Sunday, March 25, 2007

0703250800 Saturday – the day of work.

I had to match the color before I could paint the hallway. The hardware store can mix a can of paint in any color - the only problem is that I needed a sample. A sample of a clean bit. This means taking a piece of the wall to the hardware store. It needs to be the size of a 50c coin, although a 5c coin will do. If I have to remove a piece of the wall, I might as well take a bit that is convenient for me, so I chose a comfortable height in a well lit and ventilated area and cut out a neat rectangle. This sample was carefully put into a clean and sturdy cardboard envelope and packed into a sterile zip lock bag. This matchbox sized piece of paint was treated like evidence in a murder investigation.
The process at the hardware store is a standard issue application of computer wizardry. Amazing. They scan the color sample and the machine mixes the paint. Viola! – it is done.
The color matched so well that I can use the paint on small sections, with out having to paint the entire wall and the wall that joins on the that wall and the bit that joins that wall and so on until you find that have to paint the entire inside of the house including door and window frames. Then the outside, the fence and the driveway.

The house is nearly ready for sale – nearly. My dear wife, who is, as a matter of fact and not my biased personal opinion, a world class teacher, says that we will put the house for sale after Easter. That should give us about three months to find a buyer and grind as much money as we can from them. Negotiations will be simple – pay the advertised price.
We have found a place for our eldest son to stay in Australia while he finished his year 12. A great family from church that also have a son the same age. He will have his own car and an expense account. What a life. He had better do well in his final year.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

0703242130 Yellow is one of the Windows 3.1 colors.

As you can see from the add on this page, I am selling my gorgeous BMW K1200S. I put it in for its 30,000km service on Thursday to make sure that it is good enough for some unknown buyer. I have replaced the oil, the coolant, the filters, the front tyre and the brake pads.

We are all familiar with the process of authorized dealers – you take in your car and they try to find something that they charge you $1000 to fix. Its like a game - except it uses real money. The BMW dealer called me:
“Your brakes are shagged” says the voice of the BMW qualified service technician. “Do you mean that the brake pads have reached the end of their service life? – or is there a problem with the ABS, the brake pressure servos or is it a mechanical problem with the mounting? Can you be more specific?.
Five seconds of silence.
“Umm the brake pads are worn down and the metal has scored the disk, you will have to replace it.” Came the reply.
I have a personal policy that when these people find a problem AND they offer to solve it by the most expensive method, then I will not give them the job. A scored disk is not a problem. The bike will stop. It might squeak for a few days, but it will still work.
“Is that really necessary?” I ask, knowing full well the answer is no.
“Well it….might umm…” replied the technician.
“You can replace it, but you will have to make it a gift.”
They are not acting in my best interest. First of all they try the oldest trick – the ol’ brake-disk-needs-replacing routine. I am insulted that they think that I am that stupid. They could have asked if I wanted it machined, or tell me that it will be alright until the next service or at least tell me the cost. He never once told me the cost – only that it was “shagged” and that I was going to pay for it.

I now have to update all my adds with the 30,000 km service completed with new tires and brakes. Next month I will ride it on a 5000km return trip to Victoria.

One day at work I was asked to research and then buy a data-projector. My research suggested that a Sony was the best deal at the time. The managers said that I had to buy one from our contracted supplier. My decision was overridden. The projector was “procured” from our contracted supplier at twice the price. A few days later one of the engineers asked me to look at the projector because they could not get the color right – it would not make the color yellow.
I tested it and sure enough, I could not adjust it to make yellow – it would make light green, but not yellow. 20 electrical engineers tried and failed. I returned it and they said that I should have bought the next model up – it makes yellow.
“Do you mean that out of the 4096 colors it claims to be able to make, that yellow is not included?”
“Well; it….might ummm..”
“One of the primary colors is not included?”

They replaced the unit with a more expensive one that makes yellow. It broke down two days later. An overheating alarm triggered an automatic shutoff.
I returned it, and now I get to the point of this story. When I returned the faulty projector, they said that I had filled in all the forms correctly. Now here is the point.
“Aren’t you ashamed that your customers know how to do that?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” As if this was a strange question.
“A customer should never see that form. Your managers should never see that form. If a customer brings back a faulty projector, you should be scratching your heads in bewilderment that one of your best products has actually found its way back to you in such a state. If there is a problem – you should go to them and replace it, apologise for the inconvenience – then take the faulty one away.”

