On the bright side...

This week has not been kind to me. A trip to Beijing might change things. Or not.

At airport security, they took out the tool that secures the platform between my camera and my tripod and indicated that "tools" are not allowed on the plane. Even screwdrivers for eyeglasses are out. Great. Not that I'm okay with giving up the "tool"... but I didn't even bring my tripod. The tools are all in the pouch and I just carry it everywhere. So now I have to check in my bag...

I really don't get it. My keys can be a tool... more deadly too. Let's just say you can't stop terrorists by going strict on non-terrorists. Arg. By the way, I remember back at Tufts they taught us that "terrorism" is an asymmetric battle to inflict harm on normal life. Based on airport security, I'd say the terrorists scored one right there.

On the bright side... I got an upgrade to business class.


Black Wednesday...

Before I go into it, there are TWO Chinese women tennis players in the Aussie Open semi-finals! TWO! They have tough tests ahead with one playing former #1 Henin and the other likely facing Serena Williams. Still... two in the semis is quite an achievement. This year is the first year they play for their own money rather than having the Chinese sports authorities take a big slice. Who said capitalism doesn't work!?

Today I had a very important interview, and it went like this (Black Wednesday):
  • Stepped on a dog on my way out of my building... dog owner yelled at me for not being careful
  • Rode a crazy cab where the driver claimed all politicians are drug dealers and one of them was responsible for Chinese sprinter Liu Xiang's injuries... and that Gordon Brown is a Russian spy/ Spanish drug dealer (I kid you not)
  • Arrived at the interview 30 minutes before hand, had a leisure breakfast... only to find out I'm in the WRONG building 5 minutes before the interview
  • Ran to the right building, entered reception covered in sweat
  • Here's the worst part: remember I blogged about being interviewed by Bill Gates? Well, the man asked if I blog, and he typed in my blog address and started to read it!!!!!
Man, I'm laughing right this moment just thinking about it. I didn't blog about the company name of the man's name... but I was clearly writing about him. LOL. He was browsing a bit and then we continued our conversation. What should I have done besides sweating more??? ("Sorry sir, I wrote about you and compared you to Bill Gates... it's a compliment. Really, it is. Sorry I swore in the blog post. I was excited. I do silly things when I'm excited")


音樂人生 KJ

My last documentary was Michael Moore's Fahrenheir 9/11... so it's been quite a while.

音樂人生 KJ (Music Life KJ) is a documentary about a young and talented pianist named KJ and his life when he was 11 (2002) and 17 (2007/8). The documentary mixes between the two periods, dissecting this young man's life into three parts: his talent, his views on music, and his views on life. The first words in the documentary from KJ: I want to be a human being.

Although this would be a major disservice to KJ, let me try to put his life (according to the documentary) in a nutshell: he is a perfectionist in all aspects in life, and he expects that he can achieve perfection in life through music.

Unfortunately, life certainly isn't perfect. And the young man is torn between imperfections and his attempts to correct them. The seeds were planted early, as you see the 12 year old KJ get really frustrated with a professional orchestra in the Czech Republic. He yells at his older brother for not being able to play the music correctly. His siblings all point to KJ's learning music as the start of his pursue for perfection. Then you see the 17/18 year old version trying to train a bunch of young musicians to play perfect orchestra music... and he harshly criticizes some of them for hitting the wrong note, or the wrong time, or the wrong note at the wrong time. And he gets really frustrated when the music isn't perfect. Then of course, when the kids get it right, like so many perfectionists, he becomes the happiest person alive and forgives all the problems before.

I've told you many times his attitude towards music - perfection - and he tries to place this attitude to everybody around him. For example, at a competition, he insists on making the perfect music and therefore going overtime for 2 minutes. He is aloof and he doesn't celebrate with his fellow musicians when they win. He harshly criticizes those who play music because they want to win music competitions. (Josekin's note: it's the right attitude, but too simplistic... competition is a good motivation for kids - not every teenager can just motivate themselves to make good music because of their love for music) His only focus is to play good music. And I salute that.

Somewhere along the lines, KJ has also equated music with life. I must first say that KJ is extremely mature for his age, even at 11 (more on this later). He believes perfect music and influence people into perfect lives (My interpretation based on a 1.5 hour documentary). For example, at 17, he is deeply deeply troubled by his parent's divorce. You can see the agony on his face when asked about this topic (very very well done section for a documentary).

As I said before, KJ is clearly a very mature person... at 11, he's put quite a bit of thought on why human beings exists, briefly concluding that it might be better to die young after listening to perfect music: therefore achieving a perfect life... and dying at a high point in life is better than all subsequent points. He's ELEVEN!

