Monday, 20 February 2017

Super Fun Super Pool

People playing with lights in front of the Bank of China
On Friday evening I finished working out at the gym and on my way home I heard music and saw some glowing lights at Chater Garden, across from the Bank of China Building.

The circular art installation gets people involved
I took a closer look and saw in a circular penned area were colourful discs that changed colours when people stepped on them, and music played in the background.

It turns out it's an interactive art installation called Super Pool by Jen Lewin, an American artist based out of New York.

She is known for combining light, sound and complex engineering to create art installations that use LED lighting.

One of her best known works is called Pool, that uses over 200 LED-lit platforms that change colour according to the pressure and speed changes of the person stepping on it.

The Pool Around The World from Jen Lewin Studio on Vimeo.

For Super Pool, over 100 of the LED-lit pads are used.

The installation is part of the 45th Hong Kong Arts Festival that just kicked off last Thursday and it has since moved on to either Tsim Sha Tsui or Tsing Yi because tonight Super Pool is already gone from Central.

Everyone had fun watching the pads change colour
Nevertheless, I managed to get inside to try out Super Pool myself and it was the perfect playground for kids to run around, while adults were busy taking selfies. Super Pool is even cooler at night with the pads glowing from blue to aquamarine to magenta.

Visitors could play at Super Pool for about half an hour until the next batch of people are allowed in, but really 15 minutes was plenty. Afterwards we were encouraged to Instagram pictures we had taken and add #superpoolhkaf so that it would appear on its own account on a large screen and we could even get our picture printed out for fun.

While most people probably didn't understand the artistic value of the piece, it was definitely enjoyed by a lot of visitors who had fun playing with lights and sound on a Friday night.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Swimming and Dogs on Sunday

There was little fanfare about the Kennedy Town indoor pools open
I don't take the bus home often these days, mostly because of time. But yesterday I wasn't in a rush and did, only to find that when the bus passed the Kennedy Town Swimming Pool, I was shocked to see people standing outside.

It was just before 6pm and I saw a banner out front that announced the indoor pool was open!

I had read earlier it wouldn't open until April!

When I went home I checked the government website and yes -- it was open since February 9.

At left is the 50-metre pool, 25 metres on right, and jacuzzi
So this morning before a brunch appointment at noon, I rushed over to the pool to check it out.

Underneath the futuristic roof are two pools, one 25 metres long, the other 50 metres. The former looked like it was occupied with adults and children taking swimming lessons so I went over to the other pool.

While it was great to be in the pool again, it was dismaying to find nothing had been done to fix the problem of people swimming into each other thanks to no proper lanes nor separating people according to their speed.

As a result (much like my previous public pool experiences), I had to keep a constant eye on what was in front of me in case someone literally popped up in front of me and had to duck the side.I also had to pass many people because they swam so slow.

Yes, many of them were men!

I'm not used to swimming 50 metres so I got tired out quickly, but this will be good practice for me to build my endurance. In the end I swam 1,500 metres in about 35 minutes.

So many puppies asleep together, the latest addition at the top
In the changing room I overheard two women, one senior, one middle-aged, exclaim how wonderful it was to have the indoor pool open. They found the Dr Sun Yat-Sen pool in Sai Ying Pun inconvenient to get to, and so this one was a marked improvement. I hope they won't tell all their friends...

At the same time it'll be interesting to see the dynamics in the pools once the outdoor one is open too.

I still fondly remember swimming outdoors in November, when the water temperature was a bit cooler, which deterred many people from swimming outside, and a bonus was a nice tan on my back.

This little guy was very cute to meet!
After my brunch appointment in Central, I decided to walk home and took the long route, popping into stores I was interested in and then when I approached Sai Ying Pun I remembered a friend telling me about the SPCA having dogs available to pet from 3pm on Sundays.

I headed over and saw the "Adopt a dog" sign. In a makeshift pen, five puppies slept inside it. One of the volunteers gently pinched their ears but they were dead asleep. There were two dogs that were outside the pen on leashes. I got to pet one of them, a lovely mutt that was curious and very gentle, who didn't mind us patting his head.

It's too bad they are located in such a small obscure area so not many people know they are there. But it was nice to see some cute dogs and hope to visit them again soon...

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Hong Kong Copy Cat

Commerce Secretary Greg So announced a big shopping day on July 1
The Hong Kong government really has no idea how to stimulate the economy.

Its latest brilliant notion?

Go shopping.

