Thursday, September 30, 2010

Twin Pregnancy Blog - Sept 30, 2010 - Week 18 - "Anomaly scan"

Another week, another visit to the doctor. This time, we've headed to the public hospital, Queen Elizabeth. So unfortunately, the doctors here don't provide us with pictures from the ultrasound scans to take home.

Anyway, we were not expecting anything unusual. But fortunately, we were right on time to be able to conduct an anomaly scan. It's basically just a prolonged and more detailed ultrasound scan. The doctor checks every aspect of the baby to see if there's anything odd.

We've not had much luck with complications but this time, it went very well!

Babies' length were normal.
Size of their heads were normal.
Both had normal brain development.
Size of abdomen normal.
All facial features accounted for.
No cleft lips.
Each heart had the normal 4 chambers.
All arms, legs, fingers, and toes were accounted for.
Lungs, stomach, and kidneys were accounted for.
Both spinal cords looked normal.

We had another confirmation that they're boys...

Apparently, the fetal movements that my wife was experiencing are Braxton Hicks contractions. We're told it's completely normal.

Nothing of note to worry about. Finally. Thank goodness.

Seriously, are there safe-haven laws in Hong Kong?

On Sept. 28, 2010, a 26-year-old woman abandoned her newborn baby girl in the toilet of a Mong Kok motel room. The baby was discovered by motel staff at around 1pm. She was rushed to the hospital for treatment but was certified dead by 2:30. (Source
Stories like this seem to be a weekly occurance. Considering that there's probably much more unreported occurrences, it's just horrifying.

This child's life just began. Then shortly after, it was snuffed out. Life is resilient but not when being drowned in a toilet bowl.

We all came into this world as babies for a chance at life. Aren't we all entitled to that chance?

Monday, September 27, 2010

The people of Hong Kong are the most arrogant in the world

How awesome is this? A Philippine columnist saying HK is arrogant. Isn't there a written law that says "If your country's police incompetence killed some tourists, you can't insult the tourist's country"? With all the crap coming out regarding this hostage case, you could write an entire manual that describes what not to do during and after a hostage situation involving international tourists. The following text in italics and indented is taken straight from his article.
Why can’t the Aquino government put its act together?
Here’s comes Secretary Ricky Carandang of the Malaca? Communications Group saying the Chinese government would have the first priority in getting the results of the investigation of the special fact-finding committee on the Luneta hostage-taking crisis.
But Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the committee’s chair, says the Chinese government and the Filipino people, through the media, will be given the results of her committee’s investigation at the same time.
Carandang’s statement that the Chinese government would get the De Lima report ahead of the Filipino public created a stir.
Some lawmakers – notably Senator Joker Arroyo and House Minority Leader Rep. Edcel Lagman – questioned the decision of the Aquino administration in giving the De Lima report to the Chinese government first and later to the Filipino public.
It now turns out it was Carandang, without consulting President Noy (Benigno Aquino III), who made the decision to have the Chinese government get the De Lima report first.
It shows that the Aquino government is composed of several fiefdoms, all acting independently of one another.
* * *
The Aquino government is stepping out of bounds in overly appeasing the Beijing government and the Hong Kong administrative regional government by having them receive the De Lima report first over the Filipino public.
How, when, and to who the government decides to release the report is irrelevant. The fact that there appears to be any discussion at all about this just comes to further show the incompetency of the national government. They don't know how to prioritize. Just release it simultaneously to everyone! Who cares? 
Haven’t we collectively asked forgiveness for the ineptitude of our police and security officials?
Nope. Listen to the Manila Mayor and the Vice-Mayors. None of them has admitted any fault in this. To this day, they believe that their actions were correct. Look at the President smiling on camera at the crime scene. Look at the civilians smiling and posing in front of the crime scene the morning after.
Haven’t we humbled ourselves by practically kneeling down before Mainland China and Hong Kong and being lectured by their people?
When you mess up, you need to be lectured. So, having messed up, you need to suck it up and take it on the chin.
What more can we do to appease them? 
* * *
In trying to appease the Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong people we’re making other countries trample upon our dignity and pride as a nation.
We are feeding on the Hong Kong people’s arrogance by our seemingly servile stance towards them.
Other countries are trampling upon your dignity and pride as a nation because of all the classless acts of blaming everybody else for what went wrong!
The people of Hong Kong are the most arrogant in the world.
Tourists from all over the world have complained of discourteous restaurant servers and department store clerks.
I'd love to see some supporting evidence on how people in HK are the most arrogant in the world. Is there some sort of list that someone compiled using some complicated formula to find an arrogance score for each city? Also, is there a single city where 0% of tourists complain about restaurants and shops?
Several years ago, I approached a Hong Kong policeman standing at a street corner in Kowloon district to ask for directions.
I didn’t know how to get to a restaurant where I was to have an appointment.
The Hong Kong policeman shouted at me and shooed me away.
I don't need to look at the police manual to know that it's not in the cop's job description to give directions to tourists. Some do it anyway, but that's overstepping their boundaries. I'd rather have rude cops that can effectively protect the community than polite cops that throw glowsticks into a bus taken hostage.

INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble described the Hong Kong Police Force as "one of the finest and most professional police forces in the world" (source)

FBI Director Robert Mueller III said, "The citizens of Hong Kong are protected and served by one of the finest Police departments in the world. Hong Kong's law-enforcement officers are honest, sophisticated and highly professional, and have made this one of the world's safest cities" (source)

Discourtesy toward foreigners seems universal among Hong Kong people.
Anywhere a tourist goes, he invariably meets discourteous or arrogant Hong Kong residents who never smile.
I was asking for the price of a pair of glasses at an optical shop in Hong Kong when the clerk said I shouldn’t be asking if I didn’t have any intention of buying.
Just seems to me this guy is BS'ing his supporting evidence. A lot of people find store clerks in HK to be overly courteous to the point that you have to ask them to stop hovering. If his experience was true, then he must have either been either acting like a douche-bag or he was in a really bad part of town.

Also, this guy is suppose to be a columnist? What kind of writing style is this? Each sentence is its own paragraph. When he wants to further separate each "paragraph", he uses three asterisks? It looks like I'm reading the thoughts of a rambling 5-year-old.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Twin Pregnancy Blog - Sept 24, 2010 - Week 17 - "Getting better"

Something my wife noticed this week. The babies occasionally move around. When they do, one them will bulge out from my wifes abdomen. It's very odd. My wife says it's only happened a couple times and it doesn't hurt. Doctor says that it happens with twins but that we should call him if it happens frequently.

Not much change since last time except that the babies are now larger and the chorionic hematoma has continued to shrink in size.

On to the scans...

1. This shows what's left of the chorionic hematoma (blood clot). The size has shrunk about 20% since last week.
Week 17

2. Twin on top, 11.71cm long.
Week 17

3. Twin on bottom, 12.56cm long. Their sizes are similar enough to be normal.
Week 17

4. The arrow is pointing at the manhood of our boy on top.
Week 17

5. Same for our boy on the bottom. Jeez, how embarrassing for them...
Week 17

McDonald's Rant 5 - Sausage McMuffin & Filet'O'Fish

See here for the other rants.

I suppose this is less of a rant but rather a curious observation.

Why is it that these are the only McDonald's food items that are sold throughout the entire day? Filet'O'Fish is a lunch menu item and yet, it's available during breakfast. Sausage McMuffin is a breakfast menu item and yet, it's available during lunch. Who chose these 2 sandwiches? Why these 2? Why not the Big Mac or the Egg McMuffin?

(This applies to Hong Kong McD's only)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

McDonald's Rant 4 - Commercial

See here for the other rants.

My wife and I were disgusted by a recent McDonald's TV commercial here in HK. Video link here. The basic rundown of the commercial goes like this:
  • Family of 4: Mom, dad, son, and younger daughter.
  • Commercial opens with the son playing alone with his train set. His little sister interrupts him by taking the train off the tracks. He shows his dissatisfaction by telling his sister to stop. The mom sticks her head out from the kitchen and tells her son to yield to his sister.
  • Son tries to show Mom a drawing he made. Mom is busy feeding her younger daughter and tells her son to go away to play by himself.
  • The whole family goes to a park. Both mom and dad focus on their daughter while their son sits alone on the bench sulking. They then look over to their son and realize what they must do.
  • They all go to McDonald's where the dad orders a Big Mac meal for his son.
  • His son shows surprise and enthusiasm (because he's supposedly only expecting a Happy Meal?)
  • His dad implies that he's getting a Big Mac meal because he's grown up and no longer a child.
  • The son happily celebrates getting his "grown up" meal, having completely forgotten how his douche-bag parents treated him like dirt just moments ago.
So, here's what I took away from that commercial:

