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spikegifted.net - Archive Q3 2004

September 2004:
- One of the beauty of being married is that we share everything... Well we're really sharing here! Our first weekend back from France and I've been hit with a cold/flu-like thing and the Ruler_of_spike has a sore throat with some flu-like symptoms. We're wondering if we didn't catch a chill or something when we were waiting for our connecting train at Lille. It was horrible weather outside and the station had no heating. Hmmm...
- We're now married and back in the UK!
- I'm off to France... The next time I set foot in the UK again, I'd be a married man!!
- Just spent the last day at work as a single man...
- Rush 30th Anneversiary Tour comes to London and I was there! What an awesome show - nearly three and half hours of rock and we had some great seats to see the trio in action. I missed their last UK tour back in 1992 and I'm mightly pleased that I finally have the opportunity to see them play live.
- This is an interesting piece... The election campaign of the Labour Party for the next election will be run by a cabinet-rank 'Secretary for Directing the Election'. Why doesn't Tony Blair simply create a propaganda ministry and name the new head has Propaganda Minister? Eh... Hold on! Wait a minute - Why am I, and other taxpayers of the UK, paying for a cabinet-rank politician, who should be taking care of the affairs of the state, to direct the election effort of a political party? Isn't that paid for by the party but not by the state?
- The Ruler_of_spike has gone ahead of me to France to kick start the final part of the wedding preparation. This will be the last time she travels as a 'Miss' (or a 'Mademoiselle')... When we return next time, she'll be a 'Mrs.' or a 'Madame'!! I am very excited at the prospect of being married but at the same time feel I've taken on an enormous responsibility.
- As more information comes out regarding the school hostage siege, a video made by the terrorists was found. Why would anyone want to do such things to innocent children is beyond comprehension. The terror that they were subjected can only reflected in the barbaric behavior of the hostage taker.
- It requires very little convincing that we live in a very dangerous world. The school hostage siege that took place in southern Russian, which led to over 300 people killed in the subsequent shoot out and fire in the premises and the conflict and humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region in western Sudan were a clear demonstration of that. We live in a world where accommodation has been substituted by intolerance, those in power are unwilling to listen until it is too late and those with grievance are forced to take drastic action to catch people's attention. Hail the brave new world!
August 2004:
- The Olympics are often times when heroics are performed. However, until the men's 1,500m, nothing has really impressed me as being heroic. Sure, every success story is a victory of mind and body, but these guys do it for a living - it's their jobs. Two, however, stand out as heroic. El Guerrouj, the fantastic Moroccan runner, who has been, in my opinion, the best miler for the past decade, has finally achieved what has eluded him in the previous two Olympics - the gold in 1,500m. He didn't exactly waltzed his way to his victory either - he was driven right down to the line! His hunger for the gold just gave him that extra push. To add to this achievement, he secured the 5,000m crown also. All of his talent and dedication has finally been rewarded on the biggest stage. The other excellent performance has been that of Kelly Holmes - at the age of 34, she's achieved something that other thought unlikely - winning the middle distance double - the 800m and the 1,500m. For all the troubles she has battled through with her army career, illness and injuries, and come through in such spectacular fashion, is just a triumph of the will.
- This past week has been a really frustrating week for me. Although my rafting accident hasn't actually caused any fractures, my lower back has been hurting like mad. Throughout the week, more and more bruising has surfaced on my lower back near the coccyx and the right part of my pelvis. At the beginning of the week, walking unaided was a problem, so I commuted to work with the prescribed crutches. A pain developed in the inner right thigh limited my range of movements and, although I was walking better, I needed the crutches to go up and down stairs. By Sunday, my lower back was a mess of colors - predominantly black, blue and purple, with some traces of burgundy. I have been having trouble doing most things. I found it uncomfortable to sit for long duration, to walk for any distance and to lay down on my back. Even now, pretty much the only thing I can do that doesn't hurt is to stand. However, things are getting better - this weekend, I've managed to move round the apartment without the crutches and I managed to help the Ruler_of_spike with our weekly shopping. They don't sound like a big deal, but seeing that it is only one week since the accident, I think I've made some good progress.
- What do you call a public examination with over three quarters of a million of examinees and there is a 96% pass rate and over 23% gaining top grades? A serious qualification or a farce? This is the status of the UK's upper secondary education.
