Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hot, hot, hot

It's been so hot these days that any time it gets under 30 deg C (86F), it feels cool. Any breeze helps. In fact, there has been a hot weather warning from the Hong Kong Observatory up all day. It is 10pm and it is still in affect. The warning is just a general warning for the public to pay attention to being hydrated and avoid working in the sun for too long. The UV index on clear days is really insane here. It goes up to 11 or 12, which is extreme. It only gets that high around noon to 2pm but that's still pretty amazing.

If the weather doesn't change into sudden thunderstorms this weekend, I might go check out the beach on Sunday. It would be nice to just go find a nice beach and relax. Although there is bound to be a lot of people all over the place. Are there hidden/undiscovered beaches in HK?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New toys

Using my new bluetooth keyboard! But seems like it will take some getting used to since the keys seems to be positioned a bit weirdly. The most major issue is that the space bar does not extend to the right enough for me to comfortably hit it with my right thumb...

Went back to Sham Shui Po on Monday after stopping by the office after work. I realized I left the juice I bought on Sunday in the fridge and wanted an excuse to go get it. And then on the shuttle down to the MTR station, I saw that my backpack is basically falling apart. The bottom part is coming off. So this gave me the right excuse to go get the juice and go by SSP for cheap stuff. I found a backpack that I like as well as this keyboard and a wireless mouse. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Thoughts on society

I just watched a very interesting video about race (in America) from HBR (link to article here). There's a lot of these videos that talk about racism since the recent court case. I think race is definitely a very big factor in American society, whether people want to acknowledge this or not. It's just like religion. People want to believe that the US is a place where people are equal regardless of religion and race. But it really isn't and some religions and races have higher statuses than others. I wish that instead of trying to always sweep these matters under the table, we can talk about them more openly.

After living in Hong Kong for more than two years, I think it's very interesting to explore the topic of racism in HK society as well. I hope that whatever insights I find here can turn into something of wisdom when I go back and live in a so called "non-racial" society. Hong Kong is a much more homogeneous society where the Cantonese speaking locals dominate every aspect of life. I find that teams at work tend to shift towards wanting to become homogeneous in the sense that everyone speaks the same language (Cantonese). The Mandarin speakers usually accommodate and learn to understand, if not speak, Cantonese. The English speakers are tolerated but I feel like they are just not included at the same level. And I really don't know if this preference for a homogeneous team is more for language or for culture. Just the other day, some of my friends were talking about college dorm life in HK and how it's hard to room together with Mainland kids because their habits and "culture" is just too different. There's really no conclusion I can draw here. These are just some of my observations and thoughts on this matter. There are also a lot of minorities in HK as well. There are Indians, Pakistani, Thai, and other SE Asians who live in their own little communities. I really don't know very much about their lives and how they manage to live in HK. But I do feel like these minorities are much more hidden. I always like to scoff at the lifestyles maintained by HK bankers because I really don't think they know HK at all. But the HK that the minorities live in must also be a very different reality than the one that I or the bankers know. Even though this society is much more homogeneous on the surface, it's very complex when you start to dig.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Paris conference booked

I booked my tickets for Paris! Going to be in France from August 30th to September 10th. From beginning to end, the whole trip is almost 2 weeks. I leave HK on a Thursday night and get a day to wander around Paris (maybe with other people who are also going to the conference?). Then I have six straight days of hardcore geotech conference. I think the conference will end at decent times and can go explore Paris again during the evenings. After the conference, I have almost another six days of vacation. I am thinking I want to go to the south of France and just chill in nice seaside towns and beaches. The conference and airfare is pretty much all funded through a combination of HKIE and my company. So it should be good. I should really read my previous posts on Paris to see what I have done before!

