I felt like Chicken Tonight

Bored after a week of unimaginative dinners, I just invented the ultimate chicken burger. In case you’re interested, here’s how it goes. You need (quantities for one person; multiply as necessary):

  • 200g of minced chicken breast (that’s two nice-sized patties)
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 spring onion, chopped finely
  • One teaspoon paprika
  • One teaspoon ground cumin
  • A few finely torn-up coriander leaves
  • Pinch of salt
  • An egg-white (or the whole egg, if you’re not a health-freak)

Mix it all up by hand and have fun making a mess. It’ll be worryingly dark but don’t fret, when you cook it the colour will improve. Mould into two patties and splot them into a frying pan of hot olive oil. Flip ’em until cooked through.

Serve on a bap with mayo, rocket leaves and sweet chilli sauce. Flail around trying to stop the cats from stealing one burger while you’re eating the other.

Barbed comments

Why would an ordinary school in an ordinary, peaceful street in Hong Kong need to be protected by a barbed-wire fence? The Sharon Lutheran school that I walk past on my way to the office every day looks like a fortress and I can’t think why. I’d assume it was some kind of young offenders’ institution if I couldn’t see the signage on it.

Perhaps the barbed wire really is there to keep the young Lutherans in. Otherwise, one day, maddened by years of people shouting “I have a dream!” over their walls, they’ll burst out en masse, snatch up an innocent passer-by and nail him to their door.

A wibbling too far?

An interesting question from Dave over at Dave’s Wibblings:

Here’s my thought for tonight: if someone is blogging pseudonymously, but their true identity is trivially googleable, does anyone have a requirement to keep that identity quiet?

[…] why should I be required to preserve the anonymity of people who are only anonymous to preserve their lifestyle which depends on human trafficking for sex?

[…] why should I preserve the anonymity of some overpaid expat who is using his blog to boast about how much sex he pays to have? While he supports the triad gangs who traffick in women? Or some wanker banker bragging about his conquests. Especially now that these banker types are profiting at everyone else’s expense.

Here’s my take, Dave, as one non-pseudonymous blogger to another. Why don’t you mind your own business?

Has anybody actually asked you to unmask somebody in this manner? No, didn’t think so. Why should they? What you’re actually saying here is, “Ooh, I’ve just done some slick detective work on Google and found out who $blogger is… I really want to spread the word so people can see how clever I am! But I don’t want to look like a playground sneak. I know, I’ll get rhetorical and hope somebody asks me, then I’ll have an excuse to spill the beans!”

Good man. You disapprove of prostitution and fatcat bankers. Me too. But you’re behaving right now like one of those tedious fundamentalist Americans who photograph men coming out of porn shops and post the photos on the web. And I had you tagged as a decent, sensible atheist fellow too.

Dave, if you know the identity of someone who is doing something illegal then take it straight to the police. I’ll applaud you for that, in public if you want; but this snide “I know what you’ve been doing…” business is beneath you. Get a grip.

Edit: Dave deleted his blog posting. Good stuff.

More supermarket shenanigans

Apropos of the previous blog post, something else I’ve noticed that they do in Taste/Park’n’shop is to leave the “This product is out of stock” label covering the shelf prices of products that are clearly in stock and piled up right there in front of you.

Why else would they do this, except to prevent you seeing the unreasonably high prices they charge? The individual items are not marked with prices, so the shopper relies on the shelf price. I have started confiscating “out of stock” tags that are untrue, so the prices are visible once again. I have quite a few already.

Truly, I wish there was somewhere else I could shop. There is a Wellcome in Tung Chung, but it’s woefully local and sells very little of any use.

Whine tasting

My local supermarket, Taste (part of the Park’n’Shop empire), pulled a neat bait and switch on me this evening. Many times on other blogs, or the estimable Not the South China Morning Post web site, I’ve seen articles about Park’n’Shop’s dubious product labelling practices. Today, they got me.

I was in the wine section. They had Banrock Station Unwooded Chardonnay.

(Wine tasting sidebar: Yes, I know Banrock Station isn’t elite or special, but the unwooded chardonnay is a nice quaffing wine, versatile for cooking, and it’s generally reliable. Suggestions for other wines to try are always massively welcomed, but lectures about my poor taste in Aussie whites will force me to open a Leeuwin Estate and not share it with anyone.)

The wine was labelled at $59 each or $100 for two. I took two.

At the cash desk, the special offer did not materialise. I got charged full price. I complained, and they said there was no special offer on the wine. I went back to check, and this is what I found:

  • The special offer price tag was for “Banrock Station Sem. Char.” You may safely assume the use of tiny print.
  • There was no Banrock Station Semillon Chardonnay anywhere in the wine section
  • There was no price tag anywhere for the Banrock Station Unwooded Chardonnay
  • The price tag for the Semillon Chardonnay was directly under the Unwooded Chardonnay bottles, up at one edge of the shelving.

Bah, humbug, Park’n’shop. You may be technically in the right, but I have no doubt that this little stunt was deliberate. You do know, Mr Li, that this is a shabby way to treat customers? You do know that this is a cunt’s trick?

