Friday, February 27, 2009

No worries about cholesterol today...

Image of an Imperial Guardian Fu Lion in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong, in front of a Buddhist temple-Dear Gentle Reader,

I have wittered on about guardians (lions) this week.

It looks like we all need one.

If worrying about plastics (melamine) being substituted for protein in food was not enough of an issue...

What about fake eggs?

Fake eggs? 

When boiled, they resemble real eggs, except the yolk is bouncier... Oh, and they have no protein and might harm you...

When raw, and in their fake(!) shells, they are difficult to differentiate from real eggs, although they lack the vaguely fishy smell associated with very fresh eggs. And raw ones sound watery when shaken...

The Standard, an English-language free daily paper in Hong Kong, broke this story about a week ago, here (the Feb 17, 2009 issue of the Standard). 

Fake eggs have now been found in Fujian Province, China after having previously being found in Chengdu (2008), Beijing (2007), and Guangzhou (2005).

These fake eggs are fraudulently replacing real eggs because of the cost differential in production; it costs 0.12 to 0.65 USD cents to produce fake eggs compared to 3.2 to 3.9 USD cents for real eggs. 

What does that mean in the egg carton? 

You can potentially make almost 27 fake eggs for the same cost as making only 1 real egg; then those super cheap fakes are sold as real eggs at real egg prices.

None of the ingredients used to make the fake eggs are inherently dangerous, although, aluminum impurities found in these fraudulently sold eggs have been linked to mental development issues. 

But, there could be other harmful additives, or impurities, tainting the constituent chemical ingredients used to manufacture the fake eggs. 

If you are making fake eggs, fraudulently, you are not worried about using only food-grade chemicals with only food-grade impurities... who knows what else these fake eggs are tainted with.

The security of my food chain has been an issue since I first moved to Asia in the mid-nineties and started realizing what could, and did, go wrong with food...

I tried turning to words for sustenance, as Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830-1886) suggested in this poem, prodded along by her first stanza:

He ate and drank the precious Words

He ate and drank the precious Words --
His Spirit grew robust --
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was Dust --

He danced along the dingy Days
And this Bequest of Wings
Was but a Book -- What Liberty
A loosened spirit brings --

But, I found those words, alone, could not sustain me, physically. 

My literary diet not only loosened wings, but also my pants. 

I returned to traditional sustenance, but a regular diet of non-literary food demands belief that the food bought is what it purports to be.

That is why we need guardians. Libertarians, take note. 

Fake eggs are an example of why bigger government is good; we need branches to test things, like food safety.

So, I close today, and this week, with more looks at guardians because we plainly need them.

Everybody needs a guardian, not just a friend...

First, a couple of lions from the major Buddhist temple in Tuen Mun...

Image of a male Guardian lion with his foot on the circle of life.Image of a female Guardian lion with her foot on her cub.

To see more, we simply cross the road, go down the block and gaze across the street at the first restaurant we find. 

This restaurant, with its own guardian lions, is on the left, just across the street...

Image of guardian lions outside a restaurant in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong.
But, it is not just restaurants that feel the need for guardian lions.

People have them for their houses:

Image of guardian lions outside a private residence in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong.
And even for their car parks...

Image of guardian lions outside a private car park in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong.

Everyone is fearing something.

Today it's fake eggs. 

I hesitate to guess what tomorrow will bring.  

(Enjoy your poached eggs.)

At least I don't have to worry about cholesterol anymore.

Chris, Regina, and Pommes

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Image of an ideal bus advert which  reads 'LONGER STYLUS, LIGHTER TABLETS, BETTER PAY PER WORD/SAY NO TO QUILLS scribe writes now'.Dear Gentle Reader,

It is 3WW time again.

This week's words are callous, interfere, and persistent.

This week sees four entries; two haikus and one American sentence.

Also, one naisaiku for the Naisaiku Challenge. (See, I can count...)



Persistent callous
interferes with fetish love.
See podiatrist.

[Ahh. the Beauty of the Oxford English Dictionary... My Shorter (two volume) OED allows that the 1578 meaning of callous included what we now more commonly spell as callus... Thank goodness I am stuck in the past...]

THE WORKPLACE (a.k.a. not much different from the schoolyard)

persistent tremor
palsy interferes with all
...callous colleagues mock


Callous symbiotes interfere with each other's life; life's persistent.

The naisaiku... [This one is to be read aloud with a puff of air after the first two lines of each haiku, and a sigh after the third line of each haiku.]

