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June 27, 2005

Long and Tiring Day

As I prepare to leave Hong Kong, the number of things I must do before I leave is outweighing the amount of time in which I have to do it. I'm tired enough that I'm messing up turns of phrase when writing to my girlfriend, so tonight is definitely not the night to blog, even though there's so much to say: the rest of the trip to Macau, a new twirl of the Establishment Clause Two-Step, Leiter showing that humility is not his virtue.

But I'll leave you with this, one of the better pictures from my relaxing walk through Lou Lim Iok Garden, a little past one o' clock on Sunday afternoon. A little to the left of this picture is a brownish green pond filled with carp and turtles, and across that pond a yellow and white pavillion that reminded me, in a strange way, of my house back in Huntsville, Alabama. Except on the deck an old man was making his way through his tai chi routine.

June 26, 2005

Lisboa, Why Tony is a Bad Gambler, and Other tales of Macau

After messing about with the rat-trap hotel, I checked into the Hotel Lisboa. My guidebook had described the hotel as a "Chinese Las Vegas on acid," and the place certainly didn't disappoint. Nothing in the hotel approached subtle, from the use of gold tiling in near-papal excess to a series of directory signs that could be informative bordering upon cryptic. There is one junction in the hotel that helpfully tells you that whichever way you go, there's a casino ahead. And after some sightseeing (more on that later), I did hit the casinos. But I must make a confession, dear reader: I am a miserable gambler. By that, I don't mean to say that I lose. Indeed, last night I was on a hot streak. Not ten minutes into fooling about with a one-armed bandit (known locally as "hungry tigers," so it seems), I hit a small payout. After wandering about and finding a blackjack table, things just kept getting better. Within two hours, I'd doubled my money, and had enough spare cash to pay the hotel bill and buy some gifts for my family. Then I stopped. Because really, I've always tried to convince myself that I should enjoy gambling. It's one of those relatively acceptable vices that counts as "fun." But every time I'm at the table, I'm intensely conscious of the fact that every probability says I'm going to lose. When I'm down, I'm down. When I'm up, I'm just scared I'm going to be down again. I do enjoy blackjack, because on some level I feel like I understand the game. On the other hand, I don't have any particular rituals when playing. When the cards are handed to me, I flip them over nonchalantly--or at least, unconcernedly--because they're going to be what they are. Last night I played a very odd game, in which everyone bets on whether the "player" or the "banker" are going to win. I had no idea what constituted winning, but played when I saw that both the "player" and "banker" were actually players, the dealer was merely dealing, and there was an entire elaborate ritual of peeking slowly under the cards that were dealt, turning a corner up, and then after you'd finally determined what the card was, tossing them up the table in apparent disgust. Maybe I just don't have the gambling spirit, but this seemed an awfully slow way to play the game: it's not like the card changes because you pull it up a fraction of a centimeter at a time. It turns out I was playing baccarat. I won HK$400, still have no idea how the game is played, and left the table to get a cup of coffee before either (a) it was my turn to be dealer or banker, or (b) the game drove me psychotic. In any event, I just do not seem to be the gambling type.

June 25, 2005

Fleeced?

So this may be my strangest set of blog entries yet: brief extracts of a twenty-four hour holiday written in the in- between places. I feel like I just got fleeced, having booked a hotel at a dodgy port-side travel agent just as I got off the boat. I'm in the courtesy van right now, and it's not half as nice as the others around. Supposedly the Presidente is a four-star joint, but right now it has the feel of a place low-budget gamblers go to be near the much-nicer Lisbon, at a lower price. But I'll tell you when I get there. Update: I did get fleeced. The Presidente greeted me with a small roach on the table and a view of construction. They're undergoing heavy renovation at the moment, and I can see why: if they're going to remain competitive with the nicer hotels in the area, having light switches that remind me of a 1978 Illinois Holiday Inn and a TV with no apparent remote control isn't going to cut it. I went back to the agency, got my money back and headed over to the Lisboa. Now that's a top hotel, and worthy of it's own entry.

