52 Weeks in An Alien Land Called Home

Wednesday 3 January 2018, 1.31am HKT

7.28pm local time, 22°C 72°F, humidity 62%, warm and muggy

diary 2017-12-31-22-55-42

HERE we are again — a year that went a little too quickly for some, a little too rocky for others.

And a little too angry for me  the reason for the threadbare state of my postings.

The last three years have been the most upsetting time of my life. I can’t really give more context — or else I’ll burst a blood vessel.

Read the rest of this entry »

At sixes and sevens

Thursday 31 January 2013, 4.55am HKT

Updated 02 Feb 2013 (typo fixes)

12am local time, 17°C (63°F), cool

TODAY is exactly one year ago that Ratta (an alias) had been let go by Ferrari S.p.A. after 11 years there.

rattaAnd I’m going to keep putting this reminder up every year, and keep at it for the next 11 years, thankyouverymuch.

For those who don’t know Ratta (from Swedish ‘råtta‘ for ‘rat’: but her personality is nothing like one), I’ve written about her before:—

  1. Ratta’s bother | 20 Jan 2012
  2. Do this if you should get fired: A lifehack exclusive | 3 parts | 01 Feb 2012
  3. Ratta’s progress | 6 March 2012 (which, incidentally, gives my ‘take’ on the utter bollocks behind the so-called ‘Tiger Mother’ neurosis about rearing kids)
  4. Cat bench | 07 March 2012 (a photo by Ratta)
  5. Not what it turns out to be | 09 March 2012
  6. Anger and resentment, delayed for now | 11 March 2012
  7. 10 things this week | 10 Oct 2012 (see item ‘Five’)

If you’ve ever read any of those stories, you’ll appreciate why I am in sympathy with her.

Trials and tribulations

ACH! I don’t think you’ll like to hear the recap. I’ll make it short so you (but mostly me) won’t shat ourselves from the shape of things possibly to come for the rest of us.

Enumerated below in Italian, because it’s nicely sarcastic.

luxury carsPrimo, Ratta spent 11 years at Ferrari personally in charge of the showroom and two Ferraris, each costing a cool HK$4½ million (US$580,000 or £370,000). After 11 years of blemish-free service, she was let go by reason of cost-cutting (if that is to be believed at all). My personal view is it’s 100% bullshit anyway, considering I spent some of my formative years in Italy.

school prank 2011 0115Secondo, Ratta then landed a teaching job at a nursery crammer (i.e. tutorial school), despite having no teaching qualifications or experience. And, yeah, it’s a CRAMMER for nursery-age children the likes of two- to five-year-olds. (You are definitely not sure of actually reading this…)

Very quickly, the place didn’t turn out to be “something else, man” and she left (or fired, I can’t remember which). Like all crammers in Hong Kong, it’s for sphincter-expanding butthurt of children, let’s put it that way.

pink slipTerzo, Ratta then landed a secretarial job at a trading company. She thought, finally, a proper job more in tune with her abilities and temperament. Yet first day at work and she was categorically told she was to be a salesperson! Unbelievably, it’s peddling nutraceuticals — to and INSIDE hospitals!

Alright, alright, Ratta thought, after all this is a job and see what comes out of it. Thankfully, the sales manager fired her over the phone one evening after just one week into the job.

Nutraceuticals are “very interesting from a psychopathic standpoint” (as one of the characters in the 1940 movie “An Angel From Texas” nicely puts it). This is the potentially effing dangerous pharmaceutical-containing crap disguised as either foodstuffs or nutritional supplements. People in the olden days used to feed this stuff to a rich parent or some other family member with a view to getting a premature but healthy inheritance. It’s nothing like the pharma drama we see in movies like “Love and Other Drugs” (2010).

Can you actually picture in your mind the actual moron instructing actual employees to flog this actual stuff right within actual hospital grounds and also hoping to secure actual food and drug licence for it???

Nutraceuticals are the kind of night-soil that brings on a number of interesting legal ramifications for employers and employees alike. One of them is conveniently called ‘accessory,’ if you get my legal drift. Vicarious liability isn’t going to get anyone off the hook, I’m afraid.

hms bounty smallOnly nice thing to come out of that experience for Ratta was going on a company junket (on behalf of the company) on the HMS Bounty (you know, per Captain Bligh and Lieutenant Fletcher).

schoolsignQuarto, she landed yet another teaching job around third-quarter 2012 — another kindergarten crammer. This one fared better than her last teaching job and many parents at this place liked her teaching very well, it seems.

The only hiccup was that she’d been put on part-time roster, so money has been very tight for Ratta.

display shelfQuinto, to supplement income, Ratta becomes a part-time assistant cashier/shelf-stocker at a Japanese chainstore. You’d never guess a person who’s previously worked in a major British publishing firm for 10 years and then 11 years at an Italian luxury automaker would literally end up being a shelf-assistant in an overglorified supermarket.

Despite the job’s low level and low pay, Ratta said this Japanese store job has been the most enjoyable of all her previous jobs because things were done the Japanese way, not the perverse Hong Kong way.

The basic Japanese commercial mindset in running companies is for steady profits and lifelong employment. Whilst that kind of employment no longer exists even for the Japanese themselves in these troubled times, the Japanese still operate along that line. They understand happy employees do a better job of things, and doing a better job means good business. It took two atomic bombs to stop Imperial Japan and still the Japanese are living in the 22nd century — while the rest of us imbeciles are pretending to live in the 21st with fiscal cliff and QE3/4/5/6/whatever. Speaks volumes. So there.