So, what’s the big deal? It’s $18 difference. It’s nice wine. I’d probably have bought two bottles anyway, as I have a risotto to cook tomorrow. It’s simple enough: when I shop for food, I don’t want to be on tenterhooks looking for scams all the time like I’m in some crazy grocery-related find-the-lady game. Food-shopping is one of our most basic needs; one would expect it to be accompanied by some basic decencies. Now I know better; it’s time to learn some Cantonese and start shopping at the wet market.

Green dambusters

It’s not all over the news any more, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone away. I’ve been pondering the Green Dam situation a lot recently, because – for whatever crazy libertarian reason – I find that I simply cannot agree 100% with its detractors.

Actually, I love the idea. This is one of the two areas in which I am in agreement with the Chinese Communist Party, the other being persecution of Falun Gong. (I should add, though, that my motives for both are quite different from the CCP’s.)

See, I find the “protect the children” brigade thoroughly tiresome. The Australians went as far as trying to implement ISP-level porn-blocking to “protect the children”. Apparently Kevin Rudd didn’t just pick up some Mandarin while he was in China. But “protect the children” is an international problem, not just antipodean.

So we have this group who opine that the Internet needs to be “child-friendly”, i.e. everything unsuitable for children should be removed. That’s going to make the Internet pretty useless. You wouldn’t expect adults to watch nothing except childrens’ television, would you? Or just read childrens’ books? Then why would you expect them to approve of a “childrens’ Internet”? I’m all in favour of not letting kids watch porn, but if that means that adults can’t watch porn too, then something’s gone awry.

Call me a cynic, but isn’t “protect the children” a badly-concealed excuse for skirting around the true aims of the campaigners? I have a measure of respect for good old-fashioned bigots who are prepared to be honest about how they just want things that they disapprove of to be banned. Compare that to the dissembling of a “Focus on the Family” type organisation which has exactly the same agenda but hides it behind their “for the children” rubric. And, of course, “for the children” is rebuttal-proof. You can’t argue against a measure that is “for the children”, or else you’re a vile child-hater. You approve of Internet porn? Why do you hate children!? Etc etc etc.

I’ve debated with a few of these types and asked why they don’t just take action to protect their children. The usual answer is that their kids are very well protected, but what concerns them more are all the other kids who don’t have the benefit of insane parents. And with that reasoning, they’ll continue their campaign to have porn blocked at the ISP level and make sure we all get nothing more taxing than Sesame Street on YouTube.

Hence, the logic of Green Dam was instantly attractive when I first heard about it. It’s the perfect solution: a content filter that is installed (or at least shipped) with all PCs, which will prevent the underage from stumbling on www.analmidgets.com, and which can be disabled or uninstalled by grown-ups with a tolerance for such things. It won’t shut the prudes up, but it might force them to admit the real reason for their complaints, and that makes them easier to debate. And critically, it moves the role of censorship away from the network and onto the workstations.

Of course, successful implementation relies on the software (a) not being filled with stupid security glitches that show a total lack of software quality control, (b) not being largely stolen from another company, (c) not being full of government back-doors (open source would be a sine qua non, I think), and (d) not being way, way too sensitive so that your applications are constantly shut down without warning just because you typed something slightly frowned-upon.

So: ten out of ten for the idea, but minus several million for the execution. I’m anticipating the release of version 2 of Green Dam with genuine curiousity. Of course, it will still be intrusive and flawed, but if it reduces the argument in favour of the Great Firewall of China even one iota, then it’s a step in the right direction.

Landlord of the flies

Getting a deposit on an apartment refunded should be pretty easy, no? Once the landlords have checked that you haven’t stolen the air-conditioner or smeared faeces over the walls, they just need to subtract some routine costs and send you a cheque. You’d think.

I have been trying to recover the deposit from Emily’s apartment (see this posting) for a ridiculously long time. I allowed the statutory fifteen days to pass and then contacted the landlords to ask how much was forthcoming and what deductions there would be. Oh no, said the landlords, you’re not getting any deposit back, because you didn’t pay all the rent.

“Did so.”

“Didn’t.”

“I’ll show you the receipts.”

“You have receipts?”

The fact that I had every single payment documented changed their attitude entirely. I know from conversations I had with them last year before we signed the lease that they were resigned to the fact that nearly all tenants break the lease and run off with rent unpaid. It seems this is so routine that refunding a deposit is something they’ve never done before.

Moreover, it turned out they hadn’t even been keeping track of the incoming rental payments. “We need to see the receipts,” they told me, “so we know which payments were yours.”

“You mean, you don’t already know?”

Well. If I’d known that, I’d have stopped paying the rent eight months ago and just sacrificed the deposit money. What kind of a way is that to run a business? I’m glad I’m not their accountants! “We received a lot of money this year, but we don’t know where from. Then we spent most of it, but we don’t know why. Did we pass the audit?”