  • The parents completely neglected their first-born child with the arrival of a new baby.
  • Instead of spending more time with their son, they decided to buy him out with a Big Mac meal.
  • So now, the son is suppose to feel ok with that because he got a Big Mac?

McDonald's seems to be claiming their food is more important than parental care. If so, all parents should forget about giving their kids attention, encouragement or hugs. Just buy them all Big Mac meals. If you really want to show your love, super-size them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

McDonald's Rant 3 - McNuggets Sauce

See here for the other rants.

Here in HK, if you order McNuggets, the server gives you the default sauce. That is, sweet & sour sauce. They have several sauces. Sometimes, they have promotional periods where they offer special sauces. But even in normal days, they at least have barbecue sauce and mustard sauce as alternatives.

(Why they don't normally have honey mustard sauce is beyond me. They only have it during special promotional periods. At those times, they call it the Singaporean Honey Mustard Sauce. I have no idea how honey mustard is related to Singapore.)

So why is it that they assume that everyone wants sweet & sour sauce? Is it because we're Chinese and they feel we have to use a Chinese sauce for our McNuggets? If so, why not give us oyster sauce or soy sauce? Or perhaps they should just take McNuggets off the menu all together and replace it with McKungPao Chicken!

Ok, I'm not really being serious when I'm implying there's a racial issue to all this sweet & sour sauce business. Anyway...

Try asking for an alternative sauce to the sweet & sour. Rather than just giving you the alternative sauce, the server will replace the sauce they've given you. Even if your order was a take-out and the sweet & sour sauce is in your paper bag under 2 sandwiches with a bunch of fries, they will use their grimy hands to dig out that sauce before giving you the sauce you requested.

Good luck trying to get extra sauce. I can't verify this since I've never asked for more sauce. But apparently, they actually charge you for it.

The Manila Hostage Case - Still nobody with the guts to admit fault

I told myself that I wasn't going to write about this story anymore. But it seems every time that someone relevant speaks up in the Philippines, it does nothing but cause more disgrace to their troubled reputation.

Yesterday, an inquiry report was released which is essentially a transcript of what transpired on that day. It lists out what happened, what went wrong, and who are to be punished. You may download the report here. (Source)

I've never seen these types of reports so I'm not going to judge the contents of it. Everybody already knows what went wrong and who's at fault. But there are a couple of things that just really stands out to me like sore thumb.

1. They seriously couldn't produce a nicer cover page with images that aren't blurry? The image I used on top of this post is from the report cropped at 100% zoom.

2. Have a look at page 4. Is that the norm for these reports? The entire page contains just a quote from the hostage-taker. I felt like this was the beginning of a thriller novel. See image on the right.

3. Check out the signatory page (ie, last page). The report was signed off by the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and 3 members of the investigation committee. Noticed what Vice Chairman Robredo scribbled next to his signatory? It reads:
"did not participate in the deliberations on the determination of accountabilities of the parties cited."
If his statement is true, then why did he sign off on the report? Why is he even on the committee, let alone the Vice-Chairman? How did he contribute to the report? (Perhaps he's the one responsible for photoshopping those images on the cover page?) It sounds like he's scared that the parties at fault will come at him for revenge. Or he knows there's something fishy about the report and he doesn't want to be liable?

Anyway, today's article in the South China Morning Post highlights some reactions of those identified as accountable for that tragic event.

