Monday, April 28, 2008

cat hat/coffee cozy update

I promise this will be my last post for a while. Just thought I'd put up a picture of this evening's finished crochet project. With Templeton... who still looks a bit irritated, but probably less so than if I'd made him wear the cozy on his head again. Oh, and by the way, this photo shows him in his brand new cardboard box (he's surprisingly easy to please).

cat hat/coffee cozy

I don't know about you, but whenever I start crocheting a new coffee cup cozy, I'm always tempted to stop prematurely and just make a little cat hat. And seeing those international cat hats last week didn't help. Today I gave in to temptation, and tried the coffee-cup-cozy-in-progress on the ever-patient Templeton.

Doesn't he look thrilled?
I soon realized that this was too small (for a coffee cup, not for a cat) and had to redo some of it.
The resized cozy in progress.

more weekend fun

I got a chance to visit the Steuernagels this weekend and had a lovely time.

Here's a photo of Owen, Robyn and Eliott (I think Jeff was busy flipping blueberry pancakes when I took this one). Eliott sure has grown since I saw him last!!
A couple funny things about this picture:

1. It's a little fuzzy because -- as I found out while taking it-- my camera is now permanently on the macro setting! I can't change it. Trust me on this one. Oh, and I'm talking about my old camera, not the new baby (which explains why I'm not in hysterics at this moment... oh wait, it would be under warranty anyway... excuse the inner monologue).

2. Owen is very interested in cameras at the moment (as you can see), and mine was no exception. I showed him how to view pictures on my camera, and after that he loved pressing the button and looking at this picture of himself holding his parents' camera. Too bad their camera doesn't show a picture of him holding another camera, and so on. That would be trippy.

peak saturday

April and I hiked up to Victoria Peak on Saturday morning, via the Central Green Trail. The weather was nice, though quite smoggy (as you can see from the photo below). In fact, I didn't notice just how hazy it was until looking at this picture now...
We had a great time though! Here we are squinting up at the camera (and sun)!

We had lunch right above the tram rails -- here's the tram making the steep climb up.

If this post seems at all familiar, it's probably because I blogged about the Central Green Trail last year when Daniel visited, here. It's actually worth comparing the photos in the posts -- the skies were much clearer in October (which is surprising considering that fall and winter are the dry season here, and usually much hazier than spring and summer...).

Saturday, April 26, 2008

olympics olympics everywhere!

Here are more Beijing Olympics signs that I've noticed since my last post... they're really popping up everywhere.
Looking south on Nathan Road.
And here's a shot of the Olympic Games countdown clock in the Central MTR station. Only 104 days left!! (But I'm sure you all already knew that. You probably have your own countdown clocks at home...)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

april excursion

April's back in HK for a short time, and we had a chance to get together for dinner last night. What a great evening!

We started out with dinner at an old standby -- Taj Mahal in Chung King Mansion (a restaurant that was very popular with some of us in high school). April had never been to Chung King before, and timidly suggested it. I, of course, was thrilled to have an excuse to eat Indian food! And it wasn't even my idea!

I guess you're always your own worst critic, but I have to say, I'm not crazy about the way I look in the picture below. I thought about not posting it at all(the benefit of having your own blog -- you are free to post only flattering photos of yourself), but it was our only photo from the restaurant. Looking at this picture makes me think that I need to do one (or more) of the following:
1. get liposuction on parts of my face.
2. get a tan (real or fake).
3. get a hair cut.
4. comb my hair more frequently.
Hopefully you're looking at the lovely spread on the table (samosas, baigan bharta, seafood pulao, and rhoti), and not critiquing me or my outfit.
I love this one!! We just happened to walk by this sign that said April! How could we not take a photo?!

After we finished eating, I looked at my watch, and then on a whim we were off to the light show. Or more specifically, the Symphony of Lights, the world's largest, longest-running, daily light show... or something like that.

A blurry April with the light show in the background. I've been to the Symphony quite a few times, but always enjoy it. My favorite part is when the participating buildings get introduced individually, and then do a little small-group light-up dance together with the buildings around them. I guess you just have to see it for yourself to understand what that looks like...

After the Symphony, we wandered around near the Cultural Center and came across some Beijing 2008 promotional posters.