After that, when it stopped working, I would answer with: “Your problem, I wanted a Sony.”

p.s. Electroboard have stopped selling LightPro projectors.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

0703212100 We live where?

We have four months today. My dear wife, who is, a matter of fact, not just my biased personal opinion, a world class teacher, called me at 11:00 to say we have exactly four months to go.

I had my weekly Cantonese lesson and it was going well until I had to remember the word for “New Zealand”. My mind went blank and the class was looking at me. I would be better off not learning any Cantonese and pretending to be deaf. I keep saying things like: “You can hear I’m Cantonese” and “You can’t hear, I’m not me”. The Cantonese teacher, Ma Tai Tai, says to not be offended when the locals laugh at me, it will not be because they think I am stupid, they will laugh because I will be saying something funny.

I bought a Cantonese phrase book to help – I would recommend that if anyone wants to learn Cantonese, they should get a language course with a tape or CD. The way that the language books write the words phonetically is like learning a second language so that you can learn a third. There are a multitude of ways that the various companies try to use symbols to indicate the correct tones. They use phonetic romanised Cantonese, but they are different for each publisher. There are also variations depending on the target audience – one book has examples for ‘young people’ that are saying completely different things.

A language book by itself is useless without a recording of how to say the words in the right tones. Cantonese uses sounds that do not naturally occur in English.

Cantonese has the same word for ‘Australia’ and ‘Beer’. To the Cantonese speaking Chinese people, Australia is ‘Beer land”.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

0703200530 Cantonese classes on Tuesday nights

Learning Cantonese.
I look forward to my Cantonese classes on Tuesday nights. My goal today is to learn how to greet Ma Tai Tai in Cantonese with something witty and intelligent. The Chinese, according to the University of Queensland course notes, don't have a way of saying “good afternoon”, but instead they greet each other with a question about what they think they are doing – for example, I would greet Ma Tai Tai with the Chinese version of “Teaching us today?” or “Have you been shopping for Dim Sun?” This way of greeting someone from Australia, with a question about what they are doing, would prompt a response like: “Where's your badge constable?' or “Do I ask you about your love life?”

Sunday, March 18, 2007

0703181700 Handy-man jobs.

Cleaning up the house for selling.

Handy-man jobs around the house are satisfying to complete when I have the right tools, a budget and someone else who knows what they are doing.
Our good friend came over to help me do some handyman jobs on the ever increasing to-do list of things that must be done before the house can be listed for sale. I had to replace a timber step and replace a tile on the bottom step. The tiles for the bottom step are no longer available so I decided to replace all the tiles with paving bricks. It looks better and is not as slippery.
The timber steps needed to be replaced and the others needed painting. The undercoat was a hideous florescent green. My dear wife, who is, as a matter of fact and not just my biased personal opinion, a world class teacher, asked upon seeing the work in progress, “Whats the deal with the steps?”
As a result of the timing of this work the whole family were not allowed to use the stairs and also not to use the bottom doorway – we were trapped by wet paint and wet cement. Obviously we just took bigger steps to go through the bottom door.
Here is a link to the steamer trunk on ebay:
I have no bids, but there are a 4 people watching and at least one person asked for its dimensions.
Or search here - Listed in category: Home & Lifestyle > Furniture > Bedroom > Dressers, Drawers, Chests

Friday, March 16, 2007

070316 I know that I don't know.

Learning Cantonese in five months.

I had another Cantonese lesson today and noticed something about the character of the Chinese people and their language - the Chinese seem to always refer to themselves in the positive. For example – we say “I don’t know” or “I don’t think that I will go” or “ I don’t think that you understand. The Chinese say – “ I know that I don’t know” or “I know that I will not go” or “Can you, [can] not understand?”
The news today reported that the Chinese have passed a law that allows them to own private property. I know that I don’t know how this may effect the economy in Hong Kong, but I know that I know that I want to go – can you, not understand?

What I planned to do: –

· Paint the bedroom.
· Cook a chicken dinner.
· Get a passport picture.
· Drop off a visa document.

