Happy Thanksgiving!

HappyThanksgiving (Image grabbed from here.)

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was not one of my favorite holidays.  That’s because every year, we’d slog our way through massive traffic to sit in a relative’s house, eat food that was probably quite okay a day earlier and just generally be bored for hours until it was time to deal with the traffic and fight our way home again.   There was little attention paid to the meaning of the holiday itself.  I always wanted to just stay home and watch the annual re-runs of King Kong and Laurel & Hardy’s March of the Wooden Soldiers.

Today, Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday.  In part, that’s because it’s remained truly nondenominational.  And for the meaning of the holiday itself.   My own little “life philosophy” tells me that one needs to stop and take stock of what one has accomplished so far in life and be grateful for it.  I may not be a millionaire, I may not have become a famous rock star or film director, I may be currently unemployed and concerned about my future – but my life has turned out far better than I would have ever dared to fantasize as a child. There are still things in life that I want to accomplish, some of which I may never get to do.  There are still places in the world that I want to visit, some of which I may never reach.  But I have done so much, lived so much and have so much to be thankful for.

I’m thankful for my girlfriend and the way she continues to put up with my exceedingly annoying habits.  I’m thankful that my health remains far better than it has any right to be, considering the lifestyles I’ve pursued in the past.  I’m thankful to have so many good friends who remain supportive even through my dark moods that would push lesser people away.  I’m thankful to live in Hong Kong, which despite its plethora of serious issues still seems like a pretty damned good place to me.  And yes, I’m thankful that several hundred of you show up on a daily basis to read whatever insanity I’ve posted here.

So a most sincere Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Tomorrow I’ve got jury duty.  Sigh.

Oh My Aching Back!

I’ve spent a part of the past few days setting up the “free” netbook that I got from PCCW, a Lenovo S10-2.  I decided to keep it rather than try to sell it off because it’s so much smaller and lighter than my MacBook that I thought it might be easier for me to carry around on a regular basis.  Though one problem I’m finding is that the keyboard is so freaking small, it doesn’t really lend itself to touch typing, which is proving to be a major distraction.  (I never thought I’d adapt to the chiclet style keys on the MacBook but now I quite like them.)

The Lenovo came with a 160 gig hard disk.  But the initial set-up was weird.  The disk was partitioned into two drives and the 30 gig D: drive (labeled “Lenovo”) contained a folder called “Drivers” with less than 1 gig of files on it.  Not sure how this makes sense.  I used EASEUS partition manager to cut that back to 2 gig, restoring 28 gig to the C: drive.

Copied over all the music I have loaded into iTunes on my desktop computer.  And then tried to ruthlessly pare it down to what I figured would be nice to have if I’m sitting in some bar or coffee shop and trying to get work done.  Maybe not so ruthless, because after going through the entire thing 3 times, I’m down to 15,907 songs, 96 gigabytes of MP3s.  Of course I need every Velvet Underground album on there but do I really need 12 Van Der Graaf Generator albums?

And actually, do I really need any of that music on there if every time I leave the house I have my iPhone with me?  (Though I’ve only got a measly 24 gigs of music there.)  The iPhone does email and has TweetDeck (and Tweetie), Facebook, etc. on it, so do I even need to carry around the netbook?  Useful for working on the blog, I suppose, or perhaps any assignments that come my way, if any.

So now, when I leave the house, I’m not just taking my keys.  I’m taking a bag that includes:

  • iPhone
  • PCCW Pocket WiFi
  • Lenovo Netbook
  • Kindle
  • Nikon D300 camera (with either a 35mm or 18-200mm lens)
  • Shure earbuds
  • Moleskine notebook
  • reading glasses
  • sun glasses
  • smokes
  • the usual assortment of mints, eye drops, spare batteries, business cards, pens

How do I go out with less?  Only thing I can think of would be to swap out the DSLR for a lighter pocket camera, but having given my Canon G10 to my gf, I don’t wanna spend the money to buy another camera right now (Canon S10 looking really sweet). (Well, odds are I won’t be carrying the Kindle or the netbook if I’m going out at night.)

Anyway, if you spot me on the street and it looks like I’m carrying an entire house on my back, now you know why:   I’m completely insane.

My Brilliant Career

Most of you already know this? I graduated college at the age of 21 with a degree in mass communications, majoring in film production, minoring in art, music and literature. I wanted to direct movies. It took a few years but eventually it became evident that I was not going to get there. I then drifted for a number of years, taking whatever work I could get, until at the age of 35 I went back to school and studied computer technology for a year.

Since completing a certificate program in Computer Technology & Applications at Columbia University in 1990, I’ve worked steadily in information technology. It took me just a few years to move up from database administrator to management and this path has not only paid me a handsome salary but also taken me around the world, many times.

WB has provided outplacement service for the hundreds of employees they mistakenly laid off. I’ve been working for 40 years and I think I know how to search for a job at this point. But since it’s free and since I don’t have much else to do, I went there mostly to kill some time. The guy assigned to me is a nice guy and I have enjoyed talking with him, though mostly we talk about subjects like food in China and getting the most out of Twitter.