And some promoting the torch relay. I guess they're now calling it the "Journey of Harmony." Hehe.
And then, who did we happen to run into but my five favorite Olympic mascots, the Friendlies!!

And that was just the beginning! We soon stumbled upon a huge Friendlies exhibit on the TST promenade. I was in Friendlies heaven! That's Beibei (the whale with arms and legs) windsurfing in the foreground.
And then we noticed this interesting scene. Couldn't really figure out what Olympic sport Huanhuan and Jingjing were supposed to be demonstrating here... wrestling? Figure skating? I don't think that I have a particularly dirty mind, but even I couldn't help thinking it looked like they were up to something else... and I'm sure I'm not the first to have had this thought.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"light the passion share the dream"

The Olympic torch is coming to Hong Kong on Friday, May 2nd. We won't have school that day, so I'm debating whether or not to go out and see it. How many times does the Olympic torch pass through HK, after all? Not often, that's for sure. I think this will be the first time. (Correction: The torch has passed through HK before -- on its way to the 1964 Tokyo Olympic games)

There are lots of posters up promoting the torch relay.
The smaller version:

"Light the Passion Share the Dream." It seems like there should be some punctuation in there somewhere, doesn't it? A period, a semi-colon, or even a comma would be nice.

I guess this is more of a generic Olympics ad, but I'll post it here anyway.

Monday, April 21, 2008

mike and helen meet ben and jerry

I'm trying to convince them to be my guest bloggers... I know you'd like to hear first-hand about their first Ben and Jerry's encounter.

seoul train

Last night I went to an event organized by a couple friends and colleagues to raise awareness about the plight of North Korean refugees in China. They showed the documentary Seoul Train, which if you haven't seen it yet, is very much worth watching. The film follows three small groups of refugees, all passing through China with the hope of ultimately making it to South Korea. Though escape into China provides a degree of relief from the poverty and oppression experienced by the majority of North Koreans, the Chinese government does not recognize North Koreans as political refugees, and will arrest them and repatriate them if caught (in NK defecting is a capital offense). All this is done in violation of the UN High Commission for Human Rights 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol, which China is party to.

I thought the film was very well done -- an excellent piece of documentary journalism. The facts and events were not over-politicized or emotionalized, but instead allowed to speak for themselves.

The three groups of refugees in the film each try different means of gaining refugee status. The first group travels to the China-Mongolia border and attempts to cross over to Mongolia, where they can finally be recognized as refugees. The second tries to enter the Japanese embassy, where they can be granted amnesty. The third group attempts to follow Chinese foreign affairs protocol and applies for refugee status (apparently the Chinese government once claimed that North Koreans were only arrested because they were not going through the appropriate legal channels -- so this group of refugees decided to put this to the test).

I was glad to learn more about this issue, and plan to do more research on my own (the Seoul Train website has a lot of resource links -- looks like a good place to start). They do a good job of suggesting simple ways that normal people can help -- most of which involve applying pressure to the political bodies central to this issue.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

hello kitty politics

Without further ado, here is the promised follow-up post. I think this whole display was called "Telford Plaza (name of the mall) X Hello Kitty." Genius. Pure genius.

Hello Kitty, My Melody, Bad Badtz-Maru and others dressed as pandas and participating in Olympic sports while climbing bamboo.

Some of the cartoon characters celebrating the Olympics above Tiananmen square (I love that Bad Badtz-Maru is Mao Zedong! Oh my!). Tiananmen is in Beijing, where the Olympics will take place, so overall, yes, this makes some sense.
My Melody and others hanging out at the Temple of Heaven. This is another Beijing landmark, so yes, also makes sense.

Bad Badtz and friends on the Great Wall (not Wheel!), China's most recognizable landmark, so yes, again, this makes sense.

So what was the fourth landmark chosen for this wonderful display? Another Beijing landmark maybe? That would make sense. Or maybe the HK skyline, since we're so proud of hosting the equestrian events? No and no -- none of the above. The fourth scene is the Potala Palace, icon of Tibet. And you might not be able to see this, but both animal characters are wearing shirts that say "China." If this is not a political statement, I do not know what is.

Children posing with a medaled Kitty.

