Life

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Yahoo: 生意進度慢 河國榮諗計搵食

Neighbours gone. Sad.

Filed in General, Life

Feeling rather sad. Our upstairs neighbours left tonight, flying to a new life in France. They were wonderful neighbours. We miss them already.

有點傷心。今晚樓上的鄰居已走了,坐飛機到法國開始新一段生活。很好的鄰居,我們已經想著他們。

又要搬遷

Filed in General, Life

唉。又要搬遷!我們樓上的租客移民,下個月走。業主已叫我們走,可能在想地下有12只狗狗,那樓上租不出,可是我們的狗狗很乖很靜 :-) 如果有人租樓上,可能我們不用走。

那,,,樓上是複式連天台,廳在1/F,睡房在2/F。2/F和天台有海景。有獨立門口,冷暖氣。環境幽靜,舒服。我們大夏比較獨立。行一分鐘有小巴大巴站。車到門口。開車到西貢只要5分鐘。

注意:樓上的單位不是單層,是1/F連2/F連天台。有興趣,請email我。謝謝。

Good intentions. Disastrous results.

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Back in 2007, I was helping a friend with their computer in their home, which I had done on multiple occasions in return for their friendship and the occasional bowl of noodles. They trusted me and I valued that trust, so much so that I made an effort to not see anything on the computer that was private including messages, photos and passwords.

At the time while testing their printer, I came across a great sporting photo of their spouse. We have a semi-professional printer at home and I thought I'd surprise them by adjusting and printing the photo, so I emailed the photo to myself and deleted the email from the computer to keep it a surprise. Unfortunately, the photo completely slipped my mind and I never got around to printing it out for them.

Today, almost 18 months later having had practically no contact with this friend, I learn that they've been upset with me since that day on the computer. They had heard the 'whoosh' sound of the email going out and questioned me about it immediately. Apparently, I balked for 2 minutes before telling them about the photo and that made them suspect that I had stolen it from the computer ('stolen' would be technically true although in my mind, I was 'borrowing' the photo, to be deleted once it had been printed). When they couldn't find the email, it only confirmed their suspicions. That I never got around to actually printing the photo, well…

On occasion, good intentions can have disastrous consequences. My friend and their spouse believe I stole the photo for personal use, no longer trust me, and are no longer my friends. Ouch! My apologies have been heard but not believed.

Trust is a delicate thing. It takes a long time to build but can be lost in the blink of an eye, or in this case the time it takes to email a photo.

The simple life

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My life for the moment is very simple.

I get up in the morning and take our kids for their morning walks; two walks, five kids at a time.

I have breakfast and feed the kids.

I then do my vocalising (singing) exercises. I visited Peisha again in L.A. in June July this year for two-and-a-half weeks. During that time, I studied twelve lessons with her and performed one cabaret. The lessons were all recorded on my MacBook Pro, and I now repeat them almost every day. When I visited her this time, Peisha taught me a new (and tough) vocalising technique, one that I wasn't ready for back in 2006 when I first studied with her. This new technique seems to be producing a very significant difference in my singing voice and I'm enthusiastic about where it'll take me. The vocalising part of these lessons takes anywhere from half an hour to forty-five minutes. Believe me. That's enough. Any more would be very difficult to handle.

After vocalising, I vacuum the flat. With eleven kids, there is a plentiful and continual supply of hair, so daily vacuuming is necessary. Vacuuming typically takes about an hour to complete. While I vacuum, I study a new language via my iPhone. Around two years ago, I purchased Mandarin and Indonesian language courses from Pimsleur. I studied Mandarin at the Chinese University several years ago, but without using it, I've forgotten most of it. I purchased the Pimsleur Mandarin course to help me get back up to speed. I purchased the Indonesian course because I wanted to learn the language of our helpers. I was so impressed by the Pimsleur courses that in December of last year, I purchased four more courses; Japanese, Hebrew, Persian (Farsi) and Italian; but it wasn't until August of this year that I actually began using them.