Anyway, I guess you see where I'm coming from (if you've read this far... haha). Some people are ahead of their age, seek meaning and perfection in life, and can find it in a very small part of life, be it music, video games, studies, etc. They become very good at it, achieving "perfection"... but fail to leverage it into other parts of life. It's tough cus they are all so smart and talented. But, amen, that is life.

Highly recommended. I think the director used some very effective editing to show us the life of KJ. I believe what I saw and I feel that much closer to KJ. I wish I can meet him. I wish I can tell him about Alan. I wish he would study something other than music - philosophy perhaps, even if that would seriously challenge his way of life. I think if he can experience life without music for a little bit, he can see other perfections.


Results are in - quest for mobile data

I compromised (See what being cheap means: lost time and efforts... and sanity at times). In the end, I decided even with no synching of contacts and calendars, I got what I want... which was emails and IM.

So here are the results (all unit in HKD):
  • $1000 2nd hand blackberry phone on $13 monthly plan for 6 months; includes enough voice and data (will try to borrow phone that can browse internet from friend)
  • $500 2nd hand blackberry phone on $12 monthly plan for 12 months; includes unlimited emails and IM (eventually will add voice/data and replace the aforementioned 6 month plan)
I was being cheap... damn I miss a salary from Bain!


Interviewed by Bill Gates

Well... not quite. While working on my consulting project, I've been selectively interviewing with high potential companies. After 6 hours of interviews with 4 people in the department, they've told me that I will have a 2 hour interview with the president of the company next week.

Given the size and nature of this company, it's similar to me interviewing at Microsoft for a strategy position and then Microsoft telling me that Bill Gates will talk to me for 2 hours.


My friend 2R put it best: this means the management team hired a very capable middle management to free up time for the management team. (Yes, if I am hired, I will be the middle management! yay!)


Hong Kong Dum Sum at 添好運

When my friend ST asked if I wanted to go to 添好運 for dim sum, I immediately said yes and started to call my other friends to see if they want to go as well.

The chef used to work at Michelin 3-star restaurant (1 of 2 in HK) 龍景 at Four Seasons and decided he could do much better opening his own restaurant. Of course he is right! Tucked under a unassuming building in a very model district, 添好運 had a huge crowd waiting at 11am already.

We took a ticket and went to walk around the neighborhood for 45 minutes before coming back to the crowd... another 20 minutes, we were in. There weren't that many dim sum items to choose for (20 or so?)... and we ordered from half the menu.

Strange experience... it was kind of regular at first, improved in the middle, and then got really good in the last few dishes (desserts were a disaster - don't order).

The first few dim sums that came (Shirmp Dumpling, BBQ Pork Crepe, Beef Ball) were good but not great. The wraps are yummy and well-made: not too thick, yet maintaining the elasticity. The fillings were okay. 馬拉糕 was the exception... usually very oily, this one is solid and spongy with very little oil.


The second round had my own dim sum favorite 咸水角 and their famous BBQ Pork bun. 咸水角 was pretty good, maintaining the balance between the fried dough and the vegi-pork fillings. Temperature was good and flavors came together quite well. Ultimately, it's definitely above avg but not great. The 叉燒包 seemed to be the most popular among the customers. Quite a few people ordered extra to take home. I think it's nice... but I've had something similar before at 海都 (a HK dim sum establishment) and I wasn't surprised with the one from 添好運. It was great and exactly what I expected... hence a little disappointed.



The last few dishes were decidedly better than the ones before, standing out from their dim sum peers. The Pork Ribs, in particular, blew me away. The pork was perfectly cooked and literally melted in my mouth. I just wish there weren't any bones and I could chew on it forever. The vegitable dumpling also blew me away. It had quite a bit of strong vegi flavors (chong, yim sai) that mixed very well with a special sauce that mellowed out the tastes. I was very impressed with both.



The inconsistencies did make me think... did the master chef take a afternoon break and affected the output in the beginning??? That's my theory anyway.

Conclusion: would go again if the wait isn't that long and that I have something else to do in the YMT and MK area (such as shopping like mad).


My quest for mobile data

Here's what I want: a mobile device with a QWERTY keyboard with a plan with some minutes and lots of data usage. I want to sync my Google email, contacts, and calender to make my life mobile and easy. Oh, and I want to be cheap about everything cus I'm not earning a Bain salary anymore. Haha.