Portraits of Kitty posing in front of various HK and Chinese landmarks in the background. Kittys-dressed-as-pandas-and-doing-Olympic-events dioramas (diving and basketball) in the foreground.
More of the same. (Dioramas featured: ping pong and gymnastics)

My Melody, the Olympic marksman (or homicidal gang-banger?). Note the Hello Kitty outlines on the bricks behind (it's all in the details!).

Proof that it's not just children posing with these things...

jackie, and other highlights from this day

It's been an interesting Saturday. Here are some of today's highlights:

  • We're in the middle of a typhoon signal 3, complete with the kind of wind and rain that sees you drenched immediately after stepping outside, regardless of whether or not you are carrying an umbrella. But I left the house this morning anyway...
  • I recorded some monologues for an ESL website that some friends are putting together. I've been exposed to a large number of ridiculously bad English listening exercises in my lifetime, so I can tell you with some confidence that these do not fall into that category. I might be a little biased, but I think they're pretty good. I will be sure to share the link to the website once it's up and running, so that you can listen to me introduce myself as Millie Smith from Boston (I thought about trying to do the accent, but in the end chose comprehensibility over authenticity). The recording was done in Kowloon Bay, so after finishing up, and having lunch with everyone...
  • I went to Megabox (I was already in Kowloon Bay, so how could I not?). My favorite (read: only) Hong Kong (Australian) craft store, Spotlight, was having a sale, so although I didn't really need anything, I felt compelled to go and check out the deals. The sale was less than spectacular, and I left with only a few skeins of yarn.
  • After all the shopping, I decided it was time for a break, so got a latte and a slice of dulce de leche cheesecake at the Cheesecake Cafe. It was as good as it looks.
  • While enjoying my cheesecake, I tried to zone out the California Fitness promotional event that was going on nearby. I'm actually quite surprised by how easy it's become for me to ignore blaring techno music, shrill nasal voices shouting over loud-speakers, and the like. I might have heard Jackie Chan's name a few times in the shouting, but didn't think anything of it. He's been the California Fitness poster boy for a while now, so I wasn't surprised at the name-dropping. But then I happened to look up from my cheesecake just in time to see Jackie himself going up the escalator. Just like that. Unfortunately, I had no time to get my camera out -- otherwise, maybe I'd have proof of the sighting. I thought briefly about running out and following him, but he had quite the entourage with him, and then there's the fact that I would have had to leave my cheesecake, which would have been down-right unthinkable. I guess I should point out that although Jackie calls HK home, and probably spends a good deal of his time here, I don't run into him often. In fact, my only other Jackie sighting was in Virginia, when he spoke at William and Mary (on a tangent, I attended that event decked out in everything HK that I owned, hoping that Jackie would notice me, but he didn't).
  • While heading back to the train station (through another mall), I noticed some very interesting Beijing Olympics decorations. There were no Friendlies (don't get your hopes up), but what there was was possibly more amusing. Think along the lines of Japanese cartoon characters (1) dressed as a certain charismatic Chinese species, (2) participating in Olympic events, all the while (3) making strong political statements. Stay tuned for my next post -- complete with photos!

Friday, April 18, 2008

international cat hats

I just got this undeniable urge to blog, but because of my exhausted state, had to spend a minute or two just trying to remember what I'd come across today that seemed so blog-worthy. And then it hit me. This morning I read about a craft blogger who is knitting international cat hats. International. Cat. Hats. At the moment, she has patterns for a Thai headdress and a French beret posted, but it seems like more are in the works. There's no question that Templeton would look fetching in this beret, but it's also equally certain that I would have a difficult, nay-I-say impossible time trying to follow this pattern. The hat looks pretty complicated, and I have little knitting-pattern experience. But maybe it would be a good learning experience. And maybe if I worked really hard, I could have a little tricolour hat finished up just in time for Bastille Day.

Oh, the blog is Spindles and Spice. And if you want to see something really interesting, check out her tutorial on how to spin dog hair into yarn. (I know, I think it's kind of gross too... but then as soon as I think about how gross it is, I have a little argument with myself in my head that goes something like this: "well, we make yarn out of sheep and rabbit fur, why not dog fur... and cat fur? the yarn can be washed before it's used so it won't smell like a dog"... "but it's still gross. some fibers should just not be spun into yarn"). Have I mentioned that I'm tired and really should go to bed?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

great wheel of china

This is no joke. I just saw something on the news about the new ferris wheel in Singapore, the Singapore Flyer. It beats the London Eye by a few meters, but will soon be surpassed by the Great Wheel of China, to be completed in Beijing in 2009. What a name!

