Friday, October 28, 2005

new comment system

new comment system has wiped out all past comments - sorry! but at least all the spammers are gone

Season's greetings

Decided this is the last year for the school list (for the lack of a better term) which is way too long

Happy Ramadan, Diwali and early greetings for Christmas /Hanukkah to

Univ : (Lmhers, Town people etc)

  • Friends whose addresses have been lost :

Clare (lah) Merrill, Elaine (the moon is so round) Chan, Anna (the roof sitter) Dorfman, John(the most hardworking exchange student ever) [whose last name has unfortunately been forgotten!]

  • The 10 Fyfield citizens of '95-'96
  • Classmates (should be 13/14 apparently) :

Jessie, Jane (&family), Sam, Patrick, Matthew, Kate, Katherine, Emily, Tina, Dave, Dan, Charles, Mark and Alice (& family) - apologies to whoever was missed

  • Lmhers

Dr Barr (and the rest of the teaching staff), Su San, Shaz, Sri , Edwin , Marn, Lay San, Elsa, Sofia, Tik, Dave Renner, Eva Rehfuess, Yinshin, Yeenli, Gary and the rest of the juniors , Joe Pirone (saw your address some years back but forgot- sorry! congrats on the job and marriage!)

  • Town / Teddy crowd

Jia, Peiru, Aaron, Kats, Michael, Yuh-jer, Ting, Janice, Jun, Solomon, Del (&Hian), Kirsty etc (just can't remember those names!)

  • Last but not least; the weirdest family ever

Stefan 'Grossvati" - isn't a language great that allows you to call someone gross and not be insulting?!

Justin (&family) - just where are those "nephews" you promised?

Joanna - remember the psct to meet!

Other School friends

  • HCJC crowd:

Particularly, Sharon, Jolin, Su Mei, Elin, and those brave enough to share those "censored" jokes!

  • SNG

Angie, Jean, QT, Cindy, Rita, Jolyn, Peiling, Shelen and all the others - any idea how chris and andrea are?

  • CHIJ crowd

Deb, Thusha (last heard, orthodontist?) , Tina (last heard, australia?) etc? (hey, there were 40 names for the class alone!)

whoever's been missed - apologies , but have a great festive season!

The Winter of Bush's Discontent

If as the Economist puts it, September is the cruellest month for Bush, October doesn't look any better - with Wilma, the signs of a cold snap and new prisoner abuse scandals, not to mention the indictment of Delay

A cold winter with rising oil prices might just have him echoing the queen and declaring 2005 as his annus horribilis!

The story of armoured hedgehog

Before you read any further, this particular post is not for the passing surfer but for friends who have said they care ...

This is the story of an armoured hedgehog who grew up in a small middle class family, who always felt targetted even as a kid. Where others were praised as models of good behaviour, she was always the rowdy black "sheephog", disciplined by caning and admonition that she was irritating.When the stockmarket crashed in the '80s and the parents met with trouble, life only worsened; scarcely a year went by without the hedgehog being beaten (quan da jiao ti style) and being told to reflect on the reason why she was beaten. Gradually, the hedgehog realised that everything that went wrong was always her fault, that perhaps even god hated her 'cos she was irritating. The solution was simple, to be the best student she could be, to avoid triggering volatile tempers.

Terrible strategy; the hedgehog merely triggered a comparison game that never quite endedwith school. Worse, some friends perceived her as a teacher's pet wannabe. Catch 22 : to tell friends the truth would invite pity or worse being despised by others who wouldn't understand; not telling means friends who are offended by refusal to confide, worse, they think she's tooproud to talk.