Here's my quest... a 90% failure:
  • Stage 1: 2nd hand Blackberry Curve 8350 for HKD 1000. Since I gave back my Blackberry to Bain, and BBs have the best QWERTY keyboards, Yahoo Auction served its purpose
  • Stage 2: Cheap phone/data plan from TDML for HKD 600 (6 month contract). Well, I've worked for telco clients and TDML is the best value. For only USD13 a month, I get 1,200 minutes and 1,000 MB. Deal!
UH-OH!!! The data plan from TDML doesn't support BB phone!! Fudge!!
  • Stage 3: Research time! I can salvage the situation with China Mobile's Blackberry plan for HKD 80 a month...
UH-OH!!! The 2nd hand phone doesn't work with China Mobile...! The phone is locked by the previous owner!! Fudge!!
  • Stage 4: Another 2nd hand Blackberry 8310 for HKD 500. While trying to contact the original seller via Yahoo Auctions, my friend KC has a spare one to sell
UH-OH!!! That one doesn't work with China Mobile either, despite KC's assurance it was okay! Fudge!!
  • Stage 5: With a "fixed phone", I finally got the China Mobile plan for HKD 1000 (12-month plan). This includes all PUSH email and no browsing
UH-OH!!! The no browsing part means I can't Sync, or so CM service people tell me. Fudge!!
  • Stage 6: According to the 3rd sales rep, I can add a HKD 98 monthly plan to get browsing!
UH-OH!!! There's no browser on my phone right now and nobody is sure if it can be installed! Fudge!!

So... after HKD 1500 in TWO phones and HKD 1600 in TWO mobile plans, I'm still can't get my Sync to work... and I'm looking at another HKD 1200 to get what I want. UGH.

Well, on the brighter side, had I bought a new BB with a new plan with more minutes and more data, it would still cost me more.

But the trouble is too much already. And I'm commited to more trouble! UGH!


Hole in the Wall - Food in HK

Good food in Hong Kong has always been very affordable. Part of it is because the taste buds are just more sophisticated and mediocrity will not be tolerated. So, as a restaurant, you have to offer a good product regardless of the price. And because the food comes first (not the service or the environment, factors much more important elsewhere in the globe), restaurants are able to offer their good food at a decent price without the best location and decor.

Legacy-type hole-in-the-wall restaurants are plentiful in Hong Kong. Most of them have been around for years and slowly made a name for itself. 蘭芳園 and 九記牛腩 are two I frequent quite a bit. Here are some a bit off the beaten path:

蝦醬豬腩 (Shrimp paste pork belly)
This is a specialty in Tai O, all the way in Lantau Island. It's a fisherman's village that has retained some of its charm despite the development of tourism. Here are some pictures from the hike to Tai O. I cann't remember the name of the restaurant, but I suspect they all offer similarly awesome food that is fresh and MSG-free.

A visit to the remote Yuan Long (Pictures from our visit to Wetland Park, right next to Yuan Long) would be incomplete without a visit to the famous 佳記 for it‘s 涼粉 - um, you can't even see it as it's buried under the fruit! Quite yummy... although what I remember is the pig's skin 咖喱豬皮 and wing tips 雞翅尖. Those were even better than their signature dessert. Nonetheless, I feel I have the obligation to show the picture of the gorgeous and ultra-large B-仔涼粉 - it was enough for six of us.

炸蠔 (Fried Oysters) from 流浮山
Everyone in Hong Kong knows about the oysters from 流浮山. It's just that only a few of us actually venture over there, as it is almost an hour from anywhere else in Hong Kong. There's a Chinese saying called 聞名不如見面 (To see the real thing is way better than hearing about it). Unfortunately, the oysters in 流浮山 is reverse - tasting the real thing never measured up to the expectation. The oysters were okay. The shirmp was nasty and didn't taste fresh at all. And the fish was overcooked.

炸蓮藕餅 (Fried lotus) from 生記
Was lucky to be inivted for a birthday dinner for a friend at the famous 生記海鮮 in Wan Chai. It's a difficult reservation and you sense it right when you walk into the restaurant. Despite its modest decoration, some tables were showing off a lot of bling. The food is absolutely fantastic (besides a dish of pig's feet) across the board. The fried lotus was fresh, crunchy, and yet still moist. 生記 has been regarded as the place that makes the most authentic sweet and sour pork in HK (um, the world)... I've had better, but this is still pretty good (top 5 perhaps). Mmm... sweet and sour pork. I really shouldn't be posting about food at 10:30am... not good for my stomach.

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Wagyu Brunch (HK)

I'm still fighting BSLW's claim 2 years ago that you cannot find quality Western food in Hong Kong at a decent price. Wagyu's weekend brunch did not help my cause. Here are the pancakes... way too spongy with little flavor. It seemed like the cook forgot to add spices and just put more bananas on top. Yeah, the picture looks great, but don't let it fool you. It was a bad pancake.
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Dumber? Low attention span? The value of entertainment.