(I’m not apologising for my view either. So there too.)

still wanna have a baby 5da1_cvw1ySesto, because the Japanese cashiering job didn’t bring in enough bacon, Ratta finally ends up being a full-time cashier at a baby-supplies store in a shopping mall. The job’s okay, but the co-workers there were (are?) standoffish, deadpan and a bit dog-eat-dog in mentality, according to how I heard Ratta told me.

She resigned from this job a few days ago because of good news (below).

Banalità (trivia): Ratta is (was) the only staff member who could handle a full-blown conversation in English with customers. Since her joining that store, the store manager (40-something) had suddenly decided to ‘up’ his English-language skills. The rest should up theirs too, in my view. *Smirk* (Geddit?)

A little good news

cute-baby-hamsterSettimo, now that Ratta has resigned from the baby store, she’s managed to negotiate a deal with the kindergarten crammer she’s been part-timing for (the one in ‘Quarto‘ above). She’s now hired on a yearlong contract, full time.

I understand from Ratta that her imminent boss/headmistress is making some changes to the business model of the kindergarten, and Ratta’s performance in part-time teaching has been steady and careful.

Frankly, it’s also because Ratta has absolutely no ambitions to learn the ropes and steal away fee-paying customers parents to start her own setup — as many tuition school teachers in Hong Kong have a reputation for doing.


1. RATTA’s situation is the shape of things to come for older employees.

Six or seven jobs in the space of 12 months. This is no effing joke for the one on the soggy, receiving end.

... but only if it loves you

… but only if it loves you

And that trading company hiring Ratta for one job and immediately switching it to another completely different job happens more times than we’d like to think.

Can’t speak for most other countries, but this is the kind of despicable Hong Kong way of doing things I see all the time. Employers like that bring a goddamn bad name to employers like me, and I take this very personally as ‘them’ causing me to lose ‘face’ in the presence of foreigners.

The Hong Kong way — it gets results, no question about that, but I JUST DON’T LIKE THE WAY IT GETS RESULTS.

All my life before Hong Kong, I’ve lived, grown up or worked in the capitals and first-tier cities of First World industrialised nations. I’m not about to start now and choose the business antics of some colonial or ex-colonial place. I’ve come to be extremely snooty about this.

2. The 50s are being elbowed out, thereby we lose our profit-making know-how.

Blood bagIN our troubled times, people on reaching their 50s are being elbowed out and shoved into pointless jobs. The usual excuses are cost-cutting, need for new blood, the dynamism of younger employees, and so on and so forth.

Wouldn’t a shelf assistant’s job be better for a younger person? No, of course not, because younger employees have more (and longer) to contribute. What, against the decades-long experience of still highly active and able-bodied older people?

Colour me ignorant, pray tell what are the mechanics of that contribution you speak of?


Pleeeease, I heard nearly all of the standard excuses reasons before. I’ve personally used quite a few of them myself on others in my day.

If I ran a business with a view to making profits, running a company full of just young, dynamic new blood just doesn’t seem the way to make profits. For starters, the older folks’ experience, insights and commercial know-how will have been absent to steady the business running. The Young Turks will be forever trying to REINVENT the wheel that the older ones have already REFINED. And people wonder why there’s been a steady loss of commercial know-how in all businesses worldwide all these years.

If you sincerely want to run a business properly (that is, profitably), I’ll tell you and put money in your pocket RIGHT NOW, RIGHT HERE, RIGHT IN YOUR FACE, if you please:—

You need to have a balance of all ages, all abilities, all experience, and preferably all races. At the very, very least, elders lend stability, young’uns give oomph. Simple as that.

I am Managing Director and Principal Equity Holder of a 115-year-old printing firm AND I APPROVE OF THIS MESSAGE.

Is your anus jealous of what comes out of your mouth?

Wait till YOU get to OUR age, mate…



© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2013. (B13037). Updated 02 Feb 2013 (typo fixes).

Images: Rat doll via furry.org.au | Sportscars via eWhoKnow | School Prank via c4c | Pink Slip via Homeowners Insurance | School Sign via c4c | HMS Bounty via Pirates Wikia | Nail polish display shelf via Ali Express | Birth training mannequin via mix4fun | Baby hamster via c4c | I Love My Job via OfficeLive.com | Blood bag by Antonia Reeve/Science Photo Library via sciencephoto.com.

10 things this week (Week 41)

Sunday 14 October 2012, 12.30am HKT

CLEARLY the week hasn’t been a smooth one by virtue of my doing another ’10 things’ summary.

For the week ended Saturday, 13 October 2012.



DISCOVERED my password booklet went missing (UK) / gone missing (USA).


I’m not particularly worried about my passwords for various online espionage services (like WordPress) falling into the wrong hands. Having this blog is already wrong hands enough.

The worst thing about losing the booklet is that it contains my ID authentication codes for various stock exchanges and government regulatory agencies in several different countries — the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the USA, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, our Securities and Futures Commission, etc.

Result? Super major aggro for the authorities because I’ve had to report the loss to the police in several countries. This is self-pwnage par excellence.

Moral of the story? Things disappear notwithstanding the best security measures. Save your skin by having an action list for that eventuality. It isn’t if disaster will come — disaster will always come. It’s a question of how you manage the disaster.

Super excellent moral of the story? Now is the time to start stealing loads of money from everybody because whoever now has my password book will be taking the heat for it. Like I said, it’s a question of how you manage the disaster…



LAST WEEK, the Oscar-winning documentary “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons in the Life of Robert S. McNamara” was on telly.