See podiatrist
interfere with fetish love...
persistent callous
persistent callous
interfere with fetish love...
See podiatrist

Guardians at the Gate

Image of a Chinese Lion, taken Chinese New Year, 2009, in Kowloon, Hong Kong.Dear Gentle Reader,

As you can see from today's picture, and as I have tried to warn you, Hong Kong can be dangerous.

Here is a wild, Chinese lion, roaming the streets in Hong Kong. 

I do not believe that he has imbibed the East Wind... This is an all-natural, supernatural Chinese lion.

Hong Kong nature at its finest.

When you visit, bring heaps of cash and your humble scribe will intercede and propitiate the lions so that you can return safely to your home country. 

You don't know about this?

Well, bear with me and I'll tell you more. 

I note that not a single guest has been devoured by lions, yet. 

Your scribe must know what he is talking about...

So, on Monday, we met the very handsome lions, Stephen and Stitt, at HSBC in Hong Kong.

Stephen and Stitt, in Hong Kong, as explained, are Western versions or manifestations of the Chinese Imperial Guard Lions.

The Chinese, historicially, have incorporated metal or stone Imperial Guard Lions as architectural ornamentation and security adjuncts, for Imperial and, later, Governmental and high-ranking personage's buildings.

The original Bank of China guard lions, right next door to HSBC, look like...

Image of the original Bank of China (in Hong Kong) male Imperial Guardian Lion, on the left of the entrance.Imperial Guardian Lions, or Fu Lions, are always cast or sculpted, and placed in sets of two. 

The male is (usually) on the left, the female is (usually) on the right.

You can tell the male lion because his paw rests on a ball, the flower of life.

The flower of life is a geometric
al figure of multiple, symmetrical, overlapping circles that yields an overall six-part symmetry (like a hexagon, which is the symbol of HSBC...).

The male lion's job is to protect the physical structure that he guards.

For the geometrically minded, who are curious about the flower of life, the centre of each circle in the flower of life is intersected by six other circles of equal dimensions. So a circle of life could look like this... 

Image of a circle of life, taken from the Wikipedia Commons and based on a PNG created by User:AnonMoos.  Small, clear image of the most common form of the

...But the circle of life is normally mapped onto a sphere, not simply shown flat. Sometimes there are spherical circles of life insided spherical circles of life, going down as small as the children's fingers needed to carve out the last sphere ...

You can tell the female Imperial Guard Lion because her paw is on a lion cub, representing the cycle of life. 

Image of the original Bank of China (in Hong Kong) female Imperial Guardian Lion, on the right of the entrance.

The female lion's job is to protect the occupants of the structure she guards.

But, your humble scribe still prefers Stephen and Stitt. 

Please do not forget them, as many of you assured me you wouldn't, when you visit.

Also, as you saw from the opening picture, wild lions roam the streets of Hong Kong.

Propitiate, by feeding, all the lions by feeding the Imperial guard lions.

But, be careful... This is dangerous work. 

Do not feed them, yourself, when you visit, they have strong jaws, like granite. Once they lock into position, nothing escapes. 

(Remember, it was rumoured that Stitt had the capacity to potentially change into a zombie lion...)

It is best to leave the feedings of guardian lions to trained professionals.

Like your humble scribe.

Coming, literarily, from the fertile crescent (Sepiru, ancient Akkadian Babylonian for scribe) (or, at least, from a fertile imagination), your humble scribe knows a thing or two about lions. 

And your humble scribe is a lawyer, after all; he has heard a lot of lion...

Feeding lions in the wild involves fresh meat, and lots of it.

Feeding "domesticated" bank lions involves fresh funds, cash preferably, and lots of it.

To propitiate these elegant lions with offerings of money (the only food they eat) and to retain possession of all your limbs, give the offerings to your humble scribe, who will ensure it symbolically enters them (via an ATM machine that he has the secret codes to).

Don't you feel safer just knowing me?

Start saving to soothe the wild beasts when you visit.

Chris and Pommes (glaring at your scribe for an important omission) 


Pommes wants to remind all that a can of tuna or salmon, 100% pre-tested by himself for purity and quality control, is an important additive to the standard fare that should be offered bank lions to ensure safe passage in Hong Kong. 

Go figure. OK, Pommes? 

Claws out of my lap, then. Thanks.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Stephen & Stitt; Lions among men

Image of the HSBC flagship operation in Hong Kong.Dear Gentle Reader,

Normally, people look up when they get here.