The following is from the article regarding Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim:

...he hit out at an inquiry report that recommended he and his deputy be punished over last month's tragedy.
Lim was near to tears yesterday as he repeatedly slammed a table with his fist during a press conference he called to contest recommendations of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC).
"Only the police would put their lives on the line in such situations and we get this," said Lim, a former Manila police chief. "The vice-mayor's and my inclusion, and even the negotiator, on the list of those found culpable by the IIRC is too sweeping and totally lacking in factual and legal basis," Lim said.
The Mayor of Manila is essentially pouting like a 4 year-old girl. I'm surprised he didn't stomp his feet and say "It isn't fairrrrrrrrrr!" Also, here's the "factual basis" he said is lacking according to the report:
He [1] failed to activate the the city's crisis management committee, [2] was absent from the command post at the most critical time (he was at dinner), and [3] ordered the arrest of the hostage-taker's brother.

According to the article, the Mayor
admitted that "we bungled" the crisis. But he said suspended Manila police chief Rodolfo Magtibay, the ground commander during the hostage taking, was more to blame.
This isn't the first time he threw the police chief under the bus. See here. I'm just surprised he did it again.
He said he was willing to be jailed as long as they spared Manila Vice-Mayor Francisco Domagoso "because he has no fault here. Me, I'm ready to face charges. We can't do anything because sometimes that's how the ball bounces".
When the leader is incompetent, the 2nd-in-command has the authority and responsibility to take action. Therefore, the Vice-Mayor is at fault even though he didn't do anything because he's suppose to be doing something! Also, that's how the ball bounces? Considering that 8 people died, that's just not something appropriate to say.
Vice-Mayor Isko Moreno also said he did nothing wrong and vowed that if Lim was jailed, he would join him. "I don't really understand why we, who managed to rescue nine [hostages] are being sanctioned," he added.
Wow. (Firstly, how many Vice-Mayors are there?) This guy should be jailed just for producing that idiotic utterance. He needs to get his facts straight. They didn't rescue nine hostages. The gunman just failed in murdering those nine hostages.
Moreno was cited by the inquiry for not taking Mendoza's demands to the Department of Justice, whose headquarters was just minutes away from the site of the crisis, as the gunman had requested. Instead, he traveled to the Ombudsman's office three hours away.
It's just shocking. The stories of stupidity of these so-called leaders are just shocking.
The Philippine radio station accused of preventing a negotiator from contacting Mendoza also rejected accusations that it contributed to the tragedy.
Aquilino Pimentel, lawyer for Radio Mindanao Network, criticised the official inquiry's call for three of its staff to be prosecuted for holding phone interviews with the hostage-taker. "The interview by [radio reporter] Michael Rogas gave the hostages an extra few hours to live," Pimentel told the station.
You would think that a lawyer would be educated enough not to say something that inappropriate. But alas, his decorated law degree doesn't protect him from the wave of stupidity washing over all the other Philippines top officials.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

McDonald's Rant 2 - Napkins

See here for the other rants.

In many ways, my rant regarding the ketchup packets also apply to napkins. No matter how much food you've ordered, by default you only get 2 pieces of napkins. You could have ordered 3 trays of food and unless you've asked for more napkins, you only get 2 pieces.

But actually, the amount of napkins you receive should be the least of your worries at McDonald's. Pay attention to how you've acquired those pieces of napkins and you'll see what I mean.

1. The person handling the cash register is the one responsible for placing the napkin on your tray. That same person is responsible for handling the money which is incredibly dirty. And since that person is trained to give you 2 napkins only, each napkin has made contact with his/her filthy fingers. Wait, it gets worse...

2. If the orders gets backed up, the servers sometimes review what's outstanding for each tray. And each time they review a tray, they use their hands to tap on your piece of napkin. So if you think about it, your napkin has already been used by the time you get to it. Wait, it gets worse...

3. Let's assume your order is a take-out. When they've completed packing your order into the paper bag, they use all five fingers to grab your napkin and receipt and toss it into your bag. Congrats, your napkin has just been soiled further. Wait, it gets worse...

4. If your order is a take-out, sometimes they don't even give you a tray. They place your receipt on top of your 2 pieces of napkins and just place it on the counter. If there's a line, your order gets moved across the counter to make room for the next. That means, your napkin has now been used to wipe their counter clean.

Just remember this the next time you use that harmless looking napkin for anything...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

McDonald's Rant 1 - Ketchup Packets

I'm feeling rather antsy these days because of my wife's pregnancy. So I'm going to start a couple of posts on rants regarding McDonald's over the next couple of days.