Since then, memories of Mrs Lee and her six sons — all KIAs in Vietnam — kept playing in my mind. (Mrs Lee: same surname, no relation.)

Mrs L went a bit loopy afterwards, and got worse as her kids’ insurance payouts rolled in punctually month after month to remind her of that personal disaster.

Yes, folks, it surprises many that I’m actually old enough to have schoolmates who fought in Vietnam. It surprises even me.




BAZ LUHRMANN’s “Romeo + Juliet” (1996) on telly. Shakespeare’s famous play updated to a hip modern suburb, modern dress and modern gunfights but retaining its original 500-year-old ‘attitudes’ and dialogue.

The love scenes were über-crap and corny, but the other scenes were fantastic. Summary? Our lives are shite and violent, and it’s been like that down through the ages, and no change in our propensity for stupidity. Yay! Something doesn’t change! The 500-year-old dialogue really puts the whole thing into sharp focus.

Just imagine

  • Romeo and Juliet in their original 13-year-old selves
  • 500-year-old dialogue
  • Vietnam War as backdrop with Italian carabinieri as troops
  • hippie astral light sunflower music for the love scenes
  • CCR, ZZ Top, Stanton Warriors and Crystal Method music for the actions
  • Merseyside Mods as the Capulets with fake ‘Suh’thern’ American accents
  • German-Iranian skinheads as the Montagues in broken London Cockney English

What a killer that would be!


Real Steel” (2011) — boxing by hip-hop robots set in ‘old-fashioned’ America in 2020 (just seven years from now).

Honestly, I don’t get it — what’s the thrill in watching two lumbering steel robots punching each other’s circuits out? The blood and gore‘s the whole point.

Why boxing robots? We’re inundated already with news about those two robots (Romney and Obama), c’mon.

Meanwhile, the rest of the TV fare had been moronic — constant repeats of:—

  • “National Treasure” (2004)
  • “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” (2007)
  • “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011)
  • “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” (2010) *groan*

It would’ve been better if they’d just reshow the original “Planet of the Apes” (1968). Or “Centurion” (2010), for which I wrote a faggoty review.


No surprises here: “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” — which kept repeating endlessly, like a vampire sucking the life out of you using a catheter inserted into your … well, you get the idea.



SIGHTED on a T-shirt: “Time Immemorable” (McDonalds, 10 Oct, 1.20pm).

Sorry, no pics — so you can classify this into the  No Pics, It Didn’t Happen category.

It’s “time immemorial” — I know the T-shirt writer meant ‘immemorial’ because of its ‘context’ (i.e. the surrounding text and other non-compos-mentis’try).

Interestingly, ‘since time immemorial’ is a legal term of art defined as before 6 July 1189 by the first Statute of Westminster of 1275 (3 Edw. I), whose 51 Acts are still in legal force in the UK. That was the date of accession of King Richard I (the Lionheart) to the English throne.



“There’s been a persistent and virulent lack of discipline on my ship.”
— Captain Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”

OH, I find living in Hong Kong is really getting under my skin these couple of years.

Attitudes, basic manners and general behaviour have gone to pot these couple of years. The Cantonese (which makes up 95% of our population) are not generally known for quiet speech. Now, I’ve gone deaf from the goddamn constant hollering.


The “post-80s” (people born in the 1980s) are cocky (a feat to behold in a city already renowned for its cockiness), pedantic and callous. In short, stuffed-shirts and know-alls.

The “post-90s” bunch are ugly or stupid, or ugly and stupid, wear outlandish garb, and have no working or workable skills to speak of. Their Chinese-language skills are as bad as their English skills, and that’s seriously some feat to behold.

The Hong Kong education system has always been extremely competitive. Think of the U.S. system multiplied by (literally) 100 times. Think of the UK system multiplied by 25 times. Only the mainland Chinese, Japanese and Singaporean systems are more competitive than Hong Kong’s — and I tell you that’s saying something.

But Hong Kong buggers its educational horsepower by working in ‘streams’ (Science, Arts and Commerce). In the UK, for instance, a secondary student is basically free to choose whatever subjects to do at O-level. (In Scandinavia, students study everything: sciences, arts and commerce subjects regardless of personal interest.) In Hong Kong, choice outside the stream is disallowed.

Because of that insane policy, we’ve now descended to the point whereby students from one stream are unable to hold a reasonably informal conversation with those from the other streams because the stream contents and instruction are so mutually exclusive.

The education authorities officially recognise this problem (but do nothing about it). The politicos complain about it (and do nothing). The parents see it in their children on a daily basis (but don’t know what to do about it). The new, reformed academic structure (“334”) in place since 2011 for sure is going to accentuate this bubble mentality in a whole generation of people.

Can we not say this refusal to remedy the situation is in itself a sign of refusal to learn from mistakes? Draw your own conclusions.

What’s the point of extreme competitiveness when everybody knows nothing except what’s in their own little bubble?


Personal hygiene is sinking — the ‘pong’ in the underground/subway trains during rush hour is just excruciating.

General urban cleanliness is sinking too — debris in the streets, overflowing rubbish bins not attended to as a rule, hosing engines no longer seen plying the streets to wash them, busted kerbs and sidewalks, unrepaired traffic lights, etc. The list goes on.


Expats, semi-expats and Eurasians born and bred in Hong Kong are having a hard, hard time landing a job because the usual ‘anti-personnel’ tactic is to play up the Chinese-language requirement of the job (for those whose Chinese-language skills are weak).

For the locals and new immigrants, employers simply reverse the anti-personnel tactic by playing up English-language skills.