July 1 this year is the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong back to China, and how best to celebrate than to have a shopping day similar to China's Singles Day on November 11.

Prices and discounts will involve the numbers 7 and 1
While the one on the mainland is mostly online, the one in Hong Kong will be online and offline, and even better, discounts or prices will involve the numbers "7" and "1" in honour of July 1. So there can be items that are HK$710, or 71 percent off, HK$71 or just 71 items available.


Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung explained the idea was inspired by e-commerce giant Alibaba's annual super sale day on November 11.

In China, Singles Day is the biggest shopping event in the world, last year setting a record at US$17.8 billion, beating the 2015 record of US$14.3 billion.

So said the government would help facilitate bringing offline and online sales together, and Hong Kong's shopping event would last between three to seven days.

Singles Day is a boon for China -- will it be for HK too?
If this is the best strategy our government has for improving our economy, it just reveals its pathetic short-term thinking.

We're also all in big trouble because it also means the government is not determined to protect the environment in terms of recycling or reducing waste, which actually has the potential to be an innovative way to boost our economy...

Friday, 17 February 2017

Donald Tsang Found Guilty

Donald Tsang emerges from the courthouse with his family
Today Hong Kong has reached another new low -- its former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has been found guilty of misconduct in public office.

It was the charge of discussing Wave Media's broadcast license but failed to disclose it was a conflict of interest because he was also negotiating a Shenzhen penthouse with one of Wave Media's shareholders, Bill Wong Cho-bau.

Designer Barrie Ho was involved in renovating the flat
However, Tsang, 72, was not found guilty of public office in the charge in Tsang's failure to disclose his relationship with designer Barrie Ho Chow-lai when he nominated him for a civic award. Ho was involved in the HK$3.5 million renovation of the Shenzhen flat.

The defense had said it was not necessary for Tsang to declare the connection, because if he did, it would put pressure on others to approve Ho's nomination.

On the third charge of Tsang receiving free renovation work worth HK$3.5 million on the Shenzhen flat in exchange for approving Wave Media's application, jurors could not agree.

Some of them may have agreed with the defense that the state of the flat was uninhabitable so the renovations would have been done anyway, and in any event Tsang would only live there temporarily.

What about the HK$350K the Tsangs received from David Li?
It's surprising the jurors could not come to an agreement on the third charge listed here -- what about the HK$350,000 that was taken out of BEA chairman David Li Kwok-po and Wave Media shareholder's bank account and then half an hour later Tsang's wife Selina deposited the same amount into her bank account in the same financial institution?

In any event, Tsang will be sentenced on Monday, the maximum sentence could be seven years and a fine.

Finally some closure on this long drawn out trial, not the actual trial itself, but how long it took from him being charged to going to trial.

Prosecutors said he was a two-faced liar, who colluded with wealthy businessmen for personal gain, while the defense said Tsang would never want to sully his 45-year career in the civil service by accepting a bribe.

But it looks like on one count at least the jury believed the prosecution, and Tsang will have to pay for that.

Are there more corrupt government officials we need to know about? It just shows the government's checks and balances aren't enough to keep its officials on the straight and narrow, and that the media needs to do more to make them accountable.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Mysterious Murder of Kim Jong-nam

Kim Jong-nam traveled between Macau, China and Paris
The news of the murder of Kim Jong-un's half-brother on Monday is shocking news, and now three suspects have been arrested.

One woman carrying a Vietnamese passport was arrested yesterday. She was seen on CCTV footage at Kuala Lumpur International Airport wearing a white long-sleeved shirt with "LOL" on it, and a long skirt.

CCTV footage of one of the women who was arrested
Is she trying to be ironic?

The other two are an Indonesian woman and Malaysian man.

Kim Jong-nam, 45, was attacked at in the shopping area of the airport before he passed through immigration. There are still questions over what exactly happened -- one story is that two women put a sheet over his head that had poisonous chemicals on it, another is that poisonous darts were shot at him.

But many believe North Korea was behind the assassination, demonstrating Kim Jong-un's undisputed power in eliminating any other critics and rivals in his way.

According to Kim Jong-nam's friends in Macau who knew him as "John", he didn't speak much about the regime in North Korea, but knew he was living on borrowed time, as there had been assassination attempts on him before.

It is believed Kim's son in his early 20s, daughter and wife all live in Macau.