Using just 1 minute searching on Google, I was able to find that I can buy a case of a 1000 ketchup packets for US $32.79. That's less than HK $0.30 per packet. Consider that a fast food chain as large as McDonald's would certainly buy in bulk and that price would surely be lower.

Then why is it that by default, you never get more than 1 pack of ketchup if your order contains fries here in Hong Kong? You always have to pop the question: 
"May I have some more packs of ketchup please?"
By "some more", you would expect at least 2 or 3. Definitely not 1. Then why is it that the server keeps only giving you 1 more? It's just a waste of time and effort because then I would have to ask them for more again and they have to get me more again.
What's worse is sometimes they respond to your question with another question:
"How many do you need?"
That's the most stupid thing. Firstly, it's rude. Secondly, with the effort they made by asking the question and then waiting for my response, they could have filled my entire tray with ketchup packs. For this very reason, I never answer this question. I just repeat my request for "some more" packs of ketchup.

This whole thing just makes the restaurant look cheap. While McDonald's is certainly no 5-star restaurant, you would think they can afford to generously give away ketchup packets.

Maybe the next time I get asked how many packets of ketchup I need, I should say something like this:
"I'm not sure. I usually use about a pea-size amount per piece of fry. I think that will burn through about 1 packet of ketchup for every 10 fries. How many fries do you reckon there are on this tray?"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Twin Pregnancy Blog - Sept 16, 2010 - Week 16 - "Mind over matter"

Another week; another visit to the doctor's office. A serious complication was discovered last week. We're back to see if it has subsided.

In the days leading up to the visit, my wife has come to accept that there's really nothing she can do to help the babies other than resting and eating more. She's accepted my suggestion to try to periodically visualize her placenta and uterus healing. Most importantly, she has to truly believe that they will successfully heal. Mind over matter. Sound crazy? I'm sure it does. But if you want validation, look no further than the numerous studies on placebo effects.

Anyway, the ultrasound showed that the blood clot has (thankfully) shrunk significantly in size. In this picture, the clot is indicated by the dark horizontal line in the center of the shot. The risk of complication is still there, but at least this time, we have reason to be optimistic.
Week 16

Anyway, here are what our babies looked like today! They're both just a bit over 10cm long.
First is the twin who has decided to reside on the bottom of mom's uterus. In a vaginal birth, he would probably be born first.
Week 16

This is the one on top.
Week 16

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kevin Durant - Much Respect

I've never watched Kevin Durant play prior to the FIBA World Championship semi-finals game between USA and Lithuania. Meanwhile, I've watched Lebron James play numerous times. In just one game, Durant has done two things that Lebron has not. He led a team to a championship on the professional level and he's earned my respect as a basketball player.

On the professional level, Lebron James has never lead a team to glory. He's never won an NBA Championship. He's won an Olympic Gold Medal back in 2008 but he was clearly not the leader of the team; Kobe Bryant was.

Kevin Durant, on the other hand, was the clear leader on this World Championship team. His teammates deferred to him. He knew what his team needed from him and he executed. He risked his reputation by taking over the team. He knew that he would be the one to blame if Team USA lost but did it anyway because he had the courage and the heart to do so. This is something that you can't say for Lebron James (Remember, his kick-out pass to Donyell Marshell?).

Heart is difficult to measure. So I won't continue to question James' heart in the game. I'll question his skills.

In all my time of watching Lebron James, here's my breakdown of his game:
- He has excellent court vision primarily because of his height, he simply sees over the defense.
- He has never developed a post-up game. He has no back-to-the-basket moves.
- The way he gets to the rim is he just drives hard and powers his way through the defense. I've never seen him use deception on his moves.
- No change of speed moves.
- His perimeter shooting has improved but is unreliable.
- He's able to get perimeter shots off because of his length; not because of quickness or deception.
- His defense is over-rated. Uses his hands more than he uses his feet.

