It shouldn’t have been that hard.

Filed in TechnologyTags: , , ,

A week ago, I had finally decided on what I wanted in my online photo albums. I wanted a design that was simple to use and simple to look at, a design that would show off my photographs rather than distract from them. In html terms, to me, this meant a single page with controls to view the thumbnails and navigate between photographs, a single page without the flashes of multiple page reloads. I knew exactly what I wanted.

So I sat down and began on the design. Structure first; i.e., html, or in my case, xhtml. There was no style information in the structure. It was pure structure, the way xhtml is supposed to be. It looked good and straight forward. Then the style. CSS. I've done a lot of css work over the past year while I've worked on my blog, changing, improving and developing the blog's design. I've become quite familiar with css but I refuse to bow down to tweaking my css for the sake of arrogant egotistic non-compliant browsers. Writing the css for the photo album was not a piece of cake, but it wasn't difficult either.

Then there was the JavaScript. The JavaScript did nothing but hide and show various sections and photographs of the photo album. It did nothing else. It didn't rewrite the html or the css. It didn't do anything fancy except to remember the photograph being displayed and be able to show the next or previous one upon request.

Finally, there was the data. Each photograph would have a title and perhaps a caption to describe it. There would be a cover page photograph and there would also be one thumbnail for each photograph in the album. That was a lot of data. Writing that data each time I create a new album would be a lot of work, and I'd need a straight mind to remember to keep the html clean and valid while writing the data. It wouldn't be easy.

So I wrote an AppleScript application (i.e., 'Create blog album'). Whenever I needed to create an album, I would simply drag the photographs onto the application which would then launch, ask me for album information, ask me for the titles and captions for each of the photographs and then proceed to write the complete html file for the album. It worked great and didn't take all that long to write.

But there was a potential problem. What would happen if I wanted to add another photograph or two to the album? The Indonesia 2005 Day 1 album I was working on would not change over time but other albums I have planned would definitely change, albums like "Backyard Wildlife" and "Yesterday Hong Kong". How would I deal with that? It finally occurred to me that I could store the photographs together with titles and captions in Apple's iPhoto application and access the information via AppleScript.

I then edited the script application (i.e., 'Create blog album from iPhoto v1') to ask the user to choose from a list of iPhoto albums and then automatically glean the titles and captions from iPhoto before building the html file. It was wonderful.

I then reworked the whole process so that the person viewing the albums could choose from two sizes: smaller and larger. This meant creating another complete set of photographs and thumbnails, and it required another edit of the script application (i.e., 'Create blog album from iPhoto v2') .

The result was beautiful considering that I'm a relative beginner (admittedly an advanced AppleScript programmer but a novice at everything else). The application worked and it worked well…

The finished photo album

The finished photo album. It only took one week to write (sarcasm intended).

until people began to access the album from my blog. Some people, including my wife at work, reported not being able to see the contents of the album. Most of them were using I.E. which unfortunately is the most prominent of the arrogant non-compliant browsers. I was going to ignore the I.E. browser problem but my conscience got to me and I decided to see what I could do.

Some research on the 'net taught me that I.E. has its own way of looking at a web page, its own way of breaking the page down into individual pieces and its own way of finding those pieces. It wasn't really a shock to me; Microsoft has done this for years; but it was disappointing. Still, my JavaScript code was simple. It shouldn't be too hard to change the code so that it would work with I.E. as well as the other browsers, right?

Wrong. It was hard, too hard for me. This was my first attempt ever at JavaScript and although I was able to use both of the accepted methods for finding the individual pieces of the web page (getElementById and document.all), I still wasn't able to get the code to work.

In the meantime, I discovered another problem, something which to me was completely illogical. The css style code I wrote for the blog albums 'turned off' (i.e., display='none') any part of the web page which was not supposed to be seen. For example, when the Introduction section was shown, the thumbnail and photograph sections were turned off, and all of the photographs were turned off until the person viewing the album chose to view those photographs, one at a time. To my logic, if the photograph was not 'turned on', then the browser shouldn't download it. After all, the person wasn't going to see that photograph so why download it? Unfortunately, I.E., Mozilla and possibly one other modern browser I tried insisted on downloading every single photograph referenced within the album as soon as the album was loaded. With 22 photographs in thumbnail, smaller and larger sizes, that came to a total of 90 image files for the Indonesia 2005 Day 1 album. Sorry. To me, that was totally unacceptable.