It started raining again this week. I guess it's okay since it's not as hot. Sometimes it just pours a lot and people usually try to wait it out, at least during the really hard downpour part. It's kind of dangerous to be working at site during heavy rain anyway. Things get slippery. Today, I got stuck outside after doing a round of inspections. The clouds just came in really fast and I barely had time to make it to an umbrella before it started pouring. There are some really large umbrellas set up to workers around the site (mostly to provide shade). I was wondering when I would get to go back to the site office when the guy driving a dirt truck offered me his umbrella. That was really nice. I got back to the office and returned the umbrella to him as he was leaving the site. I still go pretty wet though but these days I bring another change of clothes with me. It's a really good thing that I bought a pair of water resistant pants at REI in Portland when we did that road trip.

I've been finding site life really boring. Lately, all we have been doing is piling works. There is nothing else going on. I don't have to deal with all the messy stuff anymore so all I'm really responsible for is doing routine inspections and following the site progress. I think that following site progress is really as much work as you want to put into it. You can get down to as detail as what each piling plant is doing at a particular moment or you can not care at all and just enter data as they come in. I kind of feel that knowing everything is extreme but not knowing anything is not really being responsible. I just think that our role as site supervision team is really extraneous to the entire construction process. We're part of the quality control effort but we're really only there so that someone can be held responsible when something goes wrong. Other than feeling extraneous, I also feel that there is really no opportunities working at site. It really doesn't matter how good I am, I would still be doing the same sort of thing over and over again. I've realized that what I really like is to be able to move up in an organization and keep getting more of the spotlight. But as site staff, there is nothing to move up to. I feel like it's becoming a big waste of time. It's not like I can really do other things at site since there is always someone interrupting me. I'm wondering if I can go back to the office early and rotate to the structures team and learn from them for a while. Don't know if this will really work out but the most I would be staying  on site is until the end of this year anyway.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

FB Newsfeed

Lately I have gotten a lot of my news firsthand from Facebook's news feed. It started with the Boston bombings, then the Asiana flight, and now the Zimmerman case. I opened the FB app on my phone to find that a lot of people have posted things about these news, whether it is to say that they are okay or an outcry at the event. It's interesting because I guess I (and probably many other people) are subscribed to FB more than they are to the news. If you're just going about your life, you might not necessarily have time to pick up the paper or watch the news.

Today was not very productive. My model for the research project is not working for some reason. And they cleaned the pantry tank again in the morning. I knew this and went into the office later in the day but the smell still lingered around and the office felt stuffy. I left after not being able to get things to work and decided to take the MTR to North Point and walk back home just to explore that part of the neighborhood a bit more. I only walked on the main street and didn't find anything interesting. Just the usual mix of stores. But it was a nice walk. I feel like I should get to know the eastern side of HK Island more.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Another weekend

Okay, it's official. Having a TV is a huge distraction and time waster. I think the problem is that you can just turn it on and flip through the channels and settle on watching something. In the tragic event that there is nothing on, you can settle on the news channel and watch the daily dose of news until there is something interesting on. For example, I just watched Monsters Inc. on TV. If I didn't have a TV and wanted to watch Monsters Inc, I would have had to find it online or on my iPad. That takes planning and initiative. By the time I get through just thinking about the logistics, I probably would have settled on doing something else, like cleaning the house or something else productive. 

Went into the office again today and tried to get a model running before I went to work on the presentation for next Wednesday. Our client is visiting the site. He's one of the richest people in HK and everyone is going crazy about this visit. The contractor has been doing a lot more housekeeping to make the place decent looking. And apparently he's interested in hearing a technical presentation about the site. At first, I really didn't think he would be interested in the hardcore technical details so I made some graphics heavy slides and was proceeding with putting lots of photos on the slides when we found out that he actually likes technical stuff. 

I basically spent all day on this presentation. I guess it's good that we're getting some good slides made since we haven't really made very many presentations for this project. There are so many aspects of it and I'm sure we'll need them later on. I should really keep a good collection of presentations for my projects.