Having established that I wanted money from them, they deducted a massive amount for unpaid utility bills. By pure luck, in the detritus that Emily left behind in her apartment, I found a bank receipt showing that she’d paid a big slab of money to the landlords for precisely this reason. Yes, you guessed it, they hadn’t kept a record of that either. I sent them a copy of the receipt. They scolded me for keeping this information from them, and then revised their estimate to a more reasonable level.

Then they told me, “now we need originals of all these receipts before we can pay you.”

“Show me where it says that in the lease,” I suggested.

“We need proof that we’re refunding the money to the person who paid it in the first place.”

“I have an ID card. Or, you could pay it back into the same bank account that paid it to you. Oh wait, that would assume some degree of record keeping on your part. Silly me.”

In the end, though, despite the hoops that must be jumped through, it all worked out. The final deductions were small and reasonable. Now we just wait and see if the cheque bounces…

Tung Chung FAQ (part 2)

Apart from people seeking commercial sex in Tung Chung (see the FAQ part 1), the other search engine queries that turn up many times a day are from peckish people searching for food delivery services.

Now, eating out in Tung Chung is woeful, for the most part. We have:

  • The Aviator: poor food at high prices
  • Pizza Hut: poor food at high prices
  • Delifrance: Incredibly poor food at high prices
  • Starz Bar: Microwaved plastic food at high prices
  • Spaghetti House: Bland but inoffensive, although they did once serve a friend of mine with a pizza that included a plastic bag between the base and the topping
  • Food Republic: Well, it’s a food court. You wait ages for your food while standing up, and when you have it you won’t be able to find anywhere to sit. Once you have sat, you are haunted by other people hovering nearby holding rapidly cooling meals and waiting for you to leave. Also, Food Republic manages to have a back door but no front door.
  • That new restaurant under the cable car, whatever its name is: Can’t even be bothered to go look, because the menu they dropped in my mailbox had “Chinese Western-style Food” scrawled all over it, i.e. bad steak, overcooked and served with fried rice. I’m the last person to lambast Chinese food – I love it in all its forms – but they cannot butcher, so anything involving western cuts of meat is a guaranteed failure. Also, some of my chums have tried this restaurant and say it’s pretty bad.
  • KFC: KFC
  • McDonalds: Gone, in accordance with CityGate’s policy that an Outlet Mall must contain nothing other than outlets, which is why we don’t have any HSBC ATMs any more either.
  • Eastern Gate: Nice dimsums (but a very limited menu; where’s the tripe fried in black pepper? where’s the no mai gai?), long, long queue, and the wait staff get incredibly surly if you overstay while they’re trying to set things up for the Sunday afternoon geriatric mah jong sessions.
  • The Thai in the Basement: Some say they like it. I find the food unsubtle and unsophisticated; the sweet-and-sour tastes like ketchup. If you want Thai, go to Melody Thai in Tung Chung Village, where the phanang curry will make you squeak with pleasure, and the full-strength tom yam goong will just make you squeak.

There are other options, but generally I don’t bother eating out in Tung Chung. Kowloon and the Island have a million better alternatives.

You can get food delivered in Tung Chung and it’s not always a bad option. The Handi Tandoori (again, out in Tung Chung Village) does magnificent and authentic Indian food and will bring it right to your door. The aptly named “Pizza and Chicken Experts” will deliver… well, I never used them, but I see their bikes about the place. I assume they’re delivering pizza and chicken.

And now McDonalds claim to deliver as well. I guess they bike it over from Yat Tung, where clothing outlets know their place. In fact I actually tried to order food from MaccyD’s delivery service recently. The nice lady telephonist, whose English was unexpectedly good, told me that “the chef is very busy” and the order would arrive in “one hour and forty minutes”.

Firstly, chef?

Secondly, who waits nearly two hours for a quarter-pounder? McDonalds food is the very last resort for a terminally tired guy who needs a protein-stuffed comfort food fix before lapsing into unconsciousness. It has no features sufficiently redeeming to justify an hour and 40 minutes delay. I cancelled the order and, as a result, added two days to the far end of my lifespan.

And just to annoy all the folks who’ve waded all through this diatribe in the hope of finding phone numbers for Pizza and Chicken Expert, McDonalds, or the Handi Tandoori – yes, I have them all, and no, I’m not publishing them. Not unless they start paying me commission.

Winnie the flu (and piglet too)

I just love this. With H1N1 now a declared epidemic, and cases popping up all over Hong Kong, the government has taken the sensible step of closing all the kindergartens, infant and junior schools for two weeks. The summer holidays start in two weeks, so actually <alicecooper>school’s out for summer</alicecooper>. Not a bad idea, really. Keep the kids at home, stop them from congregating, and limit the H1N1 spread vectors.

So how has Hong Kong Disneyland reacted to this? Well, they’ve launched a “bring your bored kids to Disneyland” promotion, selling tickets that allow unlimited entry during the school-closure period.

Do you get the feeling that somebody has missed the point? Or worse, is so desperate for revenue that they’ll ignore government advice and endanger children? Good old Disney!