On the boat to Macau

Once again, I'm not entirely sure what I've gotten myself into. I'm on the turbo jet ferry to Macau, staring at at the shoreline of a city I barely know. (Well, that's where I was. I put down the Axim in order to watch the shoreline, and now I'm surrounded by islands and shoreline that I couldn't name if I had a map. Which I don't. Perils of blogging in real time, I suppose.) I have no preconceived notions of this new city. I know that it has a reputation as the Las Vegas of the area, that there is a famous temple where the first China- US Treaty of Friendship was signed, and that there are some ruins of a cathedral that I want to photograph. I'm pretty certain that I'll need to find a hotel: I didn't start my journey today until almost 2pm, and it seems like a waste not to try to make it to a garden in the morning. (I'm relying on a Frommer's guide to Hong Kong and Macau to pick some spots.) Right now, it's the other ships that have me fascinated. As this Turbo Jet rockets over the silty brown water, we're passing well-appointed junks full of (presumably) high-powered businessmen; cargo ships, their decks stacked with containers like the building blocks of some gigantic toddler; a smoke-black merchant steamer leaving a dirty carbon trail behind it; and a hundred other vessels whose purpose and construction remain a complete mystery to me. Unlike some of my readers I know nothing of the sea. Mostly I'm a city and suburb boy, but to the extent that my soul communes with nature, it's at home in a forest, preferably in winter. This broad flat horizon of water is a foreign country of its own. (My firm orientation contained a mini talk on typhoon warnings and "black rain." That term, to me, is the title of a famous film about Hiroshima, not a meteorological phenomenon.) I can't help but wonder what it must be like to live here.

Some Hong Kong Impressions

My big worry about travel writing is the inevitable narrowness of my experience. I can claim a certain amount of expertise when it comes to Japan: few of my readers will have studied that nation in quite as much depth, although like anything else, there is much more for me to know than I ever will know. But when it comes to Hong Kong (or, as with this weekend, Macau), I have only a narrow glimpse of what I recognize is a very large place. My impressions are at best facets of life in any city I visit. That's one reason I take very few vacations: my preferred strategy up until this point in my life has been to study a place, generate an interest, and then live there. As time wears on, however, this technique is likely to be more burdensome. It's certainly very difficult to fit in with, say, the possibility of a wife and children, and statistically I may very well be approaching (Ed.--approached, blew by, was there a long time ago) that point. In any event, this weekend I've written some entries on Hong Kong and Macau over the weekend, and will be posting them during the week. I imagine that many of my reader's experiences of the same subjects will differ from my own.

June 20, 2005

Tailoring and Watches, or A Very Non-Productive and Slightly Pretentious Weekend

So besides actually getting a chance to do some writing this weekend--can you tell I was missing it?--I've been crossing things off my "to do" list while I'm here in Hong Kong. This weekend and the beginning of this week seem to be when the Stars of Tony's Pretentious Habits have come into alignment.

After almost a year , my pocketwatch is finally fixed. I was wandering around looking for a particular tailor (not only in the wrong building, but on the wrong side of the harbour) when I happened across a shop selling fantastically expensive wristwatches and, almost as a sideline, the exact brand of pocketwatch I happen to own. It seems they've made a bit of a name for themselves I was gifted mine in 1997. Anyway, I dropped in and asked them if they could repair my watch. This Sunday I came back to pick it up, and found out that it was a "minor repair" that the watchmaker would do "on the brand." I have no idea if "on the brand" is even a term, but hey, at least I didn't get charged for it, once again I can tell time, and I'm convinced of my accidental good fortune.

Today I actually found the tailor I'd been searching for. As I said a few months ago, I've always wanted a bespoke suit, and even if I can't afford Saville Row luxury, Hong Kong is a good place to get a suit made. I did some searching in various shops, but in the end I decided I'd let a bit of nostalgia be my guide.

Fifteen or twenty years ago, my father came to Hong Kong and returned with two or three outfits that looked fantastic on him. Back in those days, I think I had one suit that you had to bribe or threaten me into, but even I could tell that these two fit him, looked him in a way that his others didn't. I remember particularly a pin-stripe remarkable for actually hanging the way a pin-stripe should on an relatively athletic frame, the parallels curving attractively down and around him. (Oddly enough, at one point he handed one of the suits down to my brother, and it looked good on that younger frame as well.)

Anyway, I didn't have much to go on in judging a Hong Kong tailor, so instead I sought out the same man my father used. He's still there, although the photo on his business card looks more like he probably did when my father met him. (Less grey hair. Ain't that true of us all?)

He was a charming fellow who was willing to talk goals, make suggestions, push forward fabrics, and roundly criticize the slacks I was wearing, purchased at Banana Republic. (They were the "safe" option when I was buying trousers in New York. And safe they are, but so dull and shapeless that if the phrase "Banana Republican" actually has something to do with the political affiliation of the shoppers there, then here's my vote for George Bush make whatever policy sacrifices necessary to woo the Queer Eye guys into the G.O.P.'s trouser aisles. [1]) And nicely, he was willing to talk me through the shape of a suit, frequently saying, "It's a good style, but I don't think you want that. Doesn't work with you."

In the end, it's going to be a grey suit, which wasn't what I started out looking for, but after looking at the pinstripes, I feel in love with the steely charcoal wool. I was hoping for a bit exciting, but this is plain, a bit more classic. I'd budgeted for a suit and a shirt, however, and here I wasn't disappointed. He suggested a very slightly-patterened white-on-white herringbone that in combination with a flat color would look--or at least, right now I imagine it looking--pretty much like what I wanted. Though I wouldn't have told you that four hours ago.