Kim Jong-nam (right) with his father Kim Jong-il
As the oldest son, Kim was believed to be the potential heir to Kim Jong-il, but after he entered Japan illegally to visit Disneyland in 2001 on a false Dominican Republic passport, his prospects ended.

Kim never contested his younger half brother for the leadership, and instead moved to Macau. According to his friend, Kim traveled between Macau, China and Paris, where he liked French wines and food.

Before moving to Macau, Kim had reportedly held senior posts in the Pyongyang government, working in information technology and domestic intelligence.

"He didn't talk much about his brother or the regime, although sometimes he would crack jokes about it," Kim's friend says. "He was mostly reserved in that regard. He never hid that he had some political aspirations. He did not want to succeed his father and he did not agree with his brother's regime, but I think he hoped one day he could play some political role in his country."

The following days and months will reveal more about the autopsy results of the body and perhaps more on why and how Kim was murdered. And to do the dirty deed in another country raises many diplomatic issues...

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Fashion Gripes of the Day

Please cut those white threads off the back of your coat!
Most Hong Kong people like to pride themselves on being fashionable.

But sometimes they are just slightly off the mark.

These days I see a lot of young people wearing coats and don't realize they need to cut off the "x" seam at the back to allow the vent to open.

Yesterday I walked behind this young man for about 15 minutes in Fotan in the New Territories and wanted to tap him on the shoulder and say, "You need to cut off that white thread at the back of your coat!"

I've seen young women wearing coats and not cutting off the "x" threads either. The sales people should really let them know they should cut it off when they get home. It's a sign that the coat is new, but if you keep wearing it like that, then it just shows your ignorance unfortunately!

Furry mules... are they really necessary?
Another fashion faux pas are fashion slaves. They will buy the latest "it" pieces without thinking about practicality or if the item suits them.

Take these latest Gucci mules called Princetown leather slippers. They are designer street dusters because the fur is touching the ground and how practical is it wearing these shoes? How can you even walk in them?

I spotted this woman wearing them in Kennedy Town -- not exactly The Landmark.

Apparently these shoes cost US$995 but they have this air of aristocracy that seems so out of place in 2017. Hardly seems practical or necessary...

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Vindication for Beaten Occupy Protester

Ken Tsang outside the court today flanked by supporters and yellow umbrellas
Finally over two years later, vindication for the Occupy Movement with seven police officers convicted of kicking, punching and stepping on activist Ken Tsang Kin-chiu after he was arrested and handcuffed for assaulting police.

The seven originally faced one joint count of causing grievous bodily harm with intent, but were found not guilty. Instead they were convicted of lesser, alternative charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Seven police officers were convicted of assaulting Tsang
That charge carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison, while common assault is one year.

The police officers will be sentenced this Friday.

Judge David Dufton's verdict caps one of the most controversial incidents during the 79-day protest. During the trial the court heard Tsang, 41, testify how on October 15, 2014, he had poured liquid onto some police officers during a clearance operation in Admiralty.

He was arrested and zip-tied, but instead of being brought to one of the coaches to transport arrested protesters, he was taken to a substation and assaulted.

On October 14, 2014, they dragged Tsang to a substation
The 224-page judgment found that there Tsang was dumped to the ground and immediately assaulted, which resulted in injuries to his face, neck, shoulder, flank, chest and back.

Part of the assault was captured on video by several media that defense lawyers had tried to dismiss as unauthentic evidence.

While a chief inspector and senior inspector did not actually take part in the assault, but watched on, Judge Dufton pointed out: "Every police officer has a duty to intervene to prevent the commission of a crime, even by fellow police officers. A police officer's duty is to keep the peace. If a police officer stands by and watches his colleague beat up a suspected person, his failure to intervene is evidence of encouragement to carry out the assault."

They were captured on video assaulting Tsang
Interestingly none of the seven officers presented evidence during the trial, though several mitigation letters written by other police officers and family members of the seven were submitted to the court during mitigation.

The police also spent a staggering HK$9 million on defense legal fees, and the force has raised over HK$10 million if the seven decide to appeal.

Monday, 13 February 2017

The Risks of Not Training

Tens of thousands of people compete in the 10K race in six heats
Following the Standard Chartered Marathon yesterday, one woman died this afternoon after she finished running the 10K race and collapsed.

The 52-year-old woman was rushed to hospital and then died, with no updates on the cause of death yet.

She is the third person within five years to die. In 2015, a 24-year-old died in hospital after collapsing 100 metres from the finish line in a 10K run. And in 2014, a 26-year-old man died moments after completing the half marathon.