I found the picture below in this Shanghai Daily article, which has more info on the Great Wheel if you're interested.

It looks like you'd be able to see a lot on a clear day... but really, how many of those does Beijing get in an average year?

Monday, April 14, 2008

scam X 2

I'd heard about African internet scams some time ago, but it wasn't until this month that one of the emails made it past my spam filters and into my inbox. And then less than 2 weeks later, I received the exact same letter with only the names changed. The first one was from a Mrs. Jennifer Bruce, telling me about the death of her husband, Mr. Abram Bruce; the second was from Mrs. Anita Adams, the wife of the late Mr. Adams Johnson (?). In the letter, both Mrs. Bruce and Mrs. Adams identify themselves as Kuwaiti nationals (apparently done to explain the millions of dollars in the bank), but really, do "Jennifer Bruce" and "Anita Adams" sound very middle-eastern to you? I'm tempted to write back and give the scam artists some believability coaching... but I won't.

From Mrs Jennifer Bruce/ Mrs Anita Adams
N [38 Rue Des Martyrs Cocody
Abidjan,Cote d'Ivoire


I am the above named person from Kuwait. I am married to Mr Abram Bruce/Mr Adams Johnson, who worked with Kuwait embassy in Ivory Coast for nine years before he died in the year 2004. We were married for eleven years without a child. He died after a brief illness that lasted for only four days.
Before his death we were both born again Christian. Since his death I decided not to remarry or get a child outside my matrimonial home which the Bible is against. When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of $2. 5 Million (Two Million Five Hundred U.S. Dollars) in the bank here in Abidjan in suspense account.
Presently, the fund is still with the bank. Recently, my Doctor told me that i have serious sickness which is cancer problem. The one that disturbs me most is my stroke sickness. Having known my condition I decided to donate this fund to a church or individual that will utilize this money the way I am going to instruct herein. I want a church that will use this fund for orphanages, widows, propagating the word of God and to endeavour that the house of God is maintained.
The Bible made us to understand that blessed is the hand that giveth. I took this decision because I don’t have any child that will inherit this money and my husband relatives are not Christians and I don’t want my husband’s efforts to be used by unbelievers. I don’t want a situation where this money will be used in an ungodly way. This is why I am taking this decision. I am not afraid of death hence i know where I am going. I know that I am going to be in the bosom of the Lord. Exodus 14 VS 14 says that the Lord will fight my case and I shall hold my peace.
I don’t need any telephone communication in this regard because of my health hence the presence of my husband’s relatives is around me always I don't want them to know about this development. With God all things are possible. As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the contact of the bank here in Abidjan. I want you and the church to always pray for me because the Lord is my shepherd. My happiness is that I lived a life of a worthy Christian. Whoever that wants to serve the Lord must serve him in spirit and Truth. Please always be prayerful all through your life.
Contact me on the above e-mail address for more information’s, any delay in your reply will give me room in sourcing another church or individual for this same purpose. Please assure me that you will act accordingly as I Stated herein. Hoping to receive your

Remain blessed in the Lord.
Yours in Christ,
Mrs Jennifer Bruce/Mrs Anita Adams.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

spring flowers

I'm posting another link to a Facebook album here... just some pretty flowers that I've photographed recently. I was going to post the photos directly on this blog, but they're very large files, and thus take a long time to download (I know that I could resize them, but can't be bothered)... so a FB album seems to be the easiest way to go for now.

I've really enjoyed being able to take these kinds of macro shots that were impossible with my old camera.

Monday, April 07, 2008

riddle me this...