In the end, I had to; at least temporarily; admit defeat and resort to the most basic of techniques: one html page per photograph. I edited my script application yet again (i.e., 'Create blog album from iPhoto v3') and now have a blog album that everyone can view without any significant problems. The album's not perfect. The JavaScript version was perfect, just not usable by many of the people who wanted to see it.

Just when I thought all of my problems had been solved, I discovered that there was no way to upload multiple html pages to my blog server (TypePad, admittedly designed for bloggers, not web developers). All in all, there were 48 html files for the Indonesia 2005 Day 1 album. Uploading them one at a time would take a lot of mouse clicks and a long time. Consequently, the album is not being stored on the blog server. It's on Apple's .mac server instead although just as easily accessible from my blog.

Update. Everything is now on another independent server run by LivingDot. I'm still using MovableType but I'm pretty much in complete control of the blog design. My photo albums still use the same design but are now exported directly from Aperture after I built a couple of custom Aperture web themes and an AppleScript script to make small adjustments to the output. Everything is nice now, for the time being at least ;-)

Sometimes, perfection costs a lot, and even then, the result might not be what you hoped for. I'm not finished with the blog album design yet. I still think the JavaScript version is workable and I have one or two ideas about where the problems are. If I can solve them, I'll definitely use the JavaScript version again. Until then, I'll have to be content with the plain old vanilla style html version of the album.

This would have been so much easier if everybody supported the standards, but there's always somebody who has to make it hard for everyone else.


Indonesia 2005 Day 1

Filed in Indonesia (2005), TravelTags: , , , ,

(day 1 of my short trip to Indonesia in September, 2005)

(continued from "Home")

I woke after only a few hours sleep to the sounds of activity outside the wall of my room. I remember walking through the bamboo matrix that is this town's markets just before sleeping. Covered by a roof of galvanised iron with patches of canvas, the markets were quite large. Before coming here, Ipah had warned me about the noise of the markets, worrying that the noise would prevent me from sleeping. She had nothing to worry about. I wasn't affected by the markets at all. Nor was I affected by the sound of motorbikes driving past the front door of her small flat on their way to the markets.

I got up from my bed and inquisitively looked outside my room into the family room of the flat. Ipah's mum was already up, sitting on a wooden stool outside the door watching people come and go. Ipah was up too; probably hadn't slept at all; preparing breakfast for her son and attending to the things she needed to do every day. It was five thirty in the morning and the world was up and active.

Five thirty! Not the kind of hour that I would imagine getting up back home in Hong Kong. In fact, you'd be more likely to find me going to bed at that time after filming at TVB rather than getting up. But here in the country town of Pesanggaran, people were wide awake by five thirty and getting ready for the day ahead of them.

The Corn Forest

On the way to Lompon Beach, Neni and I drove past this forest of corn and trees. It's something I'll never see in Hong Kong and probably not in Australia either. It was definitely very singular.

I walked outside the front door. Ipah's fiancé was there and greeted me in his shy way. I noticed the markets to the right of me again and walked over to take a better look now that the sky was bright and the markets were beginning to fill with activity.

The markets were made up of rows and rows of stalls. Most of the stalls were structured from bamboo. Some were made from wood. Some had wooden cupboards which the stall owners would lock their wares in each night when they closed up shop. There were no doors and no windows. If not for the clothes hanging from bamboo stresses, you would have been able to see from one side of the markets to the other.

This was the busy centre of town. Yet to me, it didn't seem so busy. After living there for a few days, I came to realise that the cost of living here was very low and you didn't need a lot of business to make a reasonable living. A few customers each day was sufficient. This was definitely not Hong Kong and I welcomed the adventure of exploring this new world.

The half of the markets neighbouring on Ipah's flat sold clothing and household goods. The half on the other side sold food, both raw and cooked. Meat was displayed and sold without refrigeration and any visitors from outside of Indonesia would probably have been put off by the flies constantly swarming around and on the meat. The store owners did nothing to keep the flies away. As far as they were concerned, it was pointless to try. As far as the customers were concerned, the flies didn't matter. The meat was going to get cooked anyway. There wasn't a lot of meat at each store, and it was not sliced and separated the way people in other countries are used to. There are no steaks and no sausages; just chunks of meat, much of which gets cooked with curry.