I went back to Sham Shui Po afterwards to check mail again and found a check from my previous wifi company. I've been expecting this check for a while so it's good to finally get it. It's a small amount but at least I don't have a constant nagging in the back of my head to go check that mailbox anymore. I also found a letter from BD in the mailbox. I opened it to see what the charges are and it basically lists a few things are "seem" to be out of order, including illegal expansion of the unit onto the "roof" of the ground floor level. The expansion comprises mainly the first two units. I lived in the second one. Good thing I moved out. I wanted to take photo of the letter but the security dude was there so I didn't want to look too suspicious. 

I wanted to do a little shopping for sports shirts and pants because I need more for site. I was debating whether or not to go all the way out to the Tung Chung outlets when I spotted a shop that sold sports clothing near the SSP MTR station. Totally forgot about these stores that sell cheap clothing! I got a couple of shirts and a pair of pants. Hope they work out and last the next couple of months. So that saved me a trip all the way out to Tung Chung. It would have costed $23 to get back from Tung Chung! I think I need to explore the Island more instead of relying on places in Kowloon and Lantau. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


I bought 2 bottles of sunscreen last weekend. This is my biggest sunscreen purchase in years. I really can't remember when was the last time I actually went to a store to buy sunscreen. There are all these new terms now like "helioplex" and "PA+++". I swear these things didn't exist back when I still took time to look at sunscreen labels. It hasn't been as hot lately but the past few days has been really sunny. I just felt the need to get good sunscreen and put it on religiously throughout the day. I currently own 3 big bottles of sunscreen. 

I have successfully kept track of all my expenses in the month of June. Well, with the exception of the Singapore trip, which I am just counting as one lump sum. I used to use Mint.com to keep track of all my accounts but then moving to Hong Kong happened and I now have too many accounts everywhere. So I used the free time I have nowadays at site and at home to put together a spreadsheet to track expenses and all my accounts. I was inspired by our spreadsheets at site to keep track of construction progress. We put a lot of time into making our spreadsheets do everything for us at site so I figured that I should really spend just as much (if not more) time making something that could do that for my finances. 

I also decided that I really should have a budget but in order to do that, I would really need to have a good feel for my expenses throughout the month. I think I've done pretty well at guessing my expenses for a month. Except the "Food" vs. "Dining Out" gets a little fuzzy at times. I think it's pretty clear that you're "dining out" when you're eating at a proper restaurant. But what about takeout? Or bread for breakfast? You can get really nice pastries or fried noodles for breakfast here and I think it's cheaper to eat out for breakfast than to buy cereal and milk. 

I've spent basically all of last weekend at the office working on a research project. It's really good to have a long stretch of uninterrupted time to do work and think. I am starting to see how people can do research for a living. While I think this is nice, I really don't think I can actually do it for a living. I kind of wish I have a couple of weeks to work on the project straight through. We have a lot of downtime at site but it's not uninterrupted so that makes it hard to concentrate.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Singapore trip

Went to Singapore for the third time last weekend with my roommate. We really wanted to go somewhere for the long weekend. July 1st is the anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the Mainland so we get the day off. Hong Kong people really like to travel so all flights on or near that weekend are either sold out or really pricey. It seemed like all my FB friends were on vacation. The only choices for under $2,000 HKD round trip was Singapore, KL, or Taiwan. My roommate's brother lives in KL but he wasn't in town that weekend. And both of us have been to KL and didn't find it very interesting. Taiwan was a good choice because both of us want to explore more of Taipei and trains to nearby towns are convenient. But my roommate hasn't been to Singapore yet so that was definitely a winner.The only thing about the cheap flight to Singapore is that the flight is at a bad time. In fact, flying became the major highlight of our trip.

The flight is with United and it is actually a connecting flight between Chicago (origin of the flight) and Singapore. The flight was supposed to leave at 8pm on Friday night and get to Singapore at around midnight. But the flight was delayed at takeoff for 6 hours so we ended up leaving HK at 2am. We were really tired when we finally boarded the flight. I was smart to bring an eye mask and slept the entire 3+ hours. We got to Singapore pretty early in the morning and stumbled into our hostel. We were told that we couldn't check in until 3pm so we dropped off our bags and went exploring.