In my one game of watching Kevin Durant, his game was just beautiful to watch.
- Like James, he can see over the defense and makes excellent passes.
- He's 6-10 but naturally plays the 3 spot and prefers to operate on the perimeter. But when he's put on the low block, he has shown he has some nice low post moves (ie, shoulder fakes, spin, hooks, etc)
- He's tall but he handles the ball like a guard. His dribbles are low, wide, and most importantly, blindingly fast. Several times I see him with a live dribble walking up to the defender and he just simply shook him back several feet with just a couple of dribbling moves.
- He gets to the rim with finesse. The defender never even touches him because he faked him so hard that he's out of the picture.
- He has a beautifully clean shooting stroke for such a tall player. Very effortless even when far out on the 3pt line.
- Durant likes to use his step-back move to set up his jumper. And he sells the fake very nicely. Each time he does it, he successfully creates space between him and the defender to get a clean look. James also likes to use the step-back. But every time he does it, the defender is still right up on him and the only way the shot gets off is because of James' length.
- I've not seen enough games to comment on Durant's defense. But with his speed and length, he's definitely no slouch.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Twin Pregnancy Blog - Sept 11, 2010 - Week 15 - "News keeps getting worse"

My wife has been at home on bedrest for the past week since released from the hospital (for the 2nd time). Today's doctor visit was meant to just be a checkup on the progress of how the removed growth was healing.

I had expected to just hear the doctor say something like "Ok, everything's fine. You're good to go back to work but take it easy."

Unfortunately, like I said before, we just can't catch a break...

The babies look ok. But the doctor discovered a space in the placenta (known as chorionic hematoma). The space is filled with blood which is apparently slowly oozing out, causing the daily spotting my wife has been experiencing recently. The space is small enough to not cause distress to the babies at the moment. But it's large enough to be a significant concern. (ie, It has the potential to act as a wedge between the placenta and uterus. If it grows in size, it will completely tear the placenta away, essentially cutting off the babies' nutrient source.)

The tone of the doctor seems to be suggesting that we should prepare for the worst case scenario...

The doctor advised that it's extremely unlikely that my wife can return to work until after the pregnancy. My wife is ordered on bedrest and progesterone treatment. We'll visit the doctor in a week's time to reassess.

There's no proven effective treatment for something like this. All we can do is hope for the best. Fortunately, my wife is not experiencing any pain or cramping (which are common symptoms of an impending miscarriage) and there are plenty of cases where it just natually heals itself.

In these shots, that large black spot shaped like a banana on the left is the site of the chorionic hematoma. Horrifically, it's nearly the size of the baby's head which you can see on the right...

Week 15

Week 15

Friday, September 10, 2010

Anyone else sick of President Aquino's blame game?

The Philippines really just need to take ownership of what happened in the Manila hostage event and just stop trying to defend their actions (or inactions). None of their arguments are valid and just makes them look irresponsible in the international community. Some main quotes taken from today's South China Morning Post article:
Philippine President Benigno Aquino yesterday used a televised interview to rebuke the Hong Kong government over a letter from Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, which he described as "insulting".
Aquino said the letter took issue with his government's handling of the hostage crisis. "We were being told, in very minute detail, what we were supposed to do,"
"I decided not to respond to the official letter from the Hong Kong government, that in my view was insulting. [Instead] I conveyed through the People's Republic of China government that maybe sending that letter to me was not right. I did not like its tone."
Tsang's office said the chief executive had written to Aquino on August 26 "in a respectful and polite manner" thanking him for his government's assistance but also setting out issues he hoped the "independent, professional and comprehensive investigation" would explain. These included the processes of the hostage operation, details of negotiations, considerations behind police operations, the reasons why Philippine authorities could not make promises on the hostage-takers' requests, and the causes of deaths and injuries.
The letter may or may not be insulting. But even if it is, isn't it justified? The 8 Hong Kong tourists were killed in the Philippines by a Filipino hostage-taker because of the Philippines police force's inadequacies. Is the HK leader not entitled to be enraged? Aquino doesn't like the HK government's tone. Tell anyone here in HK that, and they'll tell Aquino where he can stick the tone up.