I’ve been meaning to write this for a very long time, at least for a whole year already.

Xenophobia is on the rise in Hong Kong, and pro-Hong Kong, pro-Cantonese, anti-Mandarin or otherwise anti-mainlander sentiment and rhetoric is growing. Xenophobia is mostly against visitors and new immigrants from mainland China. Domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia also get the soggy end.

I remember this is exactly what Chris (now Lord) Patten (our last Governor), The Economist, Newsweek, Time magazine, Die Südedeutsche Zeitung, Der Spiegel, La Repubblica and Pravda predicted would happen 10 to 15 years after Hong Kong’s sovereignty transfer to China.

Interestingly, I remember only the NME (New Musical Express, a music newspaper) actually said Hong Kong will turn “racist” under Chinese rule, so a certain kind of music had to be catered for. All the other ‘serious’ newspapers and magazines either missed it or sanitised their words so much that it pretty much came to the same thing.

On local Chinese-language and regular social networking sites, at least I’m seeing a rise in groups such as Cantonese Language — there are many others on Facebook — making highly defamatory, insane, invasive, irrelevant and inciting declarations on everything wrong that isn’t Hong Kong and everything right that is.

Many of these xenophobic Hong Kong groupings have followings that number in the middle thousands. And nearly every insane statement put out by these groupings is greeted with support by thousands of followers and/or sympathisers. I grew up partly in Italy and the UK at a time when those countries has sizeable right- and left-wing militant movements, and the same thing is happening right at home now.

The Establishment here are adding to the winter of discontent by sitting on their hands, letting things slide, and showing no operational (let alone political) leadership.

Then we have that completely brain-damaged bunch of otherwise straight-A kids who banded together and formed Scholarism, a pressure group opposed to the new ‘National Education Curriculum’ (NEC) for secondary education that they (and many others) branded as pro-China nationalistic brainwashing. For an education-related pressure group, Scholarism sure knows jack about the politics of education.

I’m not f@cking stupid, boyo. I can suss out what their game is. I spent enough time in my kiddie and non-kiddie days living in countries with juntas, corrupt politicos, fascista e comunisti, paramilitary formations and other ‘interesting’ inhabitants. I escaped from one full nighttime military invasion. The front is NEC opposition, the driving engine is anti-mainland politicking.

If the real worth — the true value — of a organised cause is in what and how it presents itself to the public, then it’s clear as the goddamn sunshiny day whenever their conveners speak in public. These guys are having it in for the authorities and anyone else not on their side. Hongkongers are not great or even consistent consumers of news, so this stuff tends to go right over their heads. Many of these newer lobby groups have secret agendas — just that their disguising them aren’t done expertly. I ought to know — I once worked as a political fundraiser in the UK. Don’t f*cking fob me off with disguises and crap.

Personally, I’m no happy bunny about the NEC either, but I’m even unhappier about a bunch of people who get straight As but still manages to screw up big time with the wrong name for their own pressure group (‘scholarism’ means pedantic learning, by the way: they meant ‘scholasticism’ — and even that is problematic for a lobby group). I’ve heard they’ve been told numerous times about the error of their name; they point-blank refused to change. (The media is full of stories about them; just Google.)

RIDER: I hate and detest naming names like this and definitely out of character even for me. But as a person who grew up in 13 different countries around the world (including a crazy place like Beirut, Lebanon) and also trained in psychology and law, I’ve seen my fair share of crazed and fanatical people in my day in and out of psycho labs and courtrooms. I’m pretty insane myself anyway, so it takes one to know one.



Ruminated on the number of times I’ve ended up having to ‘apologise’ for the insane faggotry of Hong Kong people when I’m in the company of foreigners or in other countries.

I’m nothing like the average run of law-abiding, God-fearing, forex-loving, real-estate-speculating, forward-contract-arbitraging Hongkonger, much less the insane bunch mentioned in SIX. Yet, it befalls on me to get hit with remarks like, “Why do YOU as a Hong Kong person do this?”

I don’t know ‘WHY’ — I can’t answer for them because I’ve never spent my formative years here. Ask them, not me. Don’t give me a hard time because of them. I came back to Hong Kong already a fully grown, fully tired and emotional (drunk), and fully insane person (albeit according to non-Hong Kong patterns of insanity).

For crying out loud, I don’t even read or write Chinese!

In reverse, I get the Operation Rolling Thunder treatment from Hongkongers: “Why do you always side with the gweilo (foreigners) when you’re a Hongkonger yourself? Why won’t you be Chinese and tell the mainland Chinese to be in their place?” I don’t and I can’t.

WTF-ness scores: 9.9 – 9.8 – 9.7 – 8.7 – 9.8. WTF Gold Medallist!

I totally relate to why Robert S. McNamara said “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” about his role in the Vietnam War.



THIS IS THE PART where I get tough on people.

An essential trait of an entrepreneur (or at least a person TRYING to run a business) is to NOT have tolerance for loonies. It’s the 80/20 rule — 20% generates 80% of the income, 20% of the time is with sensible people, 80% with the ‘drama’ of the loonies. Just can’t afford to piss about with the loonies.

My last post mentioned a less-than-crystal-clear-minded friend of mine decided out of the blue to redo something highly likely to blow up in my friend’s face several years from now.

A background primer. My friend is 20-something, local born and bred, works a steady but part-time job, and holds a B.A. in English Language. Has a long-running fantasy desire about working for the government in the legal area.