It is crucial for runners to train even for the 10K race
After his death, marathon organizers increased the number of medical staff on site from 700 to 800.

But is that really the solution?

Part of the problem is that there is a number of people who haven't trained at all for the 10K run. While marathon organizers say it isn't feasible to screen the health of participants, the onus is really up to the runners. Surely they must know what a 10K run involves? If not, they need to ask someone who does, and see if it is something they can accomplish and if so, find out how to train for it.

In 2014, Baptist University conducted a study that found one-third of the event's 10K runners didn't train at all for the race in the 12 months leading to the big event.

Another one third trained for the run once a week.

Dr Lobo Louie Hung-tak, who lead the study, said training three times a week -- 40 to 48 kilometres of running -- were recommended to reduce the risk of injury for the 10K event, while half and full marathon participants should train five to six times a week.

He said insufficient training could lead to not only injury, but possibly death.

A 2014 study found 1/3 of runners didn't train for the 10K
"It's like a car that's being pushed to keep going even when the fuel tank is at empty," he said.

"In some serious cases, runners can collapse, be in a state of shock, start hallucinating or fall into a coma."

If that warning isn't shocking enough to get people to seriously consider training, or have second thoughts about running the race, I don't know what is.

The entrance fee for the 10K run is about HK$350 which is very reasonable, but people need to take a race of this distance with some seriousness.

While it is thoughtful of organizers to boost the number of first aid responders along the three routes for the 10K, half marathon and full marathon, it is really up to the runners to know their athletic ability.

There are fatalities at marathons around the world -- usually the full marathon, people collapsing at or near the finish line. But 42km is an extreme distance for the vast majority of us. That doesn't mean that all of us can run 10K -- we can, but we should train for it.

To not train for any race is wishful thinking and disrespecting one's body by pushing it to extremes it is not prepared for.

It would be interesting to know if other 10K races around the world have seen serious incidents. If it's only in Hong Kong, then there is a serious problem about health education in the city.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Nice Day for a 10K Run

Finally making it to the starting line before starting the 10K run
I went to bed early hoping to get a decent night's sleep, but was a bit anxious about running the 10K in the Standard Chartered Marathon. While my start time wasn't too early, I still had to wake up early to get ready and get to the site.

When I ran it in 2015, I overdressed and got overheated, resulting in me walking twice to catch my breath. This time I followed what other experienced runners do -- wear a plastic rain poncho to keep warm.

Several thousand people ran together this morning
And it pretty much did the job, and the weather cooperated as well. However, I drank a bit too much water in the morning and had to go line up for the porta-potty three times...!

By the time I got to the starting line -- I was way, way back. It took me five minutes just to walk to the starting line. And then we were off! But the first almost two kilometres were crazy, dodging people and trying to get some rhythm in my pace. It was hard, thanks to the narrow road (one lane was closed off because of construction), and so it took a while just to jockey out of the crowd.

At first my hands were very cold -- I had shake them periodically to get the blood circulating. The sun was out and so it was nice to be in the shade thanks to buildings covering the sunshine.

In about half an hour we reached and passed the Film Archive building in Sai Wan Ho and turned around to go back. The highway was undulating up and down. I just tried to keep my pace. At the five-kilometre mark I looked at my phone that had an app tracking my progress and it was at 33 minutes. Pretty good.

The view this morning from Tin Hau starting point
Soon it was 6km, 7km... and there were more people walking. I've said this before, but it bears repeating -- people who plan to walk, should move off to the side so that they don't get in the way of runners, particularly in the beginning. But by this point we were decently spread out and I was catching up to people who had been up in the front.

There were also people taking pictures at each sign that indicated which kilometre we were at. Really? Don't you want to run as fast as you can and not waste time taking pictures with your friends?

Past the 8km mark was the second drinks station and the end was in sight. I even saw one of my colleagues and shouted his name and waved to him, and he took some pictures of me...

Just past 9km, I was starting to get really tired, but I had to tell myself to keep going because it was almost over. Getting onto the on ramp (actually the cars use it as an off ramp) was tough because it was pretty steep, but I kept my pace. Many people were walking at this point, others began running again at the top because it was downhill from there.

It took me five minutes to walk to the starting line!
When I turned into Victoria Park towards the finish line I tried to run as fast as I could. The time on my phone? 1:06:17. My official time is 1:06:19.