What did I do:
I was sort distracted – but I did cook a chicken dinner.
It all started to go awry when I could not remember my brothers birthday that was needed for a visa application. I know that I don’t know why the immigration department of the Chinese ruling party want to send my brother a birthday card. A simple family-three-generations group sheet could have solved that problem but it was easier to call my sister and ask her. While I was on the phone I remembered that I had her violin that she received as a present when I was five. I decided to return it promptly and post it immediately. The violin distracted me from taking all the important the forms with me.

What I plan to do:

Paint the bedroom.
Make spaghetti for dinner.
Drop the kids off at ballet.

What I did do:
I was more determined and organised.
· Painted the bedroom.
We are now one step closer to selling the house. The room looks great, like we are in a new house or a hotel room or a new hotel room. I would have never finished the painting if we were not leaving. I always imagined that I would have plenty of time to fix up the place. Cleaning up the house so that it is ready for sale reminds me of renting a flat and the owners are coming over for the six-monthly inspection. Those inspections are so degrading.

· Made spaghetti for dinner.
I made a standard issue camp spaghetti and cooked it all day in a crock pot.

· Dropped the kids off at ballet.
I often get a can of lemonade and a mars bar when I am waiting to pickup the kids from ballet and one day when they came out of the class they saw me with the goods. I stood frozen in my tracks like a rabbit staring into the headlights of a truck while they descended on me asking if they can have some. I bought them all their own and it started a tradition. Today I let them catch me with the goods again. As they climbed into the car I said that it would be rude of me to finish my drink in front of them. They were so polite and said that it doesn’t matter – that is when I pulled out the shopping back with enough for everyone.

As part of divesting ourselves of all worldly goods, I put our steamer trunk on eBay. The steamer trunk needed a story to make it interesting and appealing to a potential buyer. link -

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

0703142200 These are a foo of my favorite things

I finally started my Cantonese course at UQ.
Lesson one – choir practice. The Cantonese language, sorry dialect, can be described as a language made by singing. We studied two words for two hours – foo and fun. There are five tones and when the whole class practice a word together, it sounds like a Chinese version of the Sound of Music.

Fooo - a fear, a fear of frogs,
Fooooo - some trousers full of legs.
Foo - some wine that turns you red
Fooor - the flat spot on your head.

And so on.

The language has a logical word order that makes sense when it is explained from the Chinese perspective. There are no plurals.
For example if you have, say, a car, then it should always be called a car. If you have two cars then why should the name of the first thing change from car to cars because the same thing is next to it, or even more confusing, if you happen to be the legal owner of more than one and even the other one is not in sight. You would tell someone that you have "cars". To the Chinese way of thinking, this is like changing the name of your first child when you have your second. Things are always called the same name.

Even though there is no alphabet, they have 19 sounds that make the language. English has 40 sounds (some say 41).

There are 12 of us in the class and all are learning Cantonese due to a wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, girlfriend or lover. One has a Vietnamese husband and would like to speak to her inlaws in their language, another has met a girl in Hong Kong and another boy would really like to.

I have a friend at work who went to China for work, met a girl, fell in love, returned broken hearted to Australia and then dyed his hair black before returning to China to meet her parents. He learned Mandarin, the official Chinese language, and is of the opinion that Cantonese sounds like chooks squabbling. His reasoning is that Mandarin is "better" because it has nine tones, while Cantonese has only 5. Why he finds this important may become clear to me later, but for now five ways of saying “foo” is enough of a challenge.

For all the fuss the Cantonese language makes over the tones, it is remarkably tolerant of what letters are used. The letters “L” and “N” seem to be interchangeable. I was learning from some tourist tapes and learned the phrase “how about you” (Nay ne) – then our Cantonese instructor, Ma Tai Tai, pronounced it as “Lay Lee” and said this was acceptable. At this stage I really didn’t believe that I was getting my moneys worth from this. After comparing notes to the Lonely Planet Guide I found that Ma Tai Tai is correct. In a convoluted way, I was sure that the problem was caused by Ma Tai Tai having a Chinese accent while she was saying the Cantonese words while speaking English. If I know what I mean…