The heatstroke has finally kicked in, I think. My friend has now gone off on a tangent and is preparing to resit high-school subjects for 2014 admission into the local top-dog university, most likely for another bachelor’s degree in law.


Non compos mentis doesn’t even begin to characterise this insanity. Why would anyone in their right mind should want to do this?

The way my friend explained it to me, resitting high-school exams post-degree-wise would “develop the CV” specifically for joining the Hong Kong Civil Service. It was (almost) explained to me that our esteemed bureaucracy would—

“… consider all your best achievements, despite [sic] whether it is a resit or first time — the whole life achievements.”

My friend has been mislead, either by someone or by my friend’s own self. Despite my friend being an English major, my friend’s command of English is … just … f#cking abysmal. My friend is probably unable to fully comprehend the nuances of language in those Civil Service assessment guidelines, I don’t think.

To cut a long story short, my friend is stubborn and barmy — a dangerous combination — and has a distinct penchant for rationalisation and textbooky-type intellectualisation. This person generally can’t see the forest for the trees in most things, and doesn’t realise it.

► If the Civil Service really DOES consider best achievements regardless of first-time pass or resit, wouldn’t it have done that before rather than now or in future for a degree holder?

► If the Civil Service really DOES consider best achievements, wouldn’t resits be a contradiction?

► If you’re preparing for a second stint at Uni, why not just use your present degree to get in, instead of trying “develop” your CV with high-school stuff?

► Presumably at the end of all this you’ll have two degrees under your belt. Aren’t two degrees worth a tad more than high-school stuff?

See what I mean. You and I can see this, plain as daylight, but my friend couldn’t.

Time factor too: Age mid-20s now. Second stint at Uni 2 years from now. Four-year bachelor degrees in Hong Kong. Altogether 6 years to elapse. Graduation over 30 years old. Left behind by the rest by a big stretch, pal.

► Will our Civil Service want a 30-something for first-time entry into their ranks at establishment grade? You’ve got to be farkin’ kidding me! Hahahaha.

Oh, suuuure they will — preferably you’re overseas-educated, preferably overseas-raised, preferably Distinction passes for undergraduate qualifications, preferably solid postgraduate qualifications, etc, etc, etc. Otherwise, those six extra years trying ‘to perfect’ things will get you no better edge than other first-timers with first degrees, and only getting non-establishment-grade civil service rank.

Wow, 6 years to get exactly the same thing what you could get now.

My friend also has an annoying habit of talking about “monetary returns by [age] 35” — whatever the hell that Chinglish means. I’ll just assume (for my own sanity) that it means ‘return on investment.’ If that what my friend means, then business acumen is also seriously lacking by doing this faggotry.

I make an honest living working with crooks the likes of bankers, lawyers, accountants and government officials, day in, day out. I don’t know how the government works in absolute terms, but I sure as hell know more than my friend does.

It’s a test this “consider your best achievements” thing. The “whether it is a first-time or resit” is just another red herring. It’s to sort the wheat from the chaff: those who follow ‘rules’ like drones will forever be slotted into low-level or support roles — someone’s got to do the dirty legwork in the machinery of government, right? It the same sordid routine with H.M. Civil Service in the UK. Duh.

Honestly, I don’t care if my friend gets to read this. My friend needs a good slapping around to bloody wake the f#ck up.

TRIVIA: I have a certain vicious streak in me. I stop being friends with those who later come back and say to me, “Yeah, man, you’re right, it was no good.” I’m rubbing my palms in expectation of that day with this particular friend.



A senior journalist from our local English-language broadsheet wants to interview me over luncheon. I couldn’t believe he wants “to meet a great man and intellect” because of my other, even-stupider, zero-inspired blog, Learn English or Starve.

Details to come. Otherwise, if I’m not back in an hour, call in a bomb scare.



Writing this post, which surely is a sign that things aren’t going well with me.


“You live only once. Why ruin it with a rash decision?”



© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. (B12349)

Images: ONE via c4c | TWO via Wikipedia | THREE via Graham’s Down Under Thoughts | FOUR via Imgur | FIVE via c4c | SIX via c4c | SEVEN via Idle Hearts | EIGHT (1) via Hammer’s Hall of Viking Supremacy | EIGHT (2) via Funny Junk | NINE via eHow | TEN via Keep-Calm-And.

10 things this week

Sunday 7 October 2012, 12.50pm HKT

THINGS haven’t been smooth sailing lately for me, so I’ll just summarise and leave things at that.


I’ve managed only eight posts last month, way down from my average batting record of 20 a month. The below were some of the distractions for me for this state of affairs.


Money is tight.

This toilet bowl of a city I’m living in called Hong Kong has stopped making money.

Financial printers like me depend on printing IPOs (initial public offerings, a.k.a. public stock flotations, a.k.a. initial public outrage) for the bulk of their income.

Notwithstanding media reports and official government announcements to the contrary, the worldwide financial situation is worsening by the week, and no light at the end of the tunnel in sight.

A London-based jeweller pulled the plug on its US$1 billion Hong Kong IPO in May because of the eurozone crisis and China’s economic slowdown. Had it gone through, it would have been Asia’s biggest flotation for the year. It was the fourth major IPO to be aborted this year here.

Right now, I understand a mainland Chinese dairy company with a longwinded name is planning a Hong Kong IPO this year. I understand the dairy company is hoping to raise US$800 million to US$1,000 million (i.e. US$1 billion) from the IPO. If true and the deal sees the light of day, financial printers in this deal-starved market will be in a mad scramble to win the printing contract.