- "A candidate from Hong Kong's largest democracy party has been arrested and jailed for six months in mainland China, accused of hiring a prostitute", reads the headline in an article in the BBC News World Edition. The politician in question, Mr. Ho Wai-to, is due to stand for a closely contested seat in the Legislative Council elections next month and the Democratic Party is the largest pro-democracy political party in Hong Kong. In another word, candidates from the Democratic Party are thorns on the sides for the ruling Chinese Communists. I don't know who Mr. Ho is, and I don't really know his politics. However, unlike politicians in the US and Europe, those in Hong Kong still have something that their Western colleagues have lost long ago - integrity. Somehow, I don't think Mr. Ho is stupid enough to do something like this to damage his party's election chances. My personal take on this is that the Communists, fearful of an electoral wipe-out, is keen to use any and every method available to damage the main opposition. You can call me cynical, but I don't think I'm so naive to believe otherwise. Welcome to democracy, Chinese-style.
- I've just come back from my 'stag' weekend in Scotland and I can report that I nearly had an excellent time. All the people who showed up made a great effort to be there and my thanks go to all of them for making the weekend special for me for looking after me. It was great to see my friends, some of whom I haven't seen for a while. I hope I was a good stag for the rest of the 'staggers'... I feel like I've let them down horribly!
- By the standard of last summer, this year has been relatively cool. However, in the past few days, not only is the temperature relatively high (26-30C), but the humidity has rocketed! Personally, I don't mind hot weather, but not when it is hot and humid. This is almost like Hong Kong, with one important difference - in Hong Kong, even the most meager apartment has an air condition unit. Welcome to a modern, advanced, industrialized country!
- The past nine months has been a really tough time for the Ruler_of_spike... First she lost her job because her former employer decided to relocate, then she managed to pick up some short-term project work but it soon ended. Finally, months of frustration in trying to find another job. Since July, there appeared to have some signs that at last her agents are working for her. Then this week, three rejections after some very positive feedbacks from interviews. The reasons for rejections? The employers' short-sightedness and organizational politics - stupid reasons! It is very hard on her and I feel complete useless, for there's nothing I can do for her. Although I have gone through similar experience last year, watching is never the same as receiving the blows. I can try and comfort and 'pick her up', but I wish I can give her the one thing she wants/needs the most - a job that she deserves.
- Since moving to our new office, I've managed to obtain a locker near the shower facilities and picked up a pass to the underground car park. Why? It has been too long a time since I do some serious exercise and due to past injury to my left leg, any exercise involves large amount of running means I get a sore hip in the days that follow. So the only other viable forms cardiovascular exercise are swimming and cycling, and I've gone back to my first love - cycling. For the past couple of weeks, I've cycled three times into work. What's the big deal? Well, cycling those few miles to and from work is no big deal, but I'm pleased that I get those mile under the wheels. As the route I take is a popular one for those who cycle to work, there're plenty of like-minded people I can use as chasing targets. Full fitness will not return for a while yet, so I have to accept the likelihood of being 'burnt' by the more accomplished riders. Still, it is great to get some exercise.
- However, these thunderstorms have caused lots of travel problems in London this evening... Nearly every London Underground line has been affected: the main excuses being signal failure and flooding. I know the system is old and lots of money through Public Private Partnership (I think the correct terminology should be: the Public Paying for Private gains) has been paid to the contractors to fix the creaking network, but where are the improvements? Where has all the money disappear off to? In the pockets of shareholders and management bonuses, for so successfully conned the government to give them a license to print money. Back in February, I paid nearly GBP1,000 for my annual travel pass and this evening, after a rather horrific journey involving the Tube and buses that took over an hour, I found myself no further than one kilometer away from my office, with no other feasible form of transport to travel home, other than a cab ride!
- About a month ago, we moved to our new office, which is right at the edge of River Thames. Moreover, the location of my desk is such that with little effort, I can have an excellent view upstream of the Thames. After several rather warm days here in London, we're experiencing some thunderstorms. The thunder clouds are very close to the proximity of the City of London and from my desk in the office, I can see the occasional streaks of lightning. A very impressive view!
July 2004:
- The Ruler_of_spike and I were on our way back from doing some shopping and we suddenly realized that it is only 7 weeks away from our wedding day!! Wow, how time flies!
- Seeing that the site has been up and running for over 18 months and its lay out hasn't changed in all that time, I've made some minor changes. I've been informed that the frame format that was previously deployed can occasionally cause problems, so I've decided to remove them and instead move the navigation links to the top of each page. While this may mean more work when I want to change the structure of the site in the future, I hope it makes the site easier to surf. Let me know if you have any ideas.
