Sunday, 1 December 2013

Christmas decorating

We always travel to my family at Christmas. It's a commitment we made when Anthony "stole" me from them to live in another country after getting married. As a result, the Christmas decorating in our own flat is usually minimal. We had an artificial tree when Matt and April lived with us (it was theirs). One year I thought we were settling down since we had bought our own place. So I bought a living Christmas tree in a pot, planning to keep it alive and reuse it for many years. We moved to Hong Kong just three months later. Sigh.

But we still have a bit of Christmas stuff and I put it out today. There are decorations on our dining room mirror and balcony window. Also, we have a Christmas runner on the table in our entryway.

Ant bought me a poinsettia yesterday! That is an act of love because he knows how much I love them.

Friday, 29 November 2013

poor, neglected blog

Well, I have been food blogging regularly and now I have a work blog too. This personal weblog has been neglected. Sorry, friends. I post lots of picture on Facebook, but I love reading others' blogs. So I guess I shouldn't shut down this space just yet.
This picture was taken in the Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia two weekends ago. It's a carved wooden mirror from 19th century Iran.

Friday, 28 June 2013

five minute friday: in between

This is worth a try. A five minute sustained, spontaneous writing session.

Five Minute Friday

"In between" seems like an appropriate first topic for me as well. Today was the last day of work and tomorrow we have the movers coming in.

I am in between Hong Kong and Singapore. It has been three years here. I found it hard to settle here in Hong Kong. Making friends was hard and took me a long time. (Is there any way to learn how to make friends faster and easier?) Now that I have friends, though, it is so very hard to leave them.

Singapore is going to be great; I know that, too! We already have some friend there, actually, two couples. So that should give us a head start we need so we don't feel lonely.

 I am also in between work and holiday. We leave on Sunday for a ten day break; yippee! It will be good to rest, reflect, and recover. Anthony and I are both in dire need of some down time. We are going to have a memorable, no expenses spared time in New Zealand. But to be honest, both of us know that even if we don't do any fancy outings we will be happy just to sit in the car, looking at the beautiful scenery, and not worrying.

Are you in between?
Do you have advice about making friends?

Sunday, 16 June 2013

happenings in Hong Kong

Anthony and I have very little sense of "style". We admit it. However, we do have this one painting that I love! It was a gift from the mother of one of the Chinese students Mum and Dad hosted at their home. It was delivered from Shenzhen in an epic saga that took weeks of cross-boarding haggling. I love the colours and the sense of movement in it.

In other news, we have bought a new camera lens - a 10-22mm for wide angle shots. Here is a view from our balcony at night.

And here is a view of Hong Kong harbour at night time. A few months ago I won a one-night stay at the Four Seasons hotel in Hong Kong and this was the view from our room. Wow!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

things for which I am thankful today

1. A friend brought me a pot of Marmite Gold from his trip to England last week. It's a gimmick but I think it's great. It made me smile all morning!

2. We got a new washing machine and it is so quiet! Our old one was so noisy that even with the kitchen door closed we couldn't talk to each other without shouting. It also didn't spin properly about half the time, which meant that a lot of loads of laundry had to be washed through two cycles. That made laundry take a lot longer than necessary. I am so happy that we have this new one.

3. I complain a bit about the many passwords related to online banking, but I am really very grateful for connected global bank accounts that allow me to shop online in several countries! heehee.

4. Talking to my Grammie on the phone is like a warm hug. I love chatting with her.

5. Having coffee and dinner with my best friend in Hong Kong - she always brightens up my day. I love our mid-week meet-ups.

What are you grateful for today?

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Fracking, Bonobos, and the Three Gorges Dam Region in China

My recent reading helped me learn about fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, a method for getting oil out of deep horizontal seams. It had exploded in use in North Dakota since 2006. It has provided huge economic benefits for the area and also put massive pressure on the infrastructure and employment market. It is not sustainable and the boom is due to end within a generation.


Bonobos are a species of ape who are separated from chimpanzees and gorillas by the Congo River. They have a distinctly matriarchal society and are much more interdependent than other apes. Bonobos don't have "alpha males", instead mothers and sons remain close and females share power.