The dismal IPO market this year has been the lowest for Hong Kong since 2003. That year Hong Kong led the world in IPOs. For most of this year, printers have been begging Oliver Twist-style for any kind of print jobs. Things are highly likely to stay rough because banks themselves have been cutting costs to the bone as those IPOs that made it through have seen their values dropped by 80%.


Three days of high court hearings. This is the long-running lawsuit my building’s Incorporated Owners (that’s Hong Kong-speak for ‘owners and residents association’) got faultlessly sucked into with the government and a third party. Ergo, the flat owners got faultlessly sucked into pooling the legal costs.

Courtroom-side fee is HK$6,000 (US$770 or £480) an hour × 3 hours a day × 3 days of hearings per lawyer. (Hong Kong has a ‘split’ legal profession: barristers are trial/courtroom lawyers and solicitors non-trial/non-courtroom lawyers.) Repeat the rate for the solicitor.

And that’s just the cost for court time. Repeat the rate for non-courtroom work such as legal preparation, research and ‘discovery’ during the lead time to court hearings. You work out the costs.


Shut your gob … I don’t want to talk about it, but it’s something related to my kitchen.


Ratta (you’ll remember her if you’ve been following this blog for more than six months) lost her job with Ferrari (“for those with more cash and a love to crash”) in February.

Since then, she’s been bouncing from job to job. Her cash is pretty tight too.

Fortunately, she became a nursery or kindergarten schoolmistress two months ago.

Unfortunately, her employer (the owner/headmistress) turned out to be right royal bitch of a psychopath (no kidding!). I’ll update about her in another post another time.

You just wouldn’t believe the things that go on in schools here.


Big fight with Johnny, my neighbour’s son.

Let’s say the fracas had been a One-Way Saturday Night Square-Up On A Monday.

(A British ‘square-up’ is a ‘square-off’ to our American cousins.)

Let’s say:—

  • I was in charge of Johnny on behalf of his mum
  • he became Mr Invisible all day and all night long
  • he lied through his teeth about his whereabouts
  • his lies were lame-arsed and I ‘tipped over’

Let’s not actually indicate:—

  • how I scared the living daylights out of him
  • in the street
  • in full view of the general public
  • with certain body parts of his
  • ‘voluntarily impacting’
  • against certain body parts of mine
  • whilst I explained why it’s bloody dangerous for him to become Mr Invisible
  • somewhere in the city
  • when he’s only 18 years old
  • and a skinny, scrawny, chronic asthmatic to boot

No, honestly, it’s nowhere violent as that. Hand on my heart, if I lie, hope to die. (Err, best forget that quickly.)

Truth is, Johnny’s a bit of an oaf (a blockhead).

And that’s the problem. ‘Bad’ kids usually can take care of themselves. Oafs can’t. True fact.

Just these two years in our district, two people went missing (or ‘gone missing,’ if you’re an American). Both were expat women in their mid-30s. Nothing’s been heard of them. No word from the police either.

If fully grown expats can disappear in a tiny town like Hong Kong, be sure you’re putting your own life in your own hands when you’re an oaf.

Lesson learnt (for now, at least).



Had to be “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons in the Life of Robert S. McNamara,” a 2004 Oscar-winning American documentary film.

“Never answer the question asked of you. Answer the question you wish it had been asked instead.” — Robert McNamara (1916-2009)

The 11 lessons:—

  1. “Empathize with your enemy”
  2. “Rationality will not save us”
  3. “There’s something beyond one’s self”
  4. “Maximize efficiency”
  5. “Proportionality should be a guideline in war”
  6. “Get the data”
  7. “Belief and seeing are both often wrong”
  8. “Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning”
  9. “In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil” (but minimize it)
  10. “Never say never”
  11. “You can’t change human nature”

Average age of GIs in Vietnam: 19 (not 22).

Those who don’t know who McNamara was, ask your grandparents.



Gennie, Mongolia’s first female rapper

Mongolian Bling on Al Jazeera (English) about rappers and hip-hop people there. If you think white supremacists are scary, wait till you see non-racist Mongolian supremacists.

Average age of Mongol rappers: 30.


Two chicks girls ladies. Jacinta (a blonde from Sydney) and Bella (a Filipina who lived her entire life in Peking/Beijing). Nice chat with them at the IKEA Bistro on Thursday.

Not either of them: just a placeholder girl to whet your appetite

Sorry, no pictures available (because I was distracted). I know, I know, “no pictures, it didn’t happen.” I’ll do better next time.


Bizarre dream the other day (it was day, not night).

I think I met myself and was being interviewed by a news crew about it. I was asked to describe the other ‘me’:—

“This man is easygoing, a bit of an oddball, with a sense of humour that puts friends in stitches but doesn’t seem like such a person to outsiders. Paralleling this is a vicious streak in him, which sometimes makes him take umbrage over the smallest matters.”

What?! I’ve nothing vicious or umbragey in me!

Oh, well done … now I have myself making defamatory statements about myself in my dreams to subconscious news services for broadcasting to my subconscious audience.

*Headdesk* I need to get a hamster (see why below).


As a ‘next-level’ kind of guy, I’m going to have to take this blog to the next level. Just a bit, not too much. I don’t want to scare you lot off, but mainly I don’t want to scare myself.

I’m going to have to start posting ‘interesting’ pictures more.

Those ‘interesting’ pictures might be ‘inappropriate’:—

  • possibly inelegant
  • probably off-colour
  • likely to contain nudity (or, even worse, fully clothed)
  • gore is possible (but only in a non-gorish way)
  • politically correct
  • or whatever takes my whim

Can’t help it — the images are piling up badly.