I shaved off several seconds from my 2014 time, and several minutes from 2015.

Interestingly I wasn't as exhausted as I was before, perhaps because I have been training so hard for this race in the last month or so. But the real test will be tomorrow and see how my thighs are doing.

For a recreational runner I'm pleased with the result and the weather conditions were just perfect for running today.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Dining Carbone Style

The Italian hand-painted rustic plates made for Carbone come from Italy
This afternoon my friend YTSL and I headed to New York Italian restaurant Carbone for lunch. I needed to load up on some carbs for my 10K run tomorrow as part of the Standard Chartered Marathon, and she was keen to go back for one of her favourite pastas.

It was relatively quiet for lunch, save for a boisterous private party at the back, but it was a comfortable and relaxed environment.

A half portion of spicy rigatoni vodka was delicious
After we ordered, some nibbles kept us occupied -- two slices of garlic toast, four slices of salami, a small dish of large green olives, and freshly cut chunks of Parmesan cheese from a large cheese wheel.

Our starter octopus pizzaiolo (HK$198) arrived, three chunks of Spanish octopus which were meaty but quite chewy, though we quite enjoyed the sliced roasted peppers and fingerling potatoes.

Then the main event -- spicy rigatoni vodka (HK$208), with tomatoes, onions and Calabrian chilli. The server instructed the kitchen to split the pasta into two plates, saving us the trouble of doing it ourselves.

The pasta was creamy, but didn't taste heavy, and wasn't too spicy, though there was a kick in the after taste. I enjoyed it so much that I quickly cleaned up the plate!

A sinful treat in the "blackout cake" with chocolate gelato
I still had enough room for dessert, and the dessert trolley was wheeled out featuring a lemon cheesecake, tiramisu, carrot cake and what was described to us as a Black Forest cake. YTSL was interested in that one, but when it was served to us, it was more of a chocolate cake with layers of cherry mousse in between.

It was a very large slice, but we chipped away at it and soon it disappeared into our stomachs. While there were blackberries, raspberries and cherries garnishing the dessert, it would have been better if it has been topped with just cooked cherries -- they complemented the chocolate cake that again wasn't too heavy, though we did load up on the calories.

At just over HK$300 per person including service charge, it was a great lunch, nice ambience, friendly service and yes! great food too.

Now to burn it all off tomorrow...

9/F, LKF Tower
33 Wyndham Street
2593 2593

Friday, 10 February 2017

Frightening Inferno

Passengers watch the train carriage go up in flames at Tsim Sha Tsui station
During dinner tonight, around 7.20pm, my friend received a whatsapp message from her friend that there was an incident at the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station and to avoid taking the MTR. We then went on some news websites and soon discovered there was a fire in one of the train carriages going from Admiralty to Tsim Sha Tsui during rush hour.

Firemen attend to severe burns on one of those injured
Then shocking photos and videos emerged very quickly on social media -- there was a fire in the train carriage, and a man lying on the ground, his trousers were all burned to his thighs, exposing severe burns on his legs. Another showed him standing upright with his pant legs on fire.

Others showed passengers cupping their mouths in a very smoky carriage. At first it was four injured, then six and now 17.

The police have arrested a 60-year-old man, who they say, told passengers, "Burn you to death", then lit a Molotov cocktail and threw it in the packed train carriage before it reached Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station.

The man, Cheung Kam-fai, claimed to start the fire for "personal reasons", and police say initial investigations have found he has a poor relationship with his family, and he had previously been arrested for minor offenses, such as gambling.

Many witnesses describe the heavy smoke during the train ride
Yau Tsim District Commander Kwok Pak-chung dismissed suspicions it was a terrorist attack, saying so far there was no such evidence, but said they would not rule out any possibilities in their investigations.

My friend was grateful we were having dinner tonight, otherwise she might have been on that train...

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Party Preferences

Speculation turns confirmation as Carrie Lam is backed by Beijing
There are now reports that National People's Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang was in Shenzhen a few days ago to inform Hong Kong's pro-Beijing camp that the Communist Party was backing Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as the next chief executive of Hong Kong.

And the decision was made on December 25.

Zhang Dejiang made the announcement in Shenzhen
Was she also informed that day, as a Christmas present? And how come their decision was only revealed now?

A source also revealed tycoon Li Ka-shing was present at this meeting, though he and his company representatives did not attend her rally last week. Nevertheless, Li and his two sons, Victor Li Tzar-kuoi and Richard Li Tzar-kai were seen going to the Beijing liaison office in Western on Wednesday.