Sunday, March 11, 2007

0703112230 Where are my keys?

We have decided to go to Hong Kong five days earlier. The school at which my dear wife will teach has given us three days in a Hong Kong hotel – we will pay for another couple of days. The practical side of this means that we can all go together as a family on the first trip. My eldest son has to finish year 12 in Australia in November. We are going to arrange for him to finish the last week of the term four days early and then be with us for the two week break in August. He then has to return to Australia to complete the last term of high school while staying with a family from church. He will have a car – our 2002 AU III falcon – as a “P plate” driver.
This may be a challenge for him. He will be trusted to stay with a family church with his own car, drive himself to school and other commitments while studying to successfully complete his year 12 certificate.
We have yet to ask a family at church if he can stay with them. It is on our “to-do” list. It is not a subject that we can bring up easily. We thought it might be easier if we put an add in the ward newsletter –“ Free to good home – one cat and one boy. Cat has own food, boy has own car.”

For our move to Hong Kong we will have to pack as if we are going on a week long holiday and then pack up the house as if we are moving. Seeing as we are selling all our worldly possession, we roughly estimate that 12 packing boxes would be economical. The kids get one box.

In any other normal move, the kind where we have simply shifted to another city or in some cases a few kilometres within the same town, I simply loaded the car with boxes of stuff and ferried them to the new place until it was done. There would always be a strange box of stuff that missed out on being packed – it might be the cleaning chemicals under the laundry sink, or the contents of the dryer or even a box of books and papers in the garage – this time there can be no other stuff. We pack for a holiday, then pack for moving, then clean the house for settlement and go to the airport. This move raises some interesting administration questions: Do I take the mop and bucket to the airport? What will I do with the vacuum cleaner? I have thought about hiring a mini-skip and leaving it in the driveway for the last big cleanup into which I will dump all the stuff that is no longer economical to maintain.

We have decided that nothing in the kitchen is worth taking. Every appliance will be cheaper to replace than it would cost to send over. Most of it was made within site of Hong Kong in China. There will be no box of groceries, no esky with the frozen food, no box of half used condiments and no box of heavy box of pots and pans. All will be replaced on arrival. Everything.

When we are at the airport waiting for the plane, we will have no keys. No keys for the little car, no keys for the big car, no house keys for the upstairs doors, no keys for the downstairs, no chapel key, no keys for the rental property and, for me particularly, no keys for my motorbike. None.
We will have everything we own in our suitcases, a few boxes of personal possessions on their way via courier and the largest number we have ever had in the credit column on our bank statement.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

0703102000 Saturday is handyman day.

Some friends from church dropped in at 9am to see if we had anything left over from our garage sale. The house was in no fit state to receive visitors but seeing as we are all friends I invited them in. They wandered through the house as if it was a Myer store. They picked things up and looked under them for price tags. They measured the fridge. They asked if I would sell the stockman coffee table. They asked how much for the piano, but stopped talking when I told them. They asked me if that was the only dining table we had. I sold them a writing desk and gave them a bookshelf. The price sticker was still on the writing desk from the garage sale and so they insisted on paying. I felt a little awkward because I have already called lifeline to have the stuff taken away.

Today I was talking with my dear wife - who is, as a matter of fact, not just my biased opinion, a world class teacher - and said that it is time to put the house on the market. “But I want to fix it up first” was the reply. “Dear wife, it is time to sell. It is a quarter past March already”. My dear wife then finished the curtain project that has been in the boot of the car for two weeks waiting to be taken to a professional for help. After dinner she continued scrubbing the walls with sugar soap which is a tradition when moving out of a house.

Today I replaced the shower head with a new water-saver and the kids don’t like it. Water restrictions allow 140 litres per person per day. I have asked the kids to have navy showers. My daughter complained the shower-head does not let enough water to come out to wash her hair and that she will have to use the sink. My eldest son has already worked out how to adjust the flow so as to make the water-saver function useless. I think he just takes the whole shower-head off.

I replaced the screen door downstairs. It is a fun job when the right tools are used. Get the little wheel-on-a-stick and enjoy it. Don’t try this job with cutlery.

The key to any project is the budget - a plan without a budget is a wish.

