, then:

If you asked about love, then don't argue or else things won't go right
If you asked about health, don't do the surgery
If you asked about career, compromise a little bit
If you asked about moving homes, don't force stuff in the new place

Though I won't tell you what my question is, with #38 and Mr. "I'll quit if it's too much reality � and I'll be quite well off without reality," you can imagine my fortunes aren't exactly what I wanted to hear. I need challenge, I need change.

Hong Kong, a mix of modern and traditional, east and west


Good Question, Shmoo

Reporting from Hong Kong:

It is now 12:32am and I've just decided, based on Shmoo's comments, that I will not not blog (always wanted to use a double negative). I've also decided that I need to leave work now and not post blogs via emails when I can do so back home in a few minutes.


Blogging at work

Not that I'm supposed to do this... (hey, you know me - I love controversies!)

Recently, we (as a firm) have been granted access to Gmail and other internet email sites. However, I still don't have access to blogger (the working site for blogspot) at work. Hence I have resorted to using the email to send a blog post in. The downside? Can't do pictures. Not that I have much anyway. Herein lies one of the biggest downsides of being home: you don't tend to carry a bulky camera around a town you call home... yet I digress.

Work's been busy. So blogging will end (today).


Restaurant story

It's been a while since I've had an "all went wrong went wrong" story... so I'm not about to start. But this encounter at a Japanese restaurant is pretty funny.

BL and I met for lunch somewhere in Causeway Bay. The Japanese restaurant isn't well known for sushi so we ordered some cooked dishes. Among them was a sizzling plate - you know, the ones where you put the meat on a piece of metal that's either heated or on top of some heating device - with beef tongue.

Turns out the dish was a hot metal piece on top of a gas stove. The dish arrived with an array of sauces. The waiter came over immediately to warn us that the sauce is not to be put on the sizzling plate because it causes a lot of smoke and sometimes customers drip the oil on the gas stove and all hell breaks loose. Okay, we got it. No sauce on plate. He repeated the instructions once more.

The problem was obvious from the on set. With no oil on the cooking device, the meat was going to stick onto the plate. And it did... and our chopsticks couldn't tear one piece of beef tongue from the plate because the sizzling metal wasn't fixed and efforts to turn the beef kept bringing the stupid plate as well. So... what to do? I got a piece of napkin to wrap it around the handle of the metal and hoped to turn the meat before the heat got to my finger.

Naturally, the napkin dipped a bit too much and caught fire from the stove. Unfazed, I tried to blow it out... which of course didn't work cus I'm adding oxygen to the fire. Hmm... the fire is burning through the napkin and is getting hot on my finger.

Remember the sauce that came with the dish? Readily available, this liquid seemed like the perfect cure to the fire in front. And BAM! The flame went up a few feet. That quickly got the attention of the waiter and one of them came rushing in with an extinguisher and spray that shit all over our food as BL and I dove for cover.

Or at least that's what would have happened if this were a Mr. Bean movie (tons of those floating around HK for some odd reason). I placed the burning napkin on the table and extinguished the fire using the bottom of my glass, which was filled with water. I didn't want to use the water cus it might splash back on me. haha.

Sorry, I wish it were more dramatic too! Also as important is the speed at which the waiter rushed over to help. This dish has clearly presented problems before...


Tech Support

The survey sent out from tech support was for a survey to rate their services. One question caught my eye though:

"How is your hardware?"

It's good, thank you very much, it's good.


Lust, Caution

Perhaps anecdotal, but this Freakenomic find is fun to read.

For a lighter read, this coverage on Isiah Thomas' sexual harassment trial is fun too.

Red Sox are heading into the playoffs with the best record in baseball. Of course this doesn't mean anything. But something special is brewing; I'm not even talking about Josh Beckett and David Ortiz and such. It's the rookies. We have a key starter (Dice-K), reliever (Okajima), second baseman (Pedroria), and a key sub (Ellsbury) who are all in their first year in the MLB. Amazing.

In other news, I watched Lust, Caution by Ang Lee.

Like Brokeback Mountain, Lee has kept many unnecessary scenes in the movie. More importantly, like Brokeback Mountain, Lust, Caution is an excellent movie that is Oscar worthy (and just won the award at Venice). The movie is an adaptation of a short story that is a mere 30 minute read. Hence it is quite amazing that Lee has managed to translate a simple (yet intense) 30 minute story into a 2.5 hour movie. Truth be told, the movie could have been 2 hours by cutting 30 minutes of sex scenes.

I won't dwell on the details of the movie. Rather, the movie has once again ranked reality over love - ala Brokeback Mountain. There's marriage love, casual love, sibling love, sex love, patriotism, loyalty, war, separation, reunion, trust, suspicious, fear, ignorance... all these feelings are present in the movie and are a constant struggle within and between each other.

And then there is reality, the mother of all emotions. Perhaps we as audience (I know I speak more for the US audience) are accustomed to the happy endings. It is not easy to comprehend that love did not conquer all. Hong Kong being Hong Kong, the major topic of discussion are the balls - yup, balls, told you there are some unnecessary scenes - of the famous HK star and that diamonds are what's wrong with the world. WAKE UP!

It is reality that governs life. It is situations that governs life. And in Lust, Caution, you will see what happens to those who value love more. Insensitive and cruel, perhaps. But nonetheless true.


On the follies of email...

Once upon a time, email was the cure to homesickness.

12 years ago, I arrived in Kent, CT to attend boarding school. I remember having to (gasp!) write letters to my friends and families in Hong Kong. I also remember the joy of receiving mail (better yet, package!) from Hong Kong, providing all the spiritual support (i.e. Asian food and comics) I needed as a teeager alone in the US - okay, it wasn't that traumatic... but the packages were still great!

When Hotmail was introduced, it was like a gift from god.
  • nobody needs to read my awful hand writing
  • speed
  • copy and paste
  • backspace
  • ctrl+A, del (trust me, this might have saved my life multiple times)
  • cc
  • bcc (very dangerous)
  • archives (also very dangerous)
  • ctrl+f, replace (college, job, and MBA applications!)
All that good stuff simplified communications. It made me feel closer to home and closer to friends. While it didn't replace phone calls (especially to gfs and such) immediately, emails eventually took over when everybody started either a hotmail or yahoo account. It was a great communication tool as I was kept up to date on what was going on in Hong Kong.

The prevelance of email literally flooded the inboxes of everybody because of ease of use. Sure, I can connect with my best friends around the world; but look, I can also connect with all these other people via a few keyboard strokes and a click of the mouse button (I still remember sending one letter back to my classmates in Hong Kong which had a sheet of paper that addressed everybody - 36 of them, I think - in class). Which of course was also done by many people "communicating" with me. People are actually turned OFF by receiving random emails from people they just met.

So the next development was a natural one. Senders consolidated their emails into facebook, friendster, blogs, etc and posted on those. Receivers leave their inboxes flooded (yours truly clears his all the time, drawing awe from many people) and check only those that are important. Result? Less emails!

Instead of emails, you communicate by putting a status on your IM... "need furniture" is mine right now, signaling I just moved in to everybody. A blog entry (oh the irony) is used to communicate. Oh wait, but there's more! Enter Google Reader and Email Reminders (banks, photo albums, friend's websites, and so on). These little gadgets tell you when something is updated!

Thumbs up: no need to go to friends page anymore; everything is fed
Thumbs down: no need to go to friends page anymore
Thumbs waaaaaay down: no more emailing
Thumbs waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down: no more communication

And that, my friends, is the follie of emails.