We had food at a nearby hawker food place. There weren't very many choices so early in the morning but we were satisfied with some fresh noodles. We then did a lot of walking and explored Little India until it got too hot outside. We went to Orchard Road and walked around the malls some more. Right when we were completely exhausted from the lack of sleep and all the walking, we spotted a really nice couch in a public resting area inside a fancy mall. We promptly sat down and fell asleep. Felt really refreshed after that!

We went back to the hostel, cleaned up, napped, and then went back outside when it was getting dark. We got chili crab in Chinatown and then walked around the harbour front area and even went inside Marina Bay Sands before going back to the hostel and had a really good night's sleep.

That night, we decided that we did pretty well with the sightseeing on Saturday. We happened to find a visitor's center in Chinatown and they offered a few dollars off for tickets to Universal Studios. It was recommended by friends along with Night Safari. Ideally we would do both but decided against buying tickets for both. I think that was a good choice because we would have been really tired. The lady was really helpful and we even had a plan of attack.

Unfortunately we overslept a bit and didn't make it to the park right when it opened. It didn't seem like a very busy weekend though so the lines weren't all that long. We went on ride after ride and even took a picture with the Cookie Monster!! I need to get that picture off my roommate. We got tired at around 3 or 4pm and left for the beach part of Sentosa. I napped on the beach. I had bought my swimsuit with me but was too lazy to go change.

After this we had dinner near our hostel and relaxed at our hostel before heading to the airport. Our flight leaves at 6am Monday morning so we had planned to spend the night at this world famous airport. We got to the airport before midnight only to find that there were no United staff at the counters. So we couldn't check in. All the nice amenities are inside the departure terminal! We could even see it through the glass walls. We were really disappointed and walked around until we found an aviation gallery (made for kids) that was relatively quiet, out of the way, and already had people sleeping on the benches and the floor. I went to sleep pretty much right away and woke up before 3am because I was getting cold. I got a tea latte from the Coffee Bean near the check in and found out that we can check in at 3:30am. I also found nice couches at the Coffee Bean that would have been much nicer to camp out in.

We finally checked in and walked around the really nice departure terminal. We went to the butterfly dome where all the butterflies were sleeping. Sat down at some foot massage chairs. I found that my left leg is definitely much more muscular than my right leg. I think it is generally normal for right handed people to have stronger left legs because this balances your body out. But I think after continuous exercise on site, my legs have become a lot stronger. The foot massage also does thighs and I definitely felt that my left leg is a lot harder! Anyway, we also found the movie theater where they show free movies. The chairs were comfortable and had lots of legroom. It was a good thing I set an alarm because otherwise, we would have missed our flight.

Our flight back was a bit turbulent because there was a typhoon nearby. The typhoon unfortunately was not very close to Hong Kong so no chance of a day off. I didn't feel so well at the last part of the flight. We made it back home after spending a lot of time at airports and sleeping in public places. I spent the rest of the day just chilling around the apartment because it was pouring rain outside. I had wanted to check out the annual march that Hong Kongers hold on July 1st to voice their opinions about the current government. The starting point is in Victoria Park, which is really close to where I live. But it started to rain right when they started, just like the June 4th thing. And I was really tired. So I just watched it on TV. I think I am a lot less productive these days with this TV around.

Anyway, it was a good trip. I really like Singapore. It is like Hong Kong but with more ethnic groups. I think if I ever end up doing a long SE Asia backpacking type trip, I would definitely schedule Singapore somewhere in the middle just to get a break. It is such an easy city to get around, especially for English speakers. And even if you didn't speak English, you can also get around in Chinese, Tamil, or Malaysian.

Singapore for the 3rd time

Some pictures from the Singapore trip! Longer post later.

Had some time on this trip to go to Sentosa and enjoy the beach. The beach wasn't all that impressive but it was nice to just chill and nap under the palm trees. 

Inside Universal Studios. Haven't been to a theme park since Six Flags during Senior Week. This one is really small (as compared to US ones) and you can definitely do everything you want to do in one day. We even left before it got dark.