Here being HSBC's flagship operation in Hong Kong.

Or, people look in their jacket or purse to get their wallet out to visit the most used ATMs in the world.

(The Chief Economist of HSBC Bank Canada, about a decade ago, told me that the maximum lifespan of these ATMs, then, was a couple of months, and that some last only a few weeks, as they were used so often...)

People do not normally notice Stephen and Stitt.

Stephen and Stitt who?

Looks like we need to do some talking...

First, open your wallet.

Pull out some bills.

Ideally, you will be in Hong Kong right now. If you are not, I had better help you.

Partial image of a 100 Hong Kong Dollar Bill, cropped, and digitally obscured to prevent counterfeiting charges....In Hong Kong, paper currency is printed by HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, and the Bank of China. All three are privately owned banks.

(Legal note: This partial image of less than one side of a 100 HKD bill is cropped and digitally obscured to prevent your humble scribe running afoul of counterfeiting legislation. Also, fair use doctrines are invoked to show the portion of the currency which I do show. I need this image to communicate the message I want to communicate, and I have obscured the portions not neccesary.)

Who is that big guy on the left of the banknote?

That is Stitt.

Who do people coming to HSBC ignore?

They ignore Stitt.

They also ignore Stephen.

Image of Stephen, the lion you see on your left when staring at HSBC HQ in Hong Kong.
Stephen is the lion on your left when you stand in front of HSBC Hong Kong's flagship tower.

Stitt (the ignored) sits opposite Stephen on the other side of HSBC's entry square.

For those with incredibly short memories, Stitt, not Stephen, is the lion on the HKD bank notes printed by HSBC such as the 100 HKD note that you saw farther above, cropped and obscured.

In the picture below it looks like that crowd around Stitt might be looking at him, and thus not ignoring him...

Image of Stitt, the lion you see on your right when staring at HSBC HQ in Hong Kong.
Unfortunately, looks are deceiving. These people were really using him as a seat and as a place to put their food, books and things.

This was a small group of domestic helpers on a Sunday who had simply found a place to sit and hang out for the day.

Stephen and Stitt were cast in 1935 for the new HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong.

Stephen was named after A.G. Stephen, the General Manager of the Hong Kong HSBC operations at the time. Stitt was named after the General Manager of the Shanghai HSBC operations at the time.

When the Japanese occupied Hong Kong in the second world war, 1941-1945, poor Stephen was used as target practice.

Image of Second World War damage done to Stephen by Japanese forces using him as target practice.
Stitt initially escaped unscaped, but then both Stephen and Stitt were hauled off to Japan to be melted down for their metal (for Japan's war effort).

Thankfully the war ended before Stephen and Stitt were melted.

They were identified by Allied Forces and returned to HSBC where they resumed their stance, protecting HSBC and securing its financial future.

OK. Before we leave, let's stray from history to myth...

Popular culture has it that Stitt, whose mouth is closed, originally had his mouth open, just like Stephen. But...

Popular culture has it that the geomancers realized that, due to Stitt's (and Stephen's) orientation being sideways, not in the standard Chinese Imperial Guardian Lion style with head facing forward, away from the building, that Stitt might imbibe the Eastern Wind at night.

Imbibe the Eastern Wind at night?

He might become, in Western parlance, a zombie lion.

As you can imagine, a zombie lion could, potentially, cause public unrest.

So, popular culture says, Stitt was recast to avoid the possibility of him imbibing the Eastern Wind an night. And that, says popular culture, is why Stitt has his mouth shut.

When your humble scribe meets the Chief Archivist for HSBC at a Royal Asiatic Society meeting, (it seems the type of place that one would meet the Chief Archivist) then this is a question your humble scribe will be sure to ask.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Tools of the trade

Image of all the worldly possessions he owns, including his tool, a hoe, of a migrant worker waiting for a cross-country bus in China.Dear Gentle Reader,

When a man or woman's possessions are this slim, and possessing a hoe for breaking up the soil gives one a better chance at finding employment, you know that things are rough.

China may have enough money to launch space missions, but her rural poor, and her migrant workers, have a long way to go.

With a statement like that, a reality check is important because great leaps forward have been made for the destitute in China.

By 2006, within 25 years, the number of Chinese subsisting on less than 1 USD a day had dropped from 64% of the population to 16% of the population. 

(Statistics generated by the United Nations Development Programme [UNDP], a major branch on the United Nations tree.)