I need to rant more. Bottling things up inside is not good for health (yours and mine).

Need to tone down my ranting/bitching drafts first. Need to ungrammaticalise them too so that they would appear more ‘authentic.’

Would like to get a pet hamster again in order to have some semblance of sanity. But I just can’t live with the fact that hamsters live only 20 to 24 months and can’t be cloned in the home kitchen.

Longtime readers will note that I have a long history of either over-delivering or not delivering on my promises.

It is true: my mileage varies.

* * *


I don’t understand why it can’t be stretched



© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. (B12341)

Images: Silver moneybag charm by thenakedlistener | Hong Kong High Court via HK Pinoy TV | Rat doll via furry.org.au | Star Wars dogfight wallpaper by A.L. Meerow and Nick Kurochkin via arts-wallpapers.com | Kennedy and McNamara via Movie Mail | Gennie, Mongolia’s first female rapper via Film Ink | Placeholder girl via c4c | Dreaming artwork from http://4.bp.blogspot.com via Our American Generation | Level-Up Letterpress by artnoose via Flickr | “Can be cut to the desired length” by thenakedlistener.


This staggeringly unbelievable, angry, tl;dr year-end review is also coming to an end

I could nearly hear and feel your sighs of relief. And I don’t blame you.

(Sighs of relief and sounds of bladders loosening heard in the background.)

* * *


My friends and ex-college mates (from my third run at university) have finally graduated. Good on them!

About 90% of them decided to become teachers. Not so good on them, I have to say.

Never mind. They must be better men (and women) than I could ever be, mainly because teaching is the one single profession that can drive me to drink within a space of three days.

(It nearly did, when I did that three-week-long school attachment.)

I work in financial printing and printbroking, and that’s a hard-scrabble, highly pressurised line of work. I’ve been in publishing before that, and that’s pressurised and low-paid as well. I’ve never ever had problems with both those lines.

But teaching … it ain’t worth the suffering (mine and the kids’).



About the only three good things to come out of 2011 have been (in equal order):—

(aPopcorn the Housecat (not my own, but a relative’s) is one year old, fat and lazy, a wuss, overeating, overdrinking and oversleeping. Love him to bits. Reminds me of Mum, especially in his passive-aggressive posturing.

(b) The three or four regular commenters on this blog (you know who you are!), all of whom made the whole crappy exercise worth the crap.

(c) Getting The Versatile Blogger Award, which happened to be the only award I ever won in my life.


Not quite as bad as blogging a blood oath,
but the booze nearly became a permanent fixture


But the best thing is, you’ve read this whole post from beginning to end. And that, I’m very pleased to say, makes the whole thing much, much more beyond ‘worthwhile.’

Thank you, thank you.

© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. Image via c4c.

What’s it been? Broadsides (5/5)

Wednesday 7 March 2012, 3.00am HKT


(Updated 07 Mar 2012 to fix broken links)

If following some certain blogs has turned out to be a source of consternation for some of you, then tuning them out and unsubscribing clearly makes you a better man (or woman) than I am.

Here are my broadly aimed indiscriminate broadsides for 2011.

NOTE: ‘You’ is being used throughout below in plural form (i.e. ‘you yourselves’).

* * *


To the linguistics blogs

You’re a goddamn disgrace to the language (any),
and to language lovers too. 

Truth be told (and to behold), the attitude and standard of writing on many linguistic sites or blogs leave woefully to be desired. (Or do we say ‘room for improvement’ nowadays?) Of all people, it falls on linguistics people to make elementary technical mistakes, such as:—

  1. overlong paragraphs (i.e. more than 200 words a paragraph)
  2. using non-technical words with meanings that don’t conform to widely accepted meanings
  3. mixing metaphors
  4. incorrect levels of active vs. passive language
  5. inability or unwillingness to restate matters in everyday language or context after stating the matters in technical form

Point 5 is death knell to those who pitch their sing-song about making technical matters more accessible and eclectic to others.

Playing dirty little tricks

What’s so unpleasant for me (and also for quite a lot of people I know) isn’t the blog content itself. It’s the piss-pauvre way their bloggers and commenters treat and argue with other commenters (especially the new ones).

  • They have a ‘tone’ in their writing.
  • They have this offensive, surly kind of sardonism at those whom they consider to be ‘uitlanders’ (outsiders) seemingly based solely on their received academic wisdom.

Their sardonistic antics would have been funny and more entertaining if there had been humour somewhere in there. Instead of humour, there was overweening intellectual pride.

I don’t know whether to describe you as malicious in the sense of malice, or malicious in the legal sense of reckless, especially when you play dirty little tricks on your new readers and new commenters (as discussed in Part 4 before).

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then many of these linguistics blogs have a noticeable tendency to do this to their readers:—

(via c4c)


To the China-related blogs

See Ye Olde Hong Kong flag below.

Even the Chinese find themselves inscrutable and hard to explain — and here you are trying your hardest to be like the Chinese, when you’re anything but. And it shows.

You know the minutiae and mechanismata of life in mainland China more than the rest of us. That much is clear. Equally clear is that, your five to 10 years of living there, an expert does not make of you (broadly speaking).

Nasty and unspeakable

Many of the deeper, more fluid nuances of Chineseness, of being Chinese — of the seemingly atavistic ‘practices’ of the Chinese in general (and of the mainlanders in particular) — actually still escapes you. And it shows.

And for some bizarre reason, why is it that you — English yakkers the lot of you — end up writing English with a pronounced Chinglish bent?