This day and age, I'm looking for two things in entertainment like movies and TVs:
  • Does it make me dumber?
  • Does it lose me half way in?
Sorry I can't have a nice table here... but here goes:

G.I. Joe (IMDB)
  • Yup, made me 15 years dumber
  • Yup, lost in 10 minutes... and then entertains me for 2 minutes... and then loses me again
Not recommended. And please, no sequel!!! Just go an kill bad guys already... we don't need the romantic relationships that don't look real anyway.

Sherlock Holmes (IMDB)
  • No, did not make me dumber; didn't make me smarter either
  • No, movie kept me entertained throughout
Recommended for 2 hours of solid entertainment. Downey Jr. is slowly proving himself to be a pretty good actor. Jude Law gives a fine performance. Not sure where Rachel McAdams was during the movie, though she occasionally gives some fresh air to the script. Sure, I'll go see the sequel as well!

十月圍城 Bodyguards and Assassins (IMDB)
  • No, did not make me dumber. I felt slightly more patriotic after the movie... for 30 minutes. Please note that this is fiction and not real history.
  • Yes, sometimes it gets repetitive as people fight and die. I liked the build up... but the final 10 fight scenes... couldn't it have been 5?
Recommended. I'll overlook the fight scenes and skip to parts I liked: each martyr died for their own passion. The general to reinstall the family glory; the monk to reconnect with his faith and to spit in the policeman's face; the general's daughter to avenge her father's death; the gambling spy to be remembered by his child; the begger to see the women he loves but cannot have (um, yup, that's his mom... don't ask. I don't understand either.); the servant to protect his master; the master to protect democracy; the assassin (yup, he dies too, surprise!) to pay final tribute to his country. They all died for a different reason that they thought was worth dying for. Good stuff.

I also want to note those who didn't die: the tycoon, the organizer, the revolutionary, the police commander... yup... I think it's a subtle dig at those in powerful seats. You die for passion if you are a follower, and the "leaders" will succeed with your blood. It's always worked that way, no?

(By the way, Leon Lai got a bad rap in the movie. Not sure why. He wasn't good, but he wasn't that bad either)

Avatar IMAX 3D (IMDB)
  • Yes, made me dumber, especially the part where the natives start chanting like humans in Matrix: Reloaded (And Morphius's speech was practically copied)
  • Yes, I kept waiting for the final fight I almost passed out in my seat. Did it have to be 2.5 hours long? Couldn't it be 1.5 hours and have 1 more show fitted in? Plus, IMAX 3D isn't ideal from row 5.
Recommended for the IMAX 3D experience - much better than Up. Truly remarkable... very realistic... and the 3D was sometimes mind blowing. I just wish it were shorter and not that stupid. This is corporate America working here... they would have wiped out the indigenous people before trying scientists and then resorting to the military. Plus I don't think 20,000 people with bows and arrows would have been a match for the para-military men anyway. And wouldn't they just come back with bigger guns? Arg. My head hurts from thinking. Wait a minute, why do I have to think for this movie?

Mad Men (IMDB)
  • No, made me think a bit... but not too much. Not like The Wire.
  • Yes, I had some lapses. Sometimes I think it's just too subtle about its messages.
Recommended... mostly because Season 2 is said to be unbelievable. Season 1 really wasn't bad, but I can't pinpoint any particularly good parts either. Love the development of Don Draper from director to partner... Peggy Olsen from secretary to writer (and mother!)... Pete Campbell from manager to, uh, manager... Betty Draper's spirals... the relationship between Joan Hollaway and Roger Sterling... the strangeness and oddness of Cooper... the parent relationships within the Campbells (both Pete and Trudy)... all the family relationships... all very interesting. But subtle.

Looking forward to season 2.

  • Yup, most def makes me dumber... even the "news", which concentrates on so many meaningless local stuff
  • Yup, I cannot keep my attention for more than 2 minutes
Not recommended. AH. I need ESPN, which would have drawn a no, doesn't make me dumber nor smarter and no, will not lose attention.


HK News makes me scratch my head...

I'm working from home this morning and there's a discussion on inflation on TV by some "respectable" commentators:
  • "Avatar is making about HK$70M in 15 days, clearly challenging the highest grossing movie in Hong Kong... this is huge inflation risk"
Josekin thinks that since Avatar charges double the price due to its 3D technology (See my thoughts on another 3D, Up... tho I was told Avatar is very much worth it), it's gross revenue should be adjusted downwards, probably spiking the inflation threat.

Sure, there's inflation, but as a professional commentator, you really should do some basic research and not use a movie as an example. I understand using the Avatar example rings in more ears... but still. Fail.