Man, look at me. I'm writing like a thirteen-year-old girl staring at a Justin Timberlake poster. Sorry: I'll be back to composed tomorrow: don't know why this is quite so fascinating to someone like me, whose friends have suggested he sign up for What Not To Wear.

Anyway, we'll see how it goes at the second fitting. If things go well, I'll give you all the address in case you're ever in Hong Kong.

[1]: Actually, I can't believe that Banana Republic survives on sales to Banana Republicans. If that's true, then red state America is heavily subsidizing the New York branch from which I bought these trousers.

June 18, 2005

Yin and Yang Merging in Hong Kong

I'm sitting here in my apartment, just back from dinner, typing on the computer and watching TV. And I'm busting a gut.

I'm watching Comedy Central's Daily Show, which I admit is pretty funny. But better than that, the station carrying it is CNN.

CNN hasn't bought the program in the US and I just missed the news?

June 14, 2005

Bit of a Mess Here...

Right... first thing's first. I'm in Manila. Beautiful city, hot and humid, and internet access from the hotel costs me a stupid amount, so I won't be updating until I'm back at my apartment.

Secondly, I apologize for the massive amounts of trackback/comment spam: I simply don't have time to fix MT-Blacklist until I get home. That weekend upgrade to MT 3.0 is looking better and better, though.

Last, but not least: I know I'm not saying a whole lot, but that's merely a sign that the summer is going well, if somewhat busily. With any luck I'll be able to note down some impressions of Hong Kong (shopping), Manila (humidity), and some non-work 2L summer experiences before Friday.

June 09, 2005

It's been a day

Oh yes, it has been a day. And it will probably continue to be for a few days. I've not had time to properly update the blog recently, between a lot of time at work, the grading of law review write ons [1], and work on getting bits of the Journal of Law and Social Parody up and running. (More on that later.)

But oh, if I could have written anything recently, it would have been a piece for this carnival of the gamers. Some of you know why the formatting is so cool. Some of you need an explanation.

>OPEN MAILBOX . . .


[1]: Why does Columbia always choose to focus on Title VII? My moot court topic, my Civ Pro class, even part of my write on was Title VII! Enough already, there are other areas of law!

June 06, 2005

Not Really What I Meant

So, I'm trying to explain to a friend here how the Cravath building in New York looks like a giant pencil. Imagine my surprise: searching Google Images for cravath new york turns up a starting image that's surprisingly close to Not Safe For Work.

Ah, the Internet.

June 05, 2005

A9.com: Gotta Be Something Wrong With This

So here's a technology and ethics question I can't answer.

Suppose I'm doing some research at work, and don't want to incur Lexis's charges. (There's something in me that rejects the idea of paying for Lexis fees for preliminary research, given that often I'm just correcting my ignorance of a matter, rather than hitting the complicated facts.) Heretofore, I've mostly used Google to find some basic sources and plan out a research strategy before even thinking of a paid research database. But that's slowly changing.

In the last few days, I've taken to using both Google and A9, Amazon's search engine, though not at work (update: and not for work purposes), for reasons I describe below. A9 doesn't have the scope that Google does, but it's curiously good at indexing legal websites, which gives it an edge on legal issues. And more importantly, it gives me a history of websearches stored in folders. Nowadays, I often find myself searching with both Amazon and Google simultaneously, seeing what I can find before I have to hit a pay service: Google for the better results, Amazon for the history.

What worries me about this is the idea of using it at work. First, there's the confidentiality issue: if A9 is storing searches under my name, then presumably they're able to figure out (a) what I was searching for, and perhaps (b) why I wanted it. There may be client confidentiality concerns with regards to this. (On the other hand, I may be being overly, or perhaps insufficiently paranoid. After all, it wouldn't take much for Google to compile a similar dossier on me, although it would be slightly more difficult because they'd have to use IP tracking.) I haven't really thought that one through yet.

But secondly, A9 offers a discount on Amazon purchases if you use it over a certain amount. As of yet, I've not reached that threshold, but given the amount of research I do, I'm sure I'll hit it soon. That benefit, of course, is keyed to my account, and couldn't be recouped by either my employer or any client for whom I might be researching.

So what I'm wondering is this: do I run into any ethical problems from accepting a discount for using a research tool for client work? (Update: As I said, I've not used it at work yet, so I guess that ought to be, "Would I run into any ethical problems?")