Have you forgotten your own tongue?

Did you do something nasty and unspeakable with your tongue somehere?

Most of you are (or were) in China as foreign-language or English teachers of one shade or another, living (or having lived) there with all the mod cons (relatively speaking) of an expat life there. Let’s make no mistake about that, shall we?

Chalk and cheese

If expat and local life in Hong Kong (a place with a high degree of Westernisation among the Chinese part of the population) are as different as chalk and cheese, then it behoves you to realise that yours over there is even more different.

In my own experience of China-watchers and China-livers (and it IS pretty extensive an experience), you are only touching the surface surfactant (the thing that lowers the surface tension).

Not very good in self-control

Credit where credit’s due, there are a handful of smashingly good China-watching blogs, particularly one whose host is extremely adept at playing ‘softball’ (figuratively speaking). And there are some really good and easygoing commenters who do know what’s what and what’s not in China and about the Chinese.

However, the large morass of this ‘chinesed’ community of bloggers and commenters are:—

(a) mostly pugnacious crybabies,
(b) spreading their need to make a ‘statement’ a bit too thick sometimes,
(c) not noticeably gifted on the context-spotting department, and
(d) prattling on about some trivial WTF behaviour of the people in their locale.

Some people are not very good in self-control and don’t realise when they overdoing their bit of trying-ever-so-hard to stand out from the competition.

China isn’t a pretty place, and most Chinese (on home turf as well as overseas) are insightful enough that they themselves are either bitches or bastards — you knew full well when you got there, so quit complaining.

Ye olde Hong Kong flag

Were YOU here when THIS was here?
If not, then you know bollocks about China or Chinese people.


To the Chinese-related linguistics blogs

Are you a true, real-life licensed professional?
Or are you just another ‘professional’?

You should be so lucky that you are enjoying your success in the blogosphere. I am happy for you in that respect (and that respect only). Otherwise, you come across roundly as self-righteous and more than a little biased in your views.

I have never ever in my life for the longest time met anybody so swelled up in their (or, prescriptively grammatically, his or her?) ‘discipline’ (i.e. field of study).

Understanding ‘professional’


Please don’t project yourselves as ‘professionals’ because, otherwise, you’ll need to reassess your understanding of the word ‘professional.’

As a non-practising professional myself (lawyer), I reckon I have a better-than-expected understanding on this score. *Snorg*

Just because you can speak and/or read and write Chinese (plus a dozen or so other languages, whether or not deeply or fluently), please don’t diss the rest of us for being ignorant. We’re not unaware you’re dissing us.

  • You have a ‘tone’ in your writing, and that’s upsetting to say the least.
  • You come across as argumentative, which is consistent with self-centredness.
  • You mostly have an avoidance personality disorder in the way you generally regard other people’s comments.

‘When you put in the hours’

The really grostesque aspect of these Chinese-related lingo blogs is that they have a high  number of commenters who adhere (obey?) the line that Chinese is not difficult, often occurring in the same breath with the words “when you put in the hours” — all suitably laced with all manners of arcana linguistica just to prevent others from putting in a slightly different viewpoint.

  • Just because you’ve learnt Chinese and maybe because you like to learn Chinese, what makes you so goddamn sure it isn’t hard for the rest of us?
  • Just because your linguistics background says you’re right, what makes you so goddamn sure that the rest of us is not right?

Actually,organic chemistry and biology (both I got trained in before law) aren’t difficult when you put in the hours. Neither is law when you put in the (massive) hours. But we don’t hear you saying dimethylphosphatase-assisted redox reactions or promissory estoppel or liens or constructive superannuation not difficult, do we? Derp.

Even mathematics frequently gets things wrong.
What makes yours so infallible?
(via c4c)


Try actually asking an actual Chinaman about his or her actual history of learning the actual Chinese language on an actual day actually face to face. To say nothing also about actually learning your actual Chinese history actually better with regards to the actual politically inspired (vs. formalised linguistic) evolution of the Chinese language. Actually.

  • The truth is, many, many Chinese themselves consider Chinese to be quite hard, even with the hours put in.

These Sino-lingo blogs are the equivalent of the space virus in “The Andromeda Strain” for those old enough to remember that 1969 film.



From right to left: Kangxi Dictionary forms, M...

Did you have to start learning this at kindergarten age?
If not, then you have no idea how hard it is to learn it.
Because the hours put in, likewise take away hours from childhood.

“You make me wish I had more middle fingers.”


Be thankful, be gracious, that I have not named names. In the Year of the Destructive Dragon, I may change my mind. As a lawyer myself, albeit non-practising, I can shut you down with little or no cost to me if I get riled enough to do that.


‘White knuckles’

Believe it or not, one Sino-lingo blogger managed to get me into such a rage in a certain thread that I was clenching fists that went white at the knuckles. Still.

Read the sidebar that cries out for anger managment here.

I’ve had only four other ‘white-knuckle’ incidents before (not counting this one). Three of them ended in litigation in my favour, and one (shall we say) led to considerable distress for the other person.

I’m not naturally a vicious person, but I did go to law school, which is where they teach people how to be vicious. So there.

The timebar for litigation is six years.

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.

Give me grief like that, and I hand you reprisals.

See you in court, pal, because you didn’t realise you made defamatory statements about me. I have the full-page screencaps as evidence.



© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2011.

Images: Former Hong Kong colonial flag (public domain) via Wikipedia ♦ World map graphic and Chinese characters chart powered by Zemanta/WordPress ♦ Other images as indicated.

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