Tsang may or may not be telling Aquino what they were suppose to do in very minute detail. But even if he was, isn't that justified? Nobody knew what to do in the entire event. They initially thought the tour group was from Korea. The rescue was idiotic. The aftermath was chaotic with the media, general public, and medics storming the scene. They mislabeled corpses. They accidentally gave HK officials the cell phone of the gunman. They allowed HK officials to collect bullet casings from the scene but then stopped them at customs when they were leaving the country. Nobody knew what was going on and that is the fault of the country's leader.
"Maybe I'm wrong to tell you this. But I decided then that while someone wanted to quarrel with us, we wouldn't fight back in order not to widen the rift."
Here, Aquino wants to sound like he's doing the mature thing by taking the high road to avoid confrontation. Unfortunately, everyone knows this not to be true. He's not "fighting back" because he has no legitimate defense. Everything that can possibly go wrong during the rescue operation did indeed go wrong. Everything that can possibly go wrong after the failed rescue operation also did indeed go wrong. There's absolutely nothing he can salvage to turn into a positive point.
Philippine political strategist Billy Esposo said there was a dimension to the issue that many people were missing. "Have you noticed that China is not really pressing the issue?" Only Hong Kong was doing so, he said, because its local leaders had to reflect the sentiments of their people. Such an insulting letter, he said, "in other situations could even provoke a war".
Wow. Is this guy implying that the event is not a big deal because China is not taking a more proactive stance? Did his statements even get filtered through that brain of his before being uttered out his mouth?
On a more humorous note, speaking of war, I wonder if the Philippines national army soldiers are just as well-trained as their SWAT.
Referring to the phone call from Tsang on the day of the hostage crisis, Aquino said it had not been expected that day. "Let's clarify. If a Philippine governor suddenly demands to speak with President Obama or Hu Jintao, that would probably not be allowed," he said.
Wow, he's essentially saying the following:

  • He's too much of a big-shot to take Tsang's call because Tsang is only the Chief Executive of Hong Kong (ie, local leader) while he's the President of the Philippines (ie, national leader).
  • Tsang should have followed protocol by escalating to President Hu Jintao who would then contact Aquino.

It's obvious that nobody was in charge of handling the Manila hostage situation. So now, nobody is taking ownership of the blunders while everybody is taking turns blaming everybody else.
SWAT blames lack of training and equipment.
Mayor of Manila blames his Police Chief.
Police Chief blames the media and the hostage-taker's brother.
The President is now blaming HK's Chief Executive?

Am I being unfairly harsh because I'm Chinese or are the Philippines officials really this moronic?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Not going to tell our twins who is "older"

We're not sure how prevalent this is but we've decided not to tell our twins (or anyone else) which one is "older". Neither of us believe that coming out of the womb first constitutes one being "older" than the other. In fact, it's completely irrelevant; therefore, it shouldn't have a bearing on how their lives are led.

In short, we just don't want them to boss each other around and claim they're entitled to do so because of who is "older".

Anyway, we'll have to see if this is even possible. Not sure if their time of birth is stated on their birth certificates. If it is, we'll have to ask the doctor if it's possible to have them be identical.

(We might finally tell them later on in life. Perhaps on their 21st birthday...)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Looming problem for Hong Kong - birth rate

Ask anyone in Hong Kong about the most pressing issue that's bothering them about the city. Here are the answers that you'll likely hear:
  • Property prices are ridiculously high
  • Non-democratic government
  • Inadequate education system
  • Worsening air pollution
Here, I'd like to point out another problem. Low birth rate. There are occasional mentions in the media about our aging population and how people are having less children, having children later in life, or perhaps not having any children at all. But I never came across any concrete figures and statistics. Apparently, it's pretty bad and even I was shocked by my own findings.

Hong Kong is ranked last (223) globally in Crude Birth Rate (CBR). CBR is the average annual number of births per 1,000 persons at midyear. Hong Kong's score is 7.42. In comparison, even China which has strict population controls in place, scored 14.00 (rank 151). See here for source and scores of other countries.

In Total Fertility Rate (TFR), Hong Kong is ranked second to last globally (222). TFR is the average number of children that would be born per woman if all women lived to the end of their childbearing years and bore children according to a given fertility rate at each age. Hong Kong's score is 1.02. Only Macau is ranked lower with 0.91. See here for source and scores of other countries.

For those who thought that an aging population is not something you will face in your lifetime, think again. It's coming at us faster than you might believe.