Last week in a departmental meeting, I was presented with a new job prospect. I guess I should back up a little and tell you that one of my current responsibilities is admissions testing. When a prospective student applies, I test their English ability to see if the student is a good fit for our school, and vice versa. We've had quite a few students to test recently, as the school is in its final stages of expansion, and thus has a number of spots to fill. Anyway, the ESL portion of the admissions screening is quite short and doesn't take long to administer, and in the past has been carried out by both myself and the middle-school ESL teacher. Having two of us giving this portion of the test simultaneously has been a bit on the unnecessary/excessive side, and we've both been left with a considerable amount of down-time between students. So I brought this up in our last meeting, sure that there was a better way to divvy up the testing load. Our director thought it over and suggested that during our next screening session, the middle school ESL teacher will do the ESL portion of the test on her own, while yours truly will do a chunk of a whole different test, more specifically, the riddles portion of another test.

Yes, you read that correctly. It looks like asking riddles will soon be part of my job. This might sound strange, but let me assure you that the test is legitimate and well-respected, and the riddles are not meant to be confusing. On the contrary! They test a range of sub-skills from vocabulary knowlege to problem solving, but do get progressively harder.

Quite a few questions came to mind when the new arrangement was first suggested, and I'll leave you with some of those.

1. Can I require prospective students to address me as "The Riddler"?
2. Can I write my own riddles and throw some of those into the mix?
3. Can I show up to testing dressed in a court jester's costume?
4. Can I preface each riddle with the words "riddle me this"?
5. Can I play a few notes on a recorder after each riddle, like this guy?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

great wall of hk

I'm sending this postcard to a friend (who used to live in HK and knows that the city is nowhere near the Great Wall of China) as a joke, and am hoping that it doesn't further any pre-existing geographical ignorance among those who might see it.
So, I wonder why they produce and sell this postcard in Hong Kong. Admittedly, it's pretty hard to find here -- I've only ever seen these at the Temple Street night market -- so was it an accident? Has it been reprinted as a joke?

Any other hypotheses?


Sal let me try out her new button-maker the other day, and boy was it fun! Here are a few that I made. They were pretty quick and easy to make (especially with Sal there to show me the ropes), and a great way to use up all my little scraps of fabric. Salome has generously offered me more time with her button-maker, and I plan to take her up on it. Hopefully, I won't wear out my welcome... :)

cat's in the bag

Has anyone ever figured out why most cats seem to love plastic bags so much?

I don't know where this bag came from, but when I got home today, Templeton had already made it his new home. I took him out of it, and put him in his basket (one of his many other "beds"), but he went straight back to the bag.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

the yak

I was just doing the last of my unpacking, and was happy to come across one of my favorite souvenirs from India: my matching yak mugs. I got them at a handicraft store in a Tibetan refugee village near Haridwar.

Simultaneous front and back views.

The best part of the mug: the yak emblazoned cover.
A little background: My admiration for the yak developed when I taught at a Tibetan school in China and heard stories about the noble animal from my students. I recommend the movie Himalaya to anyone in doubt of this creature's majesty.

Here's the mug with the toy yak that I bought some time ago in China. (It might look familiar because of this post)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

problems and solutions

Problem #1: I accidentally leave the book I'm reading on the plane after disembarking in Delhi (and at a very pivotal part of the story, too!).

Solution: I buy a new copy in India, which turns out to be a great place to buy books. Bookshops have excellent selection, and sell books at a considerable discount off the cover price. This one was about 40% less than what I would have paid in Hong Kong.

Problem #2: The lens cap on my new camera (that, amusingly enough, I'd been worried about losing) is knocked off and follows a trajectory directly into a train squatty potty. It's now somewhere on the tracks between Haridwar and Delhi. *

Solution: Knowing my affection for all things crocheted, Susie jokingly suggests that I crochet a new lens cover. Little does she know that I already have one ready! I'd brought my yarn and hook with me, and had made another coffee cozy, which I now realize can easily double as a lens protector of sorts.

*(Why did I have my camera with me in the train bathroom, you might ask? Excellent question. There were few moments on the trip when I wasn't the stereotypical camera-clad tourist. Even when I was sleeping, my camera was never far away. See, I was determined not to miss anything, and wanted to make sure I was prepared for any and all interesting photo opportunities. Yes, even train bathroom photo opportunities (actually, in my defense, I was thinking about opening the [moving] train door and taking some photos -- something I'd done on our previous train ride -- on my way back from the bathroom). Needless to say, I've learned my lesson, and in future, will be happy to sacrifice one or two obscure photographs for the well-being of my camera)