Water saving and level five restrictions.

Friday, March 9, 2007

0703092130 You light up my life.

What did I do today to help us get closer to Hong Kong?

I picked up another passport today. We now have four out of five. The passport office was not so intimidating today, the place has become familiar, the strange computer screen at the front door was cooperative today and it welcomed me by name. One small problem – only one of two passports were ready. Due to their efficiency, the other passport has already been posted and is due to arrive on Wednesday next week. Handy tip for getting a passport – if they ask for a departure date, tell them that although you may be departing in a few months, your visa application needs to be in by next week. It must be a trigger for them to make your request happen faster. Don’t ever tell them that you are organized enough to make plans 6 months ahead. The passport people are your friends. The friendly and courteous staff asked me for some identification. “ I have the ultimate in personal identification”, toots me. “I have (dramatic pause) an Australian Passport! “ and added a footnote that it was issued by this very office.

Fix the house.
I took the afternoon off for some “personal administration” and went to the hardware store for a few things that I need to fix up the house. I needed a light fitting for the passage – the last fitting was cooked into a crumbly powder from the heat of a new low power globe. I know enough about 240 volt AC power to know that I don’t know enough about it. My eldest son told me that the earth leakage circuit breaker does not protect the light circuit. I didn’t know that. He is a clever young man and I wonder what else he knows - do the science teachers tell kids about this at high school? I have worked as a telecommunications technician for 20 odd years and I am familiar with plugs, sockets and connectors and so I should be able to install simple light fitting that has only two wires – one of which can kill me. The first surprise came when I saw that the fitting has four connections. AC mains has three wires – what is the fourth connector used for? I carried on regardless by duplicating the previous connections and, standing on a chair, in the semi-darkness, with my trusty screwdriver, tried see the tiny markings on the back of the socket that are written in brown on a brown background. Active, Earth and Neutral – connected. Now I’ll see if the light works – I put the globe in and closed my eyes in case it exploded. It lit up instantly. Great, it works - and then it occurred to me with a sinking feeling - I had been working with live wires.


0703082100 Taxi !

The family had the missionaries over for dinner tonight, one of which has worked in Hong Kong and speaks Cantonese. I can only say a few sentences in Cantonese, and there are limited subjects in everyday conversation in which I can practice. I can almost ask someone what country they are from, and can understand their answer if they are from China, Hong Kong or America. The subject came up regarding what job I will have in Hong Kong – “…you can be a Chinese taxi driver” meaning I could drive a Chinese taxi. This gave me the opportunity to use a sentence that I thought I would never use. While listening to the Cantonese language course, I have endured the torment of having to listen to endless repetition of “Say you are an American” or “Say ‘I can speak English.” Well this time I had the chance to answer in Cantonese and I said, “I am not Chinese”. My dear wife, who is as world-class teacher, and that is a matter of fact, not just my opinion thinks that I am way ahead of her in learning to speak Cantonese.

After dinner I made a spreadsheet that counts down the days to departure. We were surprised to see that we have 134 days to get ready. Preparing the house for sale has now become "less than relaxing". We accelerated the divestment of all worldly goods by giving the missionaries a slightly used scented candle.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

0703072115 - Do zebras have black stripes?

The passports for the kids started to arrive in the post - my daughter's passport arrived first - all was good except it had the photo of my son. The passport with my daughter's name had my son's picture. My son's passport has not arrived yet and it probably had my daughter's picture but for all we know it could have a picture of Joe Bloggs.

The passport office is a remarkable place - located on the 4th floor of a non-descript office building in the city. Stepping from the elevator, a visitor is greeted by a sign that says "Welcome to the passport office of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - by appointment only." As if to say - if you don't have an appointment then kindly leave now. The entrance to the majestic hall for the customer relations counters is dominated by a strange freestanding computer screen that both invites and challenges you to gain entry by entering your appointment number. There are several ways to make customers welcome, this is not one of them.