"Return to River Town" was an article I read about a Western man who taught English in Fuling, China, on the Yangtze River in 1996. He returned there to visit since the town was altered by the Three Gorges Dam, 450 km downstream. The dam's construction raised the water level by 120 m and displaced the city's residents (and had many other impacts). He described an underwater museum where visitors can see a historical carving which is now submerged under 40 m of water.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

making a diptych in Lightroom 4

I used this video to help me learn to make a diptych in Lightroom 4. I also enjoyed an Adobe TV video that discussed the aesthetics of pairing images in diptychs.

Photos taken at Uniacke Estate, July 2012.

What new skills have you learned this week?

Friday, 15 February 2013

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

I just finished this book - you may have heard about it a couple of years ago. It's about a first generation American-Chinese mother who wouldn't allow her two daughters to have free time or go to friends' houses. She forced them to practice music (piano for the elder, violin for the younger) for several hours every day and demanded their excellence in every academic subject.

Her book is somewhat tongue in cheek - and hilarious if you read it that way. But it also makes some valid (and scary) distinctions between Chinese and Western parenting (grand generalizations though they are). Western parents make an conscious choice to allow kids to choose their activities - even if it means Facebook and spending time at the mall. Chinese parents make all the choices for their children and demand compliance. This is why so many Asian children are so accomplished, Chua argues. She speculates that teenagers of both types hate their parents. And she also implies that adults of both types love their parents. So she is proud of her parenting style.

A lot of my students have parents like her, at least to some extent. They are driven by their parents' desires and they make academic gains because their parents ensure that they do. I can really tell the difference between those children and those whose parents acquiesce to their kids' wishes.

The real question is which is the right way (or better way) to parent? And how do you decide which is right? (Fortunately for me, I am only pondering in a theoretical way. Many of my friends and acquaintances are making these decisions every day.) What about you and your family?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Guernsey Island

I recently read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It's a novel set in London and on Guernsey Island just after World War Two. I didn't know before that Guernsey (in the English Channel) was occupied by the Germans during the war; they were hoping to use it as a stepping stone to occupying the UK. Children were sent away from Guernsey for their safety to live in the British countryside.

This was a brilliant novel, written as a series of letters to and from a young writer in London. She makes friends with the members of a literary society on Guernsey and eventually visits them.

I bought this book at the Oxfam shop in Central HK and I think it came from Costco in Canada - see the bilingual sticker.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

what I'm learning: Libya, venom, and Kyrgyzs

I do not keep up to date much with current affairs. I also am terribly bad at the history questions in Trivial Pursuit. You could say I'm a little selfish about where I give my time since I don't often look outside my immediate surroundings.

As it turns out, I will be teaching a course called Theory of Knowledge next year. And it requires a broad general knowledge base. It's time for me to start paying attention to the world around a bit more.
So to start with I picked up National Geographic Magazine. I had about an hour to use in Central. Usually I would go shopping, but this time I decided to get some reading material and a snack and settle down to learn something. And so here are some two (ish) sentence summaries of what I have learned this weekend.

Libya, recently democratic, has a lot of archeological sites from Roman and Greek times and they were neglected, and hence preserved, all through the previous leader, Quaddafi's, time in power. Now they are being rediscovered, and hopefully actively protected.

Venom from poisonous snakes, insects, and reptiles can be used as cures. Researchers are collecting venom sample, analysing them, modifying them, and testing lots of new drugs.

There is a group of about 1000 people called the Kyrgyz, who live in the remote mountain ranges of isolated Afghanistan. They live in extremely harsh conditions but have close, happy families. The article I read hints that they may be connected to medical support and the modern world if a road is built to their area, but this is currently not the case.

Friday, 25 January 2013

sports day

The whole school took part in sports day when we all had to run one lap of the track to earn a "dynasty point" for our dynasties. I am in the Han dynasty and red is our colour. I sported this red wig during our run to show my dynasty spirit. Also, can you see Hanix, our mascot on the right? He won the mascots' 100 m race later in the day!