After years of being told she just wasn't good enough, ugly, fat and irritating, the inability to tell meant that whilst she could mentally invent friends who sympathised, most real friends just saw her as a loud , friendly individual without a care in the world. Creating a busy life as best a student could meant that when exhaustion took over , loneliness in the crowd was all the starker - only those who've ever been lonely when out partying with friends can ever understand the irony of that. Though the abuse was never sexual, the emotional and verbal abuse meant this hedgehog thought of all men as bastards (of course, some ungentlemanly guys were partly responsible. )

So that explains why the hedgehog developed into a loud, sarcastic indiviual who thought of love as the name of a blitzgame and friends as people to be maintained at a distance. Of course, some other influences helped ; that classmate who told her to stop apologizing for everything 'cos that wasn't sincere (what a relief to realise that everything wasn't her fault!) or that other classmate who plainly hated her 'cos she wasn't a "beautiful people" rep (erm, haven't discovered the solution to that one!) Being brash and outspoken resulted from the thought that if you're gonna be slagged anyway, you might as well have your say.

The hedgehog learnt never to let her guard down, 'cos when you treat others with sincerity, you might just be deemed a fool, friend or not. She also learnt that sometimes when others are not in the best of moods, you might just catch a backlash for no particular reason. Somewhere along that path, depression took over. Being told she was a failure, cursed in language rivalling a bluestreak and slapped/punched occasionally was no joke. The financial crisis didn't help, the 10 year crap happens period didn't either. No amount of counselling helped in the darkest periods of depression and hedgehog was abandoned even by god. Only when you've walked through the darkest of times do you realise that those platitudes that others mouth at you are just so much bs.

Frankly, only after hearing the lifestory of another tough life guy did hedgehog realise certain truths. Besides being grateful to this stranger, hedgehog realised that friends may well benefit from some of these truths:

1 What doesn't kill you will only make you stronger
2 The past can never be changed, only the future
3 One day, you'll look back and smile at what was blatant misery
4 That day comes around 'cos you're a survivor
5 Melting that glacier of a heart and breaking down the walls are a
gradual process, so friends have patience

Lastly, people who seek to tear you down aren't worth your time, neither are those who can't accept you with all your faults, the best revenge on your enemies is to live the best life ever!

so what's your story?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Some recent blog reads

Some blogs of interest :
an architectural site - blithelycapricious

what could be mistaken as a book review site at times! - perprocurationem

Scary teachers

Saw a debate on tv regarding teacher- student relations (was surfing the channels during the commercials of Boston Legal) - hmm, is it just a coincidence or were teachers a lot scarier eons past?

The scariest teacher was that Mrs A who scared the living hell outta the author at age 9? It was a term test on Chinese and an extra punctuation mark meant 97%, mommy dearest suggested that the author ask the teacher if the punctuation mark was the reason for the 1 mark difference. Mrs A asked the author to erase that extra punctuation mark then promptly hauled the author up in front of the class as a cheater who wanted an extra mark. Mrs A's biggest mistake was to ask to meet the parents the next day. The school authorities were standing on the side of the teacher till the parents threatened to notify the local education authority -at which point, the school authorities and teacher quaked and apologized. Unfortunately, to save the teacher's face, the teacher never apologized to the student in front of the class or school and the author was left with an authority phobia .

Then there was Mrs P who redefined what scary was to an entire class at 10/11. The other really scary teacher was that lit teacher who probably scared more teens off the subject than Blake ever did. Of course, to quote Bush, these were just the few bad apples but it only requires these few apples to cause a huge stink!

Ah, if only students were as liberal then!

Monday, October 24, 2005

1)There's life after marriage

Was acquainted with a Taiwanese guy who convinced yours truly there's life after marriage - a very simple guy with a lifestory that makes you go "aww" . Before anyone jumps to conclusions, there's just admiration for a nice guy who's not at all the author's type.