I chose to study five languages simultaneously. People, even close friends, question my decision to do this, believing that studying multiple languages together will be confusing. I chose to study them all together because I believe that becoming familiar with a language requires time. The more time you spend with a language, the more familiar and natural it will become. Your mind requires time to analyse and adapt to the new language. That doesn't happen overnight. I also believe that one will not be confused when learning multiple languages even if as in the Pimsleur case, the subject matter is almost identical. The brain is a lot smarter than that. Admittedly, there are times when my immediate response to a Pimsleur narrator request is not in the language I'm learning, but a reminder from the narrator and I'm back on track again. Time is the key.

I rotate the languages, keeping a record of which language and which lesson I've completed in my iPhone (courtesy of OmniFocus), trying to complete a new lesson for each language at least once every two days. That's only possible if I complete three lessons a day, so vacuuming is not the only time I listen to a Pimsleur course. I also listen when I'm driving (which requires extra concentration because the act of driving itself requires its fair share of attention), and when I'm exercising. I'm hoping to be conversant (obviously not fluent) in these languages within three years.

In the afternoons, I go to the local karaoke to practise my singing and research songs. A typical karaoke session for me runs for one-and-a-half to two hours of almost nonstop singing. Believe it or not, that's actually physically exhausting.

Then it's off to the gym for a workout before picking my wife up at work.

Home again, and it's time to take the kids out for their evening walks; two walks of course.

If my legs aren't injured (my left calf muscle is currently recovering from a serious injury), I'll finish my day with a short run (listening to another Pimsleur course all the while).

My life is simple, but it sure is tiring; both physically and mentally. I've never been so tired. It'll be worth it though. Fit, healthy, singing well, and conversant in five, six or seven languages. That'll do.

But, as Albert (one of my good friends) so aptly noted back in my uni days, I am very much a 大隻講 (big talker) so don't assume that I'll actually complete any of these lofty goals until I've actually completed them.

By the way, did I mention that I'll be one of the MC's at this year's Vancouver Miss Asia Pageant in December?   ;-)

Alan. One song at a time.

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I love to sing, but the last several years have been tough.

Quite some time ago, I had a manager who believed in me and worked very hard to find me singing gigs in Hong Kong and China. We found a few, but it didn't last long. There were two problems. First, the people of China were not yet ready to be entertained by a foreigner singing Chinese songs. Second, they preferred shows where the performer was a 'fun' person and the singing didn't matter so much. Unfortunately, I'm more like Frank Sinatra or Michael Bublé, people where the show is all about the singing.

Much of that was happening around the year 2000 when I first encountered severe exhaustion and the depression (possibly burnout syndrome) that developed as a result. That took several years to recover from. On top of that, it was almost impossible to arrange gigs and jobs outside of TVB unless you had inside connections because TVB always had first priority on your time, and they had the legal right to require you to show up at TVB at the last minute even if you had booked a gig months in advance. This was exactly the reason many movie companies were hesitant to engage my acting services, and is also one of the reasons I declined to renew my contract with them in January this year.

Through the years since 2000, I haven't done a lot of singing. There have been gaps of up to a full year where I haven't sung at all. Being the eternal optimist, I saw something good in this. First, each time I stopped for an extended period of time, it gave me the chance to forget bad singing habits before learning correct ones. Second, I believe that the time wasn't right for me to try to advance a career as a singer. The people of China were not ready for it. A foreigner singing Chinese songs would only be seen as a gimmick, something to giggle at for a few minutes. The welcome wouldn't last long.

The world has changed. A friend told me not too long ago that the people of China need me, a foreigner who sings (well) in their language. Now is the time to make my move, and I'm preparing for it. My singing voice has improved markedly over the least couple of years with Peisha's guidance. I simply need to sing more to strengthen the chords, and I need material.