The message on the screen is simply says "Enter your appointment number" in bold letters and in fine print gives instructions on who to call if you don't have one and the directions to a phone not more than two meters away that will automatically dial the receptionist.
"Hello, I am standing in the passport office and I would like make an appointment" says me in my best this-is-stupid voice to the helpful and courteous staff located somewhere else in the known universe. I was given a simple two-digit number and then tried to enter that into the strange freestanding computer screen that both invites and challenges you to gain entry. There were 12 spaces available so I used the first two spaces. It gave an error message. I used leading zeros and it gave an error message. I read the instructions and tried again and still caused and an error. I asked the guy behind the counter who had been watching me go through this absurd procedure what I was doing wrong. "Oh, you have a queue number already," he said and pointing at a completely different screen " your number will show up there.”

The passport office is different to that of other departments. What made it so different was the fact that there was no one else there. There was no queue. There were no other people waiting. The place was empty. I had to wait for my number to be called. Once at the counter I was told to fill out a form 2B – in front of them, while the staff waited. It was a photocopy of a photocopy so the lines were a bit skewed – and this was odd because they had insisted that my signature must remain in the box.

The story unfolded and gradually formed in the mind of clerk at the counter like a miniature mystery. There is a problem with the passport – not his passport – his kid's passport – the kid doesn’t have his passport – he has one passport and the other hasn’t arrived – the passport has the wrong name – it has the wrong photo – whose passport has the wrong photo? – the daughter's name is on the son's passport – now I know whodunnit.

“We will have to keep this” they said as if I was going to use it for my hybrid Frankenstein child that I was planning to make with the brain of one child and the outer skin of the other. They suggested that maybe I had made a mistake with naming my children. It was perfectly reasonable for them to assume that a boy would have such an obvious and blatant girl's name. There are some parents that do such things to their children. Ask any man that has been forced to grow up with the name of “Kerry”.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

0703042100 Good morning, that is a nice sunset.

There is a missionary at church that worked in Hong Kong I have been practicing my greetings so that I can say hello in Cantonese. When I saw her this afternoon, I mustered up the new words and in my best Cantonese said "Sue Jer, Jo-Sun" which meant that I bid her a good morning at one o'clock in the afternoon. Apparently the language course that I am doing does not cover meeting people at any other time than in the mornings. Maybe in lesson three it will cover the remote possibility that people may want to meet in the afternoon. "No, you mean "Meoor - Good Afternoon" was her reply. I had practiced that line since Tuesday. She then said five more things that I can't remember for the other times of the day. I pressed on with my excuse which is, in Cantonese, "Noor sic tan yet tee quong tong waah" - I can hear a little Cantonese - this elicited a yelp of delight from the Cantonese speaking missionary. My number one son standing nearby asked what I said and the missionary began explaining to him in Cantonese! I can only guess why she started speaking Cantonese but I would like to think that she felt comfortable and at home and was able to be understood. Maybe this is why people take the effort to learn a language. Learning an entire language is more than remembering what new utterances replace our utterances - it shows that one is prepared to fit in, to contribute, to make the effort needed to join them.

Cantonese is the second language that I have tried to learn - the first was Russian. I learned a few words of Russian when I was in the army as an artillery signaller in the 1980s and then again later when I borrowed books and tapes from the local library. I have never been to Russia, and as a soldier in the 1980s it was my prime goal to never ever go to Russia. Ever. Back in the 1980s a soldier visiting Russia could end up imprisoned, seriously embarrassed, killed or all of the above. I learned Russian at two different times in my life and for two different reasons. The first time it was how to stay the hell away from them and their incredible number of nuclear bombs. The second time it was to understand what my number one son was going through while he was trying to learn English.

Bigots have a saying, and they state forcefully with conviction that an immigrant must speak their language. Maybe they see the effort of learning a new local language as a sign of respect. In return, a bigot will reward their efforts by withholding all hostilities. I worked with a man, an adult in his thirties whose intelligence was sufficient that he was actually able to join telephone wires, who strongly believed that anybody who did not speak English should not be allowed into or remain in Australia. I asked him why he had such a strong belief but he was unable to explain the reason or purpose to either me or himself. In his personal model of Utopia, in which he was the supreme and only leader, he made a grand magnanimous gesture of allowing the English speaking children of immigrants to remain in Australia - albeit under home detention. And only if the English speaking children have jobs.

Internet names are used in this blog.