Think about it, even Louis Cha admits that only the non -scheming, (some say dumb) Guo Jing is the least romantically troubled character. Thinking back to an old friend, guess it's only fair to say that it's really tiring being around people who are too smart and too scheming (xin ji tai zong) . Similarly for Jia - freedom isn't just a state of mind but without freedom of the mind, there isn't freedom at all, even if you were free as a bird

2)Food and Entertainment

The food is pretty nice but heavy on salt, oil, sugar and spice ... drink plenty of water or tea (if you're not just)

Warning against expecting too much of famous brandname restaurants - the reputation outpaces the food

(Specially for jeanie - many of the upclass restaurants are around Xizang Road and the shopping districts near nanjing xi lu and dong lu and if you're ever homesick for cantonese food - there's a "tea cafe" at the basement of the shopping mall next to Jing An temple that's rather economical and authentic)

Entertainment wise - hmm, the standards of concerts, theatre performances vary, telly isn't very interesting even with cable . 2 funny exceptions - the repeat telecast of the tony leung version of "duke of mount deer" on cctv and "shuang xiang pao" starring china's model turned actor hu bin (it's hilarious watching this guy acting as a wimpy hair stylist and "guai lao tou" - the language jokes are rather spot-on)

And thanks to the concern of certain friends - nope, not back to the days when smirnoff was a friend or when yours truly could outdrink the guys. What was hilarious was the way rum and coke was served - glad that yours truly didn't ask for screwdriver


If superstition is anything to go by, Shanghai isn't the place for yours truly, every time yours truly is in that city, it's a twisted ankle or like this most recent visit, missed a step and ended up on one knee, guess should be glad there wasn't some cute guy in front - might have traumatised him .

hey, even the great wall of China didn't trip up yours truly - climbing up was easy, it was the exit that was tough- rediscovering a fear of heights is not pretty especially when you're 20 pounds heavier than the last time you were in the country - may have to reconsider the planned parachute jump holiday


Visiting historic sites means being bombarded by history and various references to foreign imperialism but frankly, the most ironic (and sharply sarcastic) reference to imperialism has to be the presence of a Starbucks in the Forbidden City - what foreign imperialism has failed to occupy (at least not permanently) fast food and coffee joints have accomplished!

Which, by the way, reminds yours truly of a weird university memory - arguing about imperialism with a classmate (can't remember who, but sure remember the topic). The irony was not arguing about imperialism in the language of former colonists nor the fact that we were in the land of the former colonial master , or that in the pc '90s, the guy was arguing some modern version of white man's burden but that yours truly was passionate enough about the issue to decide that there was no way that a friendship could ever exist with such a guy - no enmity, just not friendship. Apologies for any pettiness whoever he was, and frankly, with starbucks, you can't have your cake and eat it but you sure can drink loadsa caffeine

5) Language Refresher

Ironically, this holiday proved to be a refresher course in German (yours truly's german is still crap) - quite funny to hear those guides explaining (quite erroneously at times) those tourist attractions to some very befuddled tourists . The chinese (it was golden week holiday for them)were fascinated by how quickly some of those tour guides spoke, but to many tourists, it was rather garbled. The locals seemed to assume very weirdly that yours truly was variously Korean, Japanese and HongKonger judging from the language and seemed amazed when yours trult spoke english - kinda like those students who spoke english very slowly at university to yours truly whom they assumed didn't speak any english (and the next step in that evolution was assuming yours truly was american - don't start teasing...)

Considering that yours truly's Chinese was barely passable in Beijing and considered pretty good in the other cities , mebbe it's time to watch more Chinese programs

6) Customer Service

Apparently, some weird hacker's been hacking this site - why, no idea?!

Anyway, back to observations - hmm, the idea of good service might not be in the asian blood, then again mebbe not even the human blood. There were exceptions , like the day tour guide, Grace, she was nice and even attempted to be entertaining (those mao and deng jokes were funny, quite different from the "politically repressed" label that western media has habitually given to the chinese) . However, on the whole, the service industry may be summarised in 2 words ; crabby and expensive - standards have not kept up with prices, prices are on acceleration mode and service standards are , well, like schumi at the end of this year's formula one

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

7) Property Investments

This is not meant to be some academic or professional study of the property market in China but the stats are pretty scary, for those who are heavily invested, you might like to consider disinvesting. Much of the boom has been concentrated on the coastal and southern cities particularly Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chongqing etc 'cos of the economic boom. (Beijing 's partly due to its capital city status , partly 'cos of the Olympics and partly the tech sector development)