Interestingly it was stressed the decision to back Lam was a collective one, not one particular official or group of officials.

Also worth noting is that the meeting was not covered in Chinese state media, and one source to a Hong Kong newspaper explained this was so that it would give the party room to manoeuvre in case anything unexpected cropped up.

One of the attendees in Shenzhen was tycoon Li Ka-shing
The unwillingness to let this be a completely fair race (aside from allowing over 3 million people in Hong Kong to vote), shows Beijing still doesn't completely trust 1,194 people in the Election Committee and wants a clear winner in March.

If Beijing can't even trust its most loyal supporters to do the right thing, how is the relationship between Hong Kong and the motherland ever going to mature?

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

A Fifth Wheel?

Leung Kwok-hung wants to give the Election Committee a choice - himself
As if four candidates vying to become Hong Kong's next chief executive weren't enough -- a pan-democrat has decided to throw his hat into the ring.

And it's not a mild mannered, decently dressed one -- it's Leung Kwok-hung or "Long Hair", who seems intent on stirring things up.

The League of Social Democrats lawmaker said today that he would only officially put in his bid to become the city's next leader if he managed to secure 37,790 votes from the public, or one percent of the city's registered voters through a referendum held by post-Occupy group Citizens United in Action.

"I used to hold a stance of not voting, not nominating and not running in any small-circle election, so [my decision to run] is indeed a very huge change in my position," he told the media today.

Alan Leong (left) and Albert Ho (right) had run for CE before
"But I think the pan-democratic camp should never vote for any of the four pro-establishment contenders who cannot represent our camp at all."

Hmmm good point. But why him?

While the pan-democrats have 326 of the 1,194 votes in the Election Committee, some are divided on what to do; some plan to vote for John Tsang Chun-wah, while others may submit a blank vote as a symbolic protest to the unfairness of the small-circle election.

Leung said voting for Tsang would in effect endorse his platform to start the electoral reform process and try to pass the controversial national security law, Article 23.

When Leung made his announcement to run, critics immediately branded him a hypocrite, as he previously protested attempts by other pan-democrats to join the race, Alan Leong Kah-kit in 2007 and Albert Ho Chun-yan in 2012.

In 2010 Audrey Eu (right) challenged Donald Tsang for CE
Leung admitted he was not the best candidate to run, saying he had tried to lobby Audrey Eu Yuet-mee twice to get into the race, but she refused. You might remember she had a lopsided race against Donald Tsang Yam-kuen for chief executive many moons ago...

It seems Leung didn't get much support today from old school pan-democrats, and instead from people like Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, Lau Siu-lai and Nathan Law Kwun-chung.

Leung is definitely not the right candidate for the pan-democrats, but no one else really is. Are the political rookies supporting him just to agitate the situation?

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Picture of the Day: License Plates

The cleverness of car owners abounds in Hong Kong
Ah Hong Kong. Some car owners like to think they are very clever with their license plates.

They are known as Personalized Vehicle Registration Mark, where the person puts in an application to the Transport Department, waits for it to be selected, then have their application checked against the requirements, make a deposit, have the plate name vetted, and then finally wait for it to go up for auction.

Yes, you have to bid for your own plates.

Some names that have been seen:

PORSCHE (on a Porsche)

And tonight I spotted this Porsche on my way home.

How funky!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Mr Pringles' Platform and Zhang Dejiang's Meetings

John Tsang officially announced his platform today
Everyone's eagerly talking about the race for the next chief executive of Hong Kong. While many believe it will be Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor who has the upper hand, they have a preference for former Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

They call him "potato chips" because he looks like the logo of Pringles chips, a man with a moustache known as "Julius Pringles". Many feel he is more down to earth than Lam, who revealed how out of touch she was when she took a taxi in the middle of the night from her Convention Centre serviced apartment back to her old digs on The Peak to get toilet paper.

Tsang revealed his platform today, promising electoral reform, but also he would enact Article 23, the contentious law on national security that was shelved in 2003. He would give tax breaks to SMEs and allowances for low-income families.

Some believe that he is still favoured by Beijing, otherwise why was he kept on as financial secretary when Leung Chun-ying became Chief Executive? They think that Beijing had a hand in having Tsang stay on...

Zhang Dejiang had meetings with Hong Kong heavyweights
A friend said she liked Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and we asked her why. She said she's a hard worker, and she has had a tough life -- her husband died young so she was a single parent raising her daughter. As for trying to implement Article 23, she was only doing what she was told to do.