- Now, this is something interesting: social order. The PM has launched a 5-year crime-fighting plan to mark the end of the '"1960s liberal consensus" on law and order'. Well, at least he got the right 'era', if not the subject. Some would argue that Britain back in the 1960s was not a particularly violent place and it is impossible to compare it with the violent and anti-social behaviors that we see now. However, social behavior doesn't change over-night - it is through generations of 'lax control' that behavior of current ones gets to how it is today. On the other hand, I personally believe that, there was no such thing as 'liberal consensus on law and order' back in the 1960s, but a wave of liberal attitude towards education - both domestic (parents and family) and academic (schools and classrooms). Social behavior is driven by education, particularly from the immediate and extended family. The family leads this aspect of education. It is illogical to ask police and teachers to impose discipline and educate children on good behavior if the parents don't. Tackling violent and anti-social behavior has to begin at home, the basic family unit. Until all parents take on their responsibilities of educating their children seriously, there will be no tangible improvements in social behavior.
- Did you know that commuting to your work place is a health hazard! Yes, if you live in London, England, and commute to and from work on a daily basis using the famous (or rather infamous) London Underground, there's a possibility that, over a long period of time, the noise in the Tube will damage your hearing. So aside from the exuberantly expensive fares, the questionable health and safety of the system, the frequent delays, the unhelpful 'station assistants' and the whole chronically unreliable network, you now know that you get to gradually loose your hearing. Marvelous!
- Lord Butler has delivered his report on accuracy of Britain's pre-war intelligence after the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. How can such a review/report not result in head-rolling? (Additional reporting here and here.) Officials, both elected and appointed, should bear their responsibilities that their positions bring. Lord Butler's summary statement practically meant that mistakes can be made but no blame will/can be apportioned - power without responsibility! If mistakes were made due to government officials and civil servants failed in their 'collective operation', then those involved in the 'collective operation' should stand down. 'Collective responsibility' does not mean 'no responsibility', it just means 'joint and several responsibility'!
- How strange can things be? When we were away in Brittany, the Ruler_of_spike has been requested for three interviews with one other possibility!! That is just excellent news! It is hard to imagine how hard the market place has been for her. The market she's in is even smaller than that I work in; yet, she has all these people wanting to see her. It just shows how good a candidate she is, and once she's properly represented by the agents with the right contacts, she will get the job that her experience deserves.
- Actually, it has been over 18 months since I last went on 'holiday'. The last time I left London was back in Christmas 2002. Since then, for one reason or another (well, for one primary reason anyway - out of work), I haven't been away at all... Having said that, it was nice to be away from London, even though we've such a busy time. To keep in line with the 'working' theme, the weather made sure that we were not distracted - it rained nearly every day we were there. Still, it was a nice little break.
- The Ruler_of_spike and I have just returned from a week in France. You'd think it was a nice little break from London, but in fact we've had a very busy time. In the week we spent in Brittany, we met with the priest (to discuss the wedding service), the secretary in the marriage office (to hand over all the paper work for the civil wedding), the caterer (to decide on the menu), the lawyer (to explain to us about the marriage contract - a requirement for marriage in France), the photographer, etc... It is amazing how much work you can squeeze in to a working week, even when we're suppose to be 'on holiday'!
- The US Senate report on the use of intelligence related to the Iraq war has heavily criticized the intelligence communities in other countries. Personally, I'm not sure the findings of the report give the correct emphasis in that the basic intelligence may be the same across all countries, but intelligence services in some countries have allowed themselves to be 'politicized' and became 'cheerleaders' of their political masters' messages - "Saddam had WMD, let's find the evidence to support this statement." Intelligence is about finding facts from the evidence, but instead it has been used to find evidence to support a mistaken believe. The fault is caused by politicians who sought to influence their intelligence communities as much as the intelligence communities allowed themselves to be influenced by politics.
- For years, Israel has ignored international pressure to do things in accordance to international laws and internationally accepted standards. With this in mind, it is no surprise that the country's government defies the ruling by the World Court regarding the building of the 'security barrier'. Of course, the Israeli government comes up with the usual sayings about the ruling being 'one sided' and swiftly ordered the continuation of the building of the barrier. What it has forgotten to mention was that the building project is an unilateral action and that no consultation was made with the other affected parties. Moreover, the building of settlements in land that does not belong to the state is another 'one sided action'. Can such actions not be considered as 'one sided'?
- Once again the people of Hong Kong took to the streets with a demonstration involving over a quarter of a million participants. As a fellow HK Chinese, I am impressed by the people's will, persistence and patience. Change requires all of these qualities and more. The Mainland's irresponsible labeling of the protestors being 'traitors', 'rebels' and 'counter-revolutionaries' is simply an act of ill-advised rhetoric. Loyalty to the country, patriotism, good of the country are not the same as 'loyalty to the Party' - what is good for the country is not necessarily 'good for the Party'. The demonstrators are loyal to the spirit of the Basic Law and 'one country, two systems'. For a party that is supposed to represent the will of the people, the CCP is doing a fine job ignoring the will of the HK people.