Overpriced products that we buy

Came across an interesting read from MSN Money today about products that are obviously overpriced and yet, we as consumers still buy them. Some main quotes taken from the article:

1. Movie popcorn
Average markup of movie theater popcorn is a whopping 1,275%.

2. Greeting Cards
The markup is between 100% and 200%.

3. College textbooks
College textbook prices have skyrocketed 186% since 1986, and these expensive volumes of knowledge now account for 26% of the overall cost of college.

4. Bottled water
45% of bottled water comes from minicipal taps.

5. Printer ink
At $30, a 42-milliliter cartridge of black printer ink comes out to 70 cents per milliliter. On the other hand, the Red Cross charges $200 for 500 milliliters of blood, which comes out to 40 cents per milliliter.

6. Brand-name fashion
Often marked up 500% to 1,000%.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Twin Pregnancy Blog - Sept 2, 2010 - Week 13 - "Throw us a bone please!"

Back at the hospital again. We just can't catch a break. My wife was released from the hospital yesterday. But this morning, we're back. The boys are still fine. My wife is still fine. Doctor says that perhaps the wound from the removed cervical growth may just be flaring up.
Prognosis? Antibiotics, another shot of progesterone, bed rest, and lots of fluids.

Update: After a stay of two nights, my wife was once again released from the hospital on Saturday, Sept 4.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Twin Pregnancy Blog - Sept 1, 2010 - Week 13 - "The journey continues"

More ultrasound scans! The twins are doing just fine. They're roughly 8cm long now. Their tiny heartbeats have slowed down to 160bpm since last time. This time, one was more active than the other. Perhaps the other one was taking a nap...

Here's one of the boys.
Week 13
Here's the other one.
20100901US (7)
This picture is showing their two heads.
20100901US (5)

This one is of one of them with his legs up in air. The arrow is pointing at his...thing...
Week 13

Mayor of Manila speaks about the hostage situation

It's amazing what's coming out of the mouths of the Philippines officials about the hostage situation. Everyone watched on live TV how every step taken in the rescue went wrong. And now, every attempt to defend the actions are backfiring.

Here are some things that Manila mayor, Alfredo Lim, has said according to today's article in South China Morning Post.

Regarding the opportunity for snipers to take down the gunman in the afternoon:
"I think that was a mistake, the failure to take that opportunity [to shoot], but at that time he was already releasing some of the hostages and no harm was being done to them."
He said earlier that as a general rule, a hostage-taker was not shot if he was not hurting the hostages. "But there is also a rule that if a clear shot could be given ... and no one else would be hurt, the negotiator has to take advantage of that opportunity."
How idiotic is that "general rule"? Isn't it too late already if he was hurting the hostages? Do they have to wait until it's too late before taking action? Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened.
Lim also denied that he ordered the arrest of Mendoza's brother, Gregorio, the event that spurred the gunman into his killing spree. "I said to handcuff him, not to arrest him," he said
Alright, Lim didn't order the arrest of Gregorio which spurred the gunman into his killing spree. Lim ordered the handcuffing of Gregorio which spurred the gunman into his killing spree. What a relief now that that's cleared up.
He (Lim) also insisted that as chairman of the city's crisis management committee, he was just a consultant to the rescue operation, which was led entirely by city police chief Rodolfo Magtibay.
Wow. Way to avoid responsibility and throw your police chief under the bus.
Lim also rejected suggestions that he ordered the operation be conducted by the Manila police SWAT team while 20 highly trained commandos from the Philippines' elite police units stood idle nearby. "I never said don't use the Special Action Force ... what crazy person would say that when the SAF is fully equipped," he said, without explaining why the force was not deployed.
If he was aware that this Special Action Force was ready to be deployed, then he has the responsibility to order them to be deployed. Not doing so represents failure on his part.
At that time, about 6.45pm, he had decided to leave and told Magtibay that "this will probably take you until early morning to resolve. Have patience, wait for him to tire and maybe he will release the hostages".
This is just ridiculous. The time was 6:45pm. The city is in the international spotlight because of a high-profile hostage situation. The mayor decided to leave? What event did he have to attend that's more urgent? Also, his strategy is to "wait for him to tire" and hope that "maybe he will release the hostages"? How is this guy still in office?