Others like former judge Woo Kwok-hing's personality, but feel he might be "too delicate" to do the job of chief executive in terms of health. They fear another Tung Chee-hwa situation would happen. But he definitely has better Chinese calligraphy skills than the other three candidates.

Adding to the mix is the National People's Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang, who is also the state leader overseeing Hong Kong affairs, go to Shenzhen to meet with influential Hong Kong businessmen and pro-Beijing political parties.

His visit comes a week before the nomination period for the next chief executive begins next Tuesday.

While people who attended the meetings refused to divulge what was said, they would only say it was normal for Beijing to want to know people's opinions on things.

Uh huh.

John Tsang biting into his pineapple bun in Tsim Sha Tsui
The fact the visit was announced after the fact is also curious, but we will leave it at that.

In any event, the other day Tsang visited one of the first three food trucks that have opened for business in Tsim Sha Tsui and got a pineapple bun for HK$20. While he said it tasted good, it was expensive for HK$20.

Excuse me? Isn't he the one who wanted to bring food trucks to Hong Kong? It ain't cheap to set it up, at a minimum of HK$600,000 in start-up costs alone.

Maybe his platform should include measures to prevent landlords from jacking up rents so that small local eateries won't go out of business!

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Hong Kong Needs to Cut Paper Use

Some 8 million lai see envelopes were collected last year
Just before Lunar New Year, many companies send me lai see envelopes and I try to give them to colleagues to use, or I keep them. So I was very pleased to find out I could take them to a collection point at my apartment building, where they would be picked up by an environmental group called Greeners Action.

Yesterday I took a bag of unused and used lai see envelopes to the box. I had so many that I had to ask the attendant to lift the lid of the box instead of putting them through the slot at the top of the lid, and when he did, I was pleased to find there were already stacks of red envelopes in there.

Please put your lai see envelopes in this box!
The NGO is trying to make people more aware of the garbage they are accumulating, and that things like lai see envelopes can be used again and again.

Greeners Action's executive director Angus Ho Hon-wai estimates that the amount of paper used to make the lai see envelopes amounts to 16,300 trees.


Does he mean skinny trees or very thick mature ones?

"It's an astronomical figure," Ho says. "I've looked at some numbers and it doesn't seem like other places with Chinese people distribute as much lai see as we do."

Not only that but many people in Hong Kong like to use crisp bills too to symbolize a new start to the Lunar New Year.

Last year Greeners Action collected about 8 million lai see envelopes -- about 30 tonnes in weight -- and about half of them were still good to reuse, the other half was recycled.

The envelopes are given out to people to use again
People have until February 22 to collect their lai see envelopes and drop them off in 500 collection points around the city, including shopping malls, Jockey Club betting stations, residential estates, hospitals and banks.

We should also keep in mind that the city threw out 2,257 tonnes of waste paper everyday -- a 17.5 percent increase from 2015. Hong Kong people really need to not only be more conscious of using paper, but also the government needs to educate them on how to recycle and help make recycling paper and other items a viable business.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Picture of the Day: Blessed by a Lion

A red lion blessing one of the stalls in the wet market today
Kung fu groups are keeping busy through the 15 days celebrating the Lunar New Year. Their members perform lion dances for whoever wants their store, office building, shopping mall, apartment blocks to be blessed.

While the lions will be coming to my apartment building tomorrow afternoon, they were out in force in the nearby wet market today. I went to do my grocery shopping and heard the clash of the cymbals and drums.

On the second floor where fruits and vegetables are sold, a red lion was going stall by stall, performing the same ritual. It bows in front of the stall, then it opens its mouth and swallows the head of Chinese lettuce that's hanging from a hook with a lai see packet or blatantly, a HK$100 bill.

Meanwhile inside the guy is pocketing the money and then rips up the lettuce because after a short moment, the lion's eyes flutter, its ears move, and the it opens its mouth again and spits out bits of lettuce.

At the entrance, several lion heads are on display to add colour
Then it occurred to me -- are Chinese lions are vegetarian? Or they have a preference for lettuce...

Sang choi or raw lettuce sounds similar to "create wealth", and the wet market stall owners are hoping for a good Year of the Rooster.

And the way the economy is going, we're all hoping for financially better year, but we've been warned it's going to be a tough road ahead.

One can only hope a lion will bring luck our way...