Update: On the other hand, I may simply stop using Amazon on moral, rather than ethical grounds:

How can we afford this?
Sponsored links revenue — from the small text-based ads on A9.com and Amazon.com search results pages — will help offset costs we incur through the Instant Reward promotion. With our automatic π/2% Instant Reward, we are effectively sharing with you some of the money we collect from sponsored links, i.e. sharing the pi.

I don't know if it's against the Model Rules, but puns like that are simply evil.

June 02, 2005

MicroClimate

I promise I'll catch up with blogging this weekend, when I should have time away from a job with (knock on wood) a working computer. But in the meantime, let me explain one slight issue I'm having with Hong Kong: humidity and air conditioning.

The air conditioning system in the building where I'm living is, to say the least, active. At even the medium setting, it keeps my room so cold I feel I need long sleeves. I have no idea who designed this much air conditioning.

Sadly, it's also very humid. As a result, if I ever leave the apartment with the air conditioner runnin, when I come home, enough humidity has fallen out of the air that paper is wet, my clothes on the shelves feel slightly damp, and my covers feel like someone--albeit a very clean someone--has already been there.

I may simply not be cut out for wet climes... needless to say, the air conditioner is going to be turned off...

May 24, 2005

Current Currency

My mind has yet to get used to the Hong Kong dollar, and as a result is suffering perpetual sticker shock. There's a little less than eight Hong Kong dollars to one American dollar, and the smallest bill is a twenty. Having a ten dollar coin, or getting a $130 tab from a restaurant, still shakes me up a bit.

My rule in Japan was pretty simple: yen are pennies. Very light, aluminum pennies. Sure, I've lived there in periods when there were anywhere from ninety-some to one hundred twenty-some yen to the dollar, but to get a rough idea of price I could always just knock off two zeros and add/subtract "a bit."

I'm sure I'll get used to this too. About the same time I stop crashing into bed at ten o'clock and waking up at 4 AM.

May 23, 2005

The Trouble with Jetlag

Normally, I do my best work after lunch, but spend the morning doing administrative work in order to kick my brain into gear. But today, just like yesterday, I've woken up at 5AM local time and been unable to sleep. So I've checked the internet and answered emails at my apartment before heading off to work, where I start in fresh. After lunch, however, I start to slow down and get tired.

I guess I'm a morning person, at least for a few days after a 20 hour flight.

May 22, 2005

Arrived in Hong Kong

I arrived in Hong Kong late on Saturday afternoon. Please don't think that I've been messing about with new open source software today instead of going out and exploring the city: my jetlag was such that I awoke at 5:45 AM on Sunday morning and needed something to distract me until the stores opened up. I'm now in possession of most everything I need for work tomorrow morning. I'm still apprehensive of fitting in with the business casual policy, but I figure I'm going to show up in a suit tomorrow, observe closely what everyone else is wearing, and modify my wardrobe appropriately next weekend.

The strangest thing about Hong Kong (at least after my first twelve hours or so in the city) comes from my knee-jerk reaction to the language. Even if my Japanese speaking skills have grown rusty while I've not practiced them, I've kept up with my reading, and because the Japanese and Chinese character sets are similar, I'm having little problem with things like street-signs and shop windows. Most everything's labeled in English anyway, of course, but I often find myself reading the characters first.

It's proving an odd feeling to look at something that says "銀行" (bank), want to pronounce it "ginkou," and realize that it simply isn't right. I wonder how long it will take for that to fade.

I know none of this is too deep or insightful, but I haven't been here long enough to have any real impressions worth mentioning. I'm off to see Sith tonight, and then it's early to bed for me. Hopefully the two alarm clocks I bought on sale at a department store today will wake me in the morning.

Giving The Devil His Due

Long and Tiring Day (0)
Lisboa, Why Tony is a Bad Gambler, and Other tales of Macau (0)
Fleeced? (0)
On the boat to Macau (0)
Some Hong Kong Impressions (0)
Tailoring and Watches, or A Very Non-Productive and Slightly Pretentious Weekend (4)
Tony the Pony wrote: I'm a cheapskate; low prices are wh... [more]

Yin and Yang Merging in Hong Kong (2)
Anthony wrote: Shows how often I watch CNN Interna... [more]

Bit of a Mess Here... (3)
Adam wrote: So, does it live up to the descript... [more]

It's been a day (1)
logan wrote: i really like your blog. but i'd l... [more]

Not Really What I Meant (1)
PG wrote: That's almost too anatomical... [more]

A9.com: Gotta Be Something Wrong With This (8)
RM wrote: Why not create two separate account... [more]

MicroClimate (2)
PG wrote: Perhaps all hot Asian countries do ... [more]

Current Currency (2)
Alison wrote: Preferable, perhaps, to pounds, whi... [more]

The Trouble with Jetlag (0)
Arrived in Hong Kong (3)
Anthony wrote: Will do my best, AP.... [more]

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