In warm bodies, that corresponds to over 400 million people who had been lifted out of abject poverty. 

Of course it also means that there are over 212 million destitute Chinese still living on less than 1USD a day, if that percentage (16%) remained unchanged by 2009, with the new population estimates for 2009.

China won the 2006 Poverty Eradication Award from the UNDP for the considerable achievement of lifting over 400 million Chinese out of truly destitute poverty.

And yet, many factories are closing due to the current financial crisis. 

Which means that many men, women, and younger people are now out of work. 

And families in distant villages may go hungry, again, without the remittances from these migrant workers.

And owning a hoe might give you a better chance at finding a job. Even if you have to sacrifice and save to buy it.

Again, what does one do to fix things?


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Kilkenny cats; a naisaiku

Image of a small deity in a street side altar in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong. The central figure consists of a rock that looks like a stone, with divine ears added on and a silk ribbon that could be a tail.Dear Gentle Reader,

Kilkenny cats are mythical cats of Kilkenny, Ireland.

They fought so fiercely, and so long, that all that was left were their tails.

And the tale of their tails.

Beware, this tale is gruesome, no matter how you slice it.

Sensitive readers (all of you) are advised to click away...

Well, for the one person remaining, one theory as to the origins of Kilkenny cats relates to quite horrific cat-fights, fights to the death, in Kilkenny during the English Civil Wars (1642-1651).

This apocryphal tale states that Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) who conquered England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland to turn them all into a republic, briefly, (it ended two years after Cromwell's death) had all the cats of Kilkenny tied by their tails, when he occupied Kilkenny.

The cats were then hung over a line, to fight to their deaths.

Finally, the last surviving cat was beheaded. This was meant to strike fear into the local population; if you yowled or protested, you'd end up like the cats.

Another origin tale, which doubtless builds upon the last, states that Hessian (now German) mercenaries fighting for England's King George III (1738-1820) during the Irish Rebellion of 1798 were gambling, contrary to their military/mercenary regulations.

The Hessians, when stationed in Kilkenny to put and keep down unrest, would, allegedly, tie cats by their tails and sling them over a line to fight to the death.


To gamble upon which cat would be the winner.

One day, mid-gamble, mid-fight, the soldiers heard the crisp footsteps of an approaching officer.

A quick-thinking soldier freed the cats by slicing off their tails, and then sliced through the tie that had bound them.

When asked, by the officer, to explain the tails and blood on the ground the soldier spun a tale of two street cats who had fought so viciously that their tails were all that was left of them.

In Hong Kong, where gambling is worshipped, this gambling would lead to taels for tails, which is where the idea for today's poem, a naisaiku, sprung.

(A tael is not only a measure of weight in Hong Kong. When a tael was related to the weight of silver or gold, it was also a financial instrument in Hong Kong and China.)

A naisaiku is a duplicated, reversing haiku with a title in the middle. My naisaiku, below, has a duplicated, reversing title in the middle, too. This is for the Naisaiku Challenge, SweetTalkingGuy's dulcet invitation swept me in, this once.

tails twitch, shudder, drop
'till nothing's left at all, see
Kilkenny cats fight


Kilkenny cats fight
'till nothing's left at all, see
tails twitch, shudder, drop



No actual cats were harmed in the creation of this posting; your scribe does not advocate the mistreatment of any animal.

Your Hero, Pommes, nods vociferously; your scribe rescued him from certain death.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

3WW (CCXV) entries

Image of a man in a pink shirt working on a radiant, white object on the flatbed of a truck beside a field of bamboo in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong.Dear Gentle Reader,

As you know, I quite like 3WW.

This week the words are candid, impulse, and risk.

This week sees four haiku; the second had to come out, though it doesn't use the 3WW words.


[Addendum: Word definitions...

effrenate: unbridled, violent in action
gigantomachy: the war of the giants against the gods, any similar struggle]


effrenate masses...
candid impulses rise, risk

(With an unbidden follow up that just leapt out, but does not contain the 3WW words)

Effrenate actors contest.
Who will lose? Hide. Wait.

[Addendum: Word definitions...

candid: (archaic meaning) free from malice, favourably disposed, kindly]


Candid Candide risks;
impulse, desire overtakes.
Result? Candida.

[Addendum: Word definitions...

candid: (archaic meaning) white]


Impulse risks, jumps gap.
Electric message leaps, arcs.
Candid nerve glistens.