The company has a standard methodology that includes taking a battery of tests, and I took one for the hell of it. It was a couple hundred questions geared towards building a psychological profile and then pointing you in the direction of careers that would yield the most personal satisfaction.

These are the careers it determined would be the worst for me:

  • Petrochemical
  • Science
  • Information Technology
  • Crafts/Technical (mostly construction work)
  • Enforcement/Security
  • Consultative Tangible Sales
  • Accounting
  • Engineering/Technology
  • Directive Management – Operations, Manufacturing, Construction, Petrochemical Plant, Telecommunications, Utility Company, Military Officer, Police Department, Grocery Store, Information Center Managers

Jeez, if only someone had told me that 20 years ago!

The best?

  • Legal (ha!)
  • Delegative Management – Property Managers, Hotel, Club & Restaurant Managers, Tangible Sales Managers, Intangible Sales Managers, Insurance Sales Managers, Bank Managers, Controllers, Public School Administrators, Nursing Home Administrators
  • Artistic Careers (sigh) Visual Arts, Literary/Editorial Positions, Performing Artist/Acting, Architecture, Art Sales, Travel Agents (travel agent is an artistic career?)
  • Social Service/Counseling – Ministers/Priest/Clergy, Theologians, Therapists/Counselors, Social Workers, Sociologists, Psychologists
  • Educational
  • Knowledge Specialist – Public School Counselors, Psychologists, Career Counselors, Employee Relations Professionals, College Professors, Ministers/Priests/Clergy, Ministry Managers, Physicians, Lawyers/Litigation Specialists, Nursing Managers
  • Employee Relations/Training
  • Medical (double ha!)

The problem is, at my age and with my background, none of those are going to pay me what another IT management role would pay. And I’m still in a position where I need to earn.

On the other hand I have four fingers and a thumb optimistically I will retire in another 5 to 7 years, at which point I can concentrate on artistic endeavors, so another job in MIS won’t kill me. Besides, I have the blog (and now the photo workshop) to keep me interested in my “spare” time.

Party at Spike’s Joint

I’m not Mr. Party Host but I do enjoy having people over to the house and last night threw a BBQ party for my former staff and their spouses. Having returned from the US just two days earlier and still being seriously jetlagged, I was resolved to do it nicely but also keeping things as simple as possible. I had neither the time nor the energy to do a lot of pre-cooking or preparation but still wanted to have a decent spread for my guests. Actually on Friday night I’d only succeeded in sleeping from 11:30 PM to 1:30 AM and then managed to grab another hour of sleep right before the guests started arriving.

Most of the food came from a relatively new place in Sai Kung town. I was drawn to it by the name, Cowboy BBQ. A small shop, they have a huge selection of marinated meats and seafood and other stuff to choose from. We went for chicken wings, pork chops, beef short ribs and three kinds of sausage. (I wouldn’t call this gourmet but everything was good. The pork chops and short ribs were really tender and a nice enough marinade that didn’t seem to have any MSG. I never got to taste the beef – two pounds were gone within minutes.)

Across the street at the wet market, we loaded up on fresh prawns, a few kinds of fishballs (fish, lobster, squid and beef) and a variety of veggies. I love the wet market, as I’ve said many times before; I always forget to bring my camera along when I go there. Even though Sai Kung’s wet market is said to be one of the most expensive wet markets in HK, I still find the prices reasonable and the quality almost universally high.

We did some simple seasoning on the prawns and put them on skewers with chunks of red and yellow pepper and red onion; had enough so there were at least 2 for everyone, and people basically inhaled them. Very fresh, simply prepared, they were outrageously good. People also seemed to love the corn on the cob that we got there, fresh and sweet. We also sliced up a zucchini and tossed that on the grill as well.

Polished that off with some hamburger meat from Wellcome along with the various dry goods we needed. (We toasted buns on the BBQ and provided lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, pickles for a “build your own burger” bar.) (And there was more, as one guest brought along some marinated lamb chops and another brought Filipino-style meat loaf. I never got to taste the lamb but the meat loaf was seriously nice.)

So all of the shopping was done in just 90 minutes. And the cost for everything was well under HK$2,000. Guests brought along a few cases of beer and half a dozen bottles of wine. I sampled from two of the bottles and there was some nice stuff there.

Everyone commented on both the variety and quantity of the food. But I’m of the “I’d rather have to much than too little” philosophy and also wanted a lot of choices to make sure that everyone could find something they’d like.

Despite the recent drop in temperatures, about half the group was content to spend the evening out on the patio (mostly because there’s no smoking in the house), enjoying the view and the peace and quiet that you get up here. And no longer constrained by any loyalty to what is now my former employer, people were enjoying my finally being able to tell them what really happened on various projects we’d worked on for the past 8 years.

It was also fun to note that some of the women who came to the house for the first time were initially so terrified of my dogs that they were scared to come in the house but by the end of the evening, they were sitting on the floor posing for photos with them. My dogs have that effect on people, they always win everyone over.

Anyway, it was a modest way for me to say thank you to my team for their hard work and amazing loyalty through the years. And, as the saying goes, a good time was had by all.