Whenever people ask me how many songs I know, I have to say "just a few". I have an excellent memory for tunes, but not such a great memory for lyrics. When it came to the question of what to sing, I always wanted to find the songs that the audience would enjoy listening to, and that I would enjoy singing, but never knew how. Now, I've decided to simply find and learn the songs that I know and love. What I sing will become my signature.

So I have begun my research. As often as I can, I'm visiting the Karaoke at APM and listening to every song of the singers I know and respect, searching for the songs I remember (not by name unfortunately) and love. Many of you probably think I'd listen to 張國榮 Leslie's songs first but you'd be mistaken. My first target was Alan Tam 譚詠麟.

Alan was probably more important than any other singer in changing my life and bringing me to Hong Kong. My whole experience with Leslie in Sydney was limited to a wonderful conversation in the car as we drove from Sydney to Canberra and back. My experience with Alan reaches much further than that. When Alan was performing in Sydney in 1986, I became friends with his backup singers, three wonderful attractive girls. They informed Alan that I loved his songs, and he consequently asked me up on stage during rehearsals one day to sing with him. That was an amazing experience.

After arriving in Hong Kong in May of 1987, I lived at a friend's home in Kowloon Tong. Having no job, no friends, and no knowledge of Hong Kong other than what I'd seen in movies, I spent my time walking and exploring. One fateful day, I found myself in a place with lots of trains and a very large squarish building. It was the Hong Kong Colosseum 香港體育館. I didn't know where I was, or what I was looking at. It didn't matter. I was exploring. What happened next though could not have been planned or scripted by anyone.

The back door of the Colosseum was open, and several people were seated there taking a cigarette break. As I walked by, they recognised me; me, a 鬼佬 who had been in Hong Kong for just a month!!! They were members of Alan's band, the same band that had played back in Sydney one year before, and they were rehearsing for Alan's home concert. I was invited into the Colosseum to see Alan. One thing led to another, and in July of 1987, I watched 30 of Alan's 31 concerts from backstage, and guest-appeared in two of those concerts! A month later, I was a special guest at Alan's birthday party celebration for his fan club. After that, Alan and I rarely saw each other. I ran into him once during a TV project where we chatted a little. We never have much to say, but he is always the gentleman, and will always be an important part of my life.

So you can perhaps understand why I would choose to listen to Alan's songs first. Don't worry though. Leslie is next on my list, followed by Jacky 張學友, Danny 陳白强, Roman 羅文, etc.

Listening to the songs of these incredible singers is an amazing journey, bringing back memories and feelings. Maybe I'll tell you more about that later. For the time being though, I need to get back to work; vocal training, singing, researching, performing :-)

An eye for an eye. An iPhone for a cup of tea.

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Our car, like most cars, has a cup holder. It's just next to the gear stick. I don't use it all that often, but when I do bring something with me to drink in the car, it's a life saver. When I don't have a beverage with me, I usually place my iPhone in the cup holder instead.

The other night, like most nights, I drove to my wife's office to pick her up from work. I had a few minutes to spare, so I bought a cup of 'Chinese café' tea 茶餐廳奶茶. When my wife came out of the office, I placed the tea into the cup holder and we began our drive home.

Clouds in my iPhone

After 'repairing' my iPhone, the LCD unfortunately looked like this. The anomalies do however appear to be fading away. With any luck, the screen will be nearly as good as new in a few days time.

Almost home, I handed my iPhone to my wife to show her something. When she handed it back to me, I absentmindedly placed the iPhone back into the cup holder. It was almost a full minute later before I realised that I had in fact placed the iPhone into half a cup of tea. I quickly pulled it out and my wife wiped it off, but...

Back home, I wiped the phone again and sprayed it with vinegar (what was I thinking!!!) hoping to drain the tea out of the iPhone. It didn't work, and later that night, the iPhone began showing the first signs of infection. It repeatedly thought that an unrecognised accessory was connected to the dock connector, and it was no longer possible to synchronise the iPhone with my Mac. The Home button also failed to respond to my repeated presses.