Shanghai may be an extreme example but being arguably the most modernized city in China, its property market may well be a leading indicator for other cities. Ignoring macro factors like the uncertainty of future economic growth and the poverty - wealth gap (income gaps) , it's the micro factors which are sounding the alarm. Declining rental return rates, the skyrocketing prices, the occupancy rates (the sight of blocks of empty property is not encouraging at best) are all discouraging signs of oversupply and the inevitable price pressure that follows. What is interesting particularly when you compare it with mature cities is the huge price differentials between the surburb property prices and the city proper propeerty prices, prices around (for example) Jiading are at least 2 and 1/2 to 5 times cheaper than prices around the city (modern properties that is) , of course that's not quite comparing like with like since it's a Jiading "villa" (a fair sized house) vs a mid-class condo apartment

What's really worrying is the fact that a good % of the investors in new, high class property are foreign investors, who presumably don't intend to occupy these properties and so may be presumed to be looking for rental and capital gains . The trend of rental returns kinda depresses the prospects of the former and the latter may be hampered by a combination of factors like oversupply, limitation of buyers (the relatively high prices of new developments tend to restrict the type of buyers who would form the secondary /resale market) and yuan revaluation (depending on the speed of revaluation, prices may deflate rapidly as a rising yuan means investments are more expensive for foreigners)

For once, the author is pretty glad that she's not in the quandary of disinvesting or waiting for long term gains- after all, age is not necessarily an asset where real estate is concerned. The ultimate decision is yours - just don't say that yours truly didn't give you a heads up!

Observations from a holiday

ok, so it wasn't much of a holiday - due to 2 factors
1 It was a surveying trip to decide which city to work in for the next year, no glamour, just the decision that enough's enough, time to live a different life and to live for oneself

2 Partly 'cos yours truly hasn't quite paid off "study loan" and partly 'cos she's mommy dearest, was travelling with a companion . The advantage; not paying and the disadvantage; the stress that started yours truly drinking! (after an alcohol free 7 years!)

Summary of observations (it's not an obsession with 7, some observations just don't summarise together)

1) There's life after marriage
2) Food and entertainment
3) Superstition
4) Imperialism
5) Language refresher
6) Customer service
7) Property investments

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Nice of certain friends to want to call as a surprise on 8/11 but , er, the fact that you're asking about my phone number now seems to kinda neutralise the surprise factor. It's not unwillingness to celebrate but rather having survived oh a mere horrendous 9/10 years of crap happens, just wanna quietly celebrate the last of the horrible 20s

Politics, Philosophy and Economics

And why they all lack logic ... at least in view of recent news events


Rumsfeld is at it again -it's become an American propensity to annoy/insult the host country just before or after they visit - the American tourist syndrome?! Anyway, speculations about Chinese military ambitions and accusations of understating military spending is rather ironic coming from a man who (at least according to PBS documentaries) did more to pave the path to war in Iraq than anybody else in Bush's posse. Besides, does anyone in American political fraternity really want to clarify their spending, funding or links to defence or oil interests? People living in glass houses shouldn't just avoid stones, too much light isn't too pretty (just ask Macbeth or Othello)

And the Japanese are busy reminding the world of a past that they ostensibly want the world to forget - go figure


Kermit's 50! That's pretty young for an amphibian who's the only frog to speak at the union and who, ironically, proved to be more popular than Arafat ( at least there weren't police escorts and protestors when kermit spoke) and less controversial than OJ Simpson (why they invited him, only god knows). His winning philosophy of life? Peace and neutrality (and some sanity - which is what the greenpeace movement seems to lack of recent years)


Can anyone tell what's wrong with the following statement : protectionist / punitive measures to protect free and fair trade .

The demands for acceleration of yuan reform and liberalisation are understandable (at least from an American viewpoint) , what's incomprehensible is American deafness and blindness to the fact that Chinese banks are not ready for the inevitable volatility that comes with forex liberalisation- if impatience leads to a global financial (at least forex) crisis, can they guarantee the stability of the $ at the very least? If that materialises, there may not be fiddling whilst Rome burns but there may be a blame game whilst the flames engulf the economy