0703040700 Saturday Morning Cartoons

The sunscreen song says that the real problems in life are "apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday" - we received a letter from the school in Hong Kong. The enrollment papers for my daughter and son included an innocent looking statement that took us by surprise. It was one sentence that could de-rail the entire train to Hong Kong. It calmly said: "Please note that [your son] will be required to sit a pre-entry test; would you please advise when he will be in Hong Kong so we can make the necessary arrangements". I thought to myself, "What do they want him to do?" What if he doesn't get in to this amazing expensive school? Surely the whole move to Hong Kong does not depend on the ability of my 10 year old son to multiply 3-digit numbers? We had better make sure that he knows how. Actions stations. My dear wife, who is, as a matter of fact, not just my biased personal opinion, a world class teacher, started our son on a fast track to put our son comfortably in the acceptable range of the strict and foreign entry requirements of Hong Kong's finest private school. He is smart, bright, imaginative, and has the attention span of a typical 10 year-old that is bought up on Saturday morning cartoons. The entry test goes for two hours.
My dear wife, the world class teacher, found a CD with the multiplication tables sung in a variety of styles including a hip-hop version of the three times table - we then bought our son his own mp3 player. The first practical test of his multiplication tables came when he asked me how may songs can it hold.

"Well, you can work this out, a song is about 5 meg and there is about 500 meg available - so the question would be - how many fives in 500?" There was a slight pause as he wondered if this was a trick question, could it be this easy? His answer was deliberate, not with a question mark or as a question itself. He said with confidence "One Hundred".

We are going to Hong Kong and he will have a new MP3 player to listen to on the plane.

Saturday morning - clean up the yard.
Saturday morning was spent with number two son shoveling rocks. My dear wife bought a tipper load of river rocks and had them dumped in the driveway. Our simple task was to put each rock in a nicer place. When a rock would roll away, we would pretend to be in Hogan's Heros or Hitch Hiker's Guide and when we captured the escapee We said things like: - I found another one trying to escape! Ahh well done number one - take it prisoner and we'll make an example of it later...

- we then put it aside from the others rocks while we decided on its fate.

Before and After:

We now have a new family saying - "This is harder than raking rocks."

Online names are used.

The Sunscreen Song. :

Friday, March 2, 2007

0703020540 - Lesson one for the fourth time.

What did I do today to prepare to live in another country and speak a different language?

I have learned to arrange the few words that I can speak in Cantonese into strange sentences.
My passport is ready. Official documents are ready for the big adventure.

Vaccinations against Hep A and Hep B for the whole family. Didn't hurt. There is something real about the fear of needles. My daughter was conspicuously stressed and could not be pursaded to be otherwise. As a young woman, she can understand that vaccinations are important to her long-term health and it is a requirement of entry in Hong Kong.
As a society we ask that doctors not only cure us of all diseases, but that they do this in such a manner that is convenient, painless and where possible not at all unpleasant.
I can see that it is not natural to deliberately stick a metal instrument into your skin, however the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience.

My daughter has a real, but irrational fear of needles the same way that I have a real but irrational fear of clowns. I also have a real and rational fear of spiders because spiders can kill me. This is where bravery in everyday life kicks in - bravery, we are told, is not the absence of fear, it is the ability to overcome it - however when it comes to clowns, I avoid them, particulaly the unpredictable clowns that work in the city mall. They don't follow any of the social skills of a decent society. They do all manner of unspeakable things to embarrass passers-by and then make the whole crowd laugh at them. I think that there should be a simple law that if a person is dressed as clown they can no longer expect to be protected by the laws of the land.

Looking for work as a telecommunications technician in Hong Kong:
It is an official policy of the telecommunications company for which I work to NOT write a reference when leaving. Managers may give a personal reference, however it is not to be on company letterhead. There are some distinct differences in my workload compared to the other network planners. They have been asked to produce a strategic plan for an exchange at the rate of one per month. I have been asked to produce 25 per month. The manager said that I should give it a go and we can review the progress -"If its too hard we'll look at it then" says he, "if its too hard I'll just leave" was my witless quip in reply. There will be no redundancy payout for me. The recent stock market fall has put me about $1000 down when I sell my company shares. I am not motivated by so much by a love of money, but a love of providing for my family.