The next day, I took the iPhone in to the local Three repair centre. They noted that the connector had changed colour indicating that water was involved, and took the iPhone to their technician to quote the repair. The quote? HK$5,400!!! Why? Because Three are not authorised to repair the iPhones, only to replace them under warranty. If you damage your iPhone (here in Hong Kong at least), you have little choice but to buy a new one.

In my case, I found it extremely unreasonable that I would have to buy a new iPhone because the old one had sustained a little water (tea) damage, and I cannot afford to buy another one at $5,400. So I went online and searched for other similar stories. What I found were a couple of instruction videos on YouTube showing how to disassemble the iPhone. Since Three were not going to fix my iPhone, my only choice was to attempt the repair myself, hoping that it was a case of shorting wet contacts within the iPhone.

A few hours later, after 3 or 4 attempts, I had finally cleaned and wiped the inside of the iPhone, and found the source of the connector problem; tea had gathered around the the ribbon connection for the connector assembly. Using an electric toothbrush, I carefully cleaned both sides of the connection (twice because the first try wasn't successful) and put everything back together. My iPhone is now working.

Unfortunately, because I'm not a professional, I made mistakes while 'repairing' the iPhone. My biggest mistake was introducing alcohol (95%) to the LCD screen while cleaning the Home button. The LCD now has a permanent background resembling a cumulus nimbus cloud formation. Nothing I can do about it at this point. At least the iPhone works, and is almost perfect again. The next time I visit the States, I might send the iPhone in to one of the online third-party repair centres to have the LCD replaced; a cost of approx USD$50 to $80, much much less than the cost of a new iPhone!

The lesson to be learned from this story? Be very very careful with your iPhone. If you damage it in any way, no matter how minor, you might find yourself paying full price to 'fix' it.

Hitchhiker

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I recently took up weight lifting again. I have a job coming up where I'll be standing next to attractive thin women, and in my current condition, I would look very large in comparison, so it's the gym for me. I also began running again just over a month ago, barefoot of course ;-)

So yesterday, I packed my sports bag, including the usual things; clothes, shoes, headphones, gloves, etc; and left home. I spent a few hours in a local karaoke first doing song research, and then around 4pm headed off to the gym.

Frog in shoe

At the gym, it wasn't until I was preparing to put my gym shoes on that I realised I had inadvertently brought a guest along with me. There in my right shoe was a frog, and not a small one either! In Australia, they're called toads. Over here in Hong Kong, they're usually referred to as frogs. In Australia, they're a troublesome non-native immigrant pest. Here, they're native and harmless.

I couldn't leave him in the gym; he'd eventually end up dead somewhere; so I carefully lifted him out of the shoe and placed him in my locker. After my workout, I picked him up again, put him back in my shoe (he probably peed in there but oh well...) and took him back home, which incidentally is also his home, and set him free again.

In our previous home, we had the occasional wild visitor. We had the occasional monkey, one or two snakes who fortunately remained outside, and we had several centipedes come inside. Since the centipedes can deliver a very nasty sting, I would pick them up, usually with bbq prongs, and move them back outside again. We never had frogs though.

Centipede Centipede Centipede

Our current home has quite a few froggy visitors. I don't mind the frogs, but they can attract other visitors, in particular snakes looking for a tasty meal. On one occasion, I discovered a 4' snake on our porch. When I carefully pulled various objects back to see him more clearly, I discovered that he had one frog in his mouth half swallowed while eyeing another frog just in front of him. When the snake saw me, he slivered off very quickly leaving one very relieved frog behind him. I don't mind snakes either, but ever since that encounter, I've made a point to move all frogs found within the house or on the porch back to the neighbouring scrub area. Our kids don't really know their way around snakes, and I wouldn't want to see one of them get fatally bitten.