After walking through the markets for a while, I suddenly realised that I had an escort, or rather a body guard. Ipah's fiancé was trailing me. I later discovered that Ipah had instructed her family to accompany me whenever I left home. If no-one was available to go out with me, I wasn't allowed out. She was concerned that with my total lack of Indonesian, I wouldn't be able to communicate with the locals and bad people in town would quickly take advantage of this with threats and blackmail. I was pretty sure that it wasn't going to be that bad, but Ipah insisted so I never left without an escort.

As luck would have it, many of Ipah's relatives were in town for her impending wedding. One of those was a niece by the name of Neni, a young girl studying university in a relatively large city called Malang. Neni was a great girl with a keen interest in all things foreign including English. She was excited at the opportunity to speak with an English-speaking foreigner and tried to be with me as much as possible. Even today, she occasionally sends me phone messages to ask how I'm going.

Like almost everybody else over the age of ten in this area, Neni had a motorbike; not one of those mopeds typically used in Taiwan but a real motorbike; and she offered to take me around on it.

I loved it, sitting on the back of the motorbike, driving through the crisp clean morning air with the smells of trees, grass and dirt. It was wonderful. The first day, Neni took me out of the town to one of the local beaches. The beach named Lampon was next to a small naval base. It was also home to many fishing families who went out to sea daily in their unique fishing boats. After walking around, enjoying the sun and the water, I watched two young boys from the local fishing village go in for a swim and decided to go in myself. Neni became rather concerned but I assured her that I was a good swimmer and went in. After swimming for a few minutes, I noted Neni becoming increasingly agitated and decided to get out of the water.

A Rocky Alcove at Lompon Beach

Where a stream enters the sea at Lompon Beach. You can see the fishing boats on the ridge in the distance. Lompon Beach is just over the other side.

I was bewildered. Why the concern? When asked, Neni explained that many people had drowned or disappeared here, approximately 190 people. I later discovered that in June of 1994, this area had experienced a tsunami, one which had travelled over the protective ridge of ground between the ocean and the village and completely demolished the village. Many people were killed. This is why Neni and other people in the town of Pesanggaran were afraid of the ocean.

In this area of Indonesia, there are coconut trees and chickens everywhere. People here don't use ladders or ropes to climb coconut trees. They chop small steps into the trunks of the coconut trees and simply climb up with no aids of any kind. I found it intriguing to watch the people climb the trees so easily and quickly without any fear. It's something they do frequently, going up the trees every couple of days to see if any of the coconuts are ready for picking. One man I watched was up and down a coconut tree in less than two minutes; very quick.

Chickens are everywhere to be seen, as are baby chicks. Everywhere we went, I saw a family of chickens walking around. The chickens were generally very fit with tight firm bodies and long legs suitable for running. These were definitely not the factory-raised fat chickens you see in today's supermarkets.

By the end of my first day in Pesanggaran, I was very tired. Like everyone else in the family, I was in bed and asleep by nine-thirty. Again, there is no way you'd find me in bed by nine-thirty back in Hong Kong but this was Pesanggaran. Somehow, it felt as if I was on the other side of the world and I was loving it, bathroom and all.

This article took me a long time to write and publish. My biggest obstacle was deciding how to publish some of the photographs that I took on that first day. My perfectionism got the best of me and this article wilted while I worked out what to do. I'm an amateur photographer but when I show my photographs, I want people to see the photographs without distraction. The problem with many of the online albums today is that they're too complex and they have too many bells and whistles distracting the viewer from the photos. In the end, I had to design and write my own photo album code: xhtml, css and javascript. I think the result is pretty good for a beginner.

The photo album was designed to fit into 800x600 screens. The photos are 630x420. If you'd like to see a larger version; eg where the photos are 900x600; please let me know.

My recommendation. After opening the photo album, resize the window so that it fills the whole screen. The photos will look even better that way.

Photo Album: Photographs from my first day in Indonesia

(continued in "Indonesia 2005 Day 2")

Corneal Damage

Filed in HealthTags: , , ,

Last week, I had to make a small repair to one of the hanging cupboards in our kitchen. The people who built the cupboard for the previous owner used ordinary #8 screws to affix the cupboard to the contrete ceiling. With three screws along the back of the cupboard and one or two screws on one side of the cupboard all giving excellent vertical sheer support to the cupboard, the builders must have thought that a couple of normal screws into the ceiling to stop the cupboard from slipping outwards from the back wall would be sufficient.

Well the screws worked for a couple of years but finally gave in to the weight of the cupboard and its contents a few weeks ago. We noticed the cupboard slowly creeping away from the wall and down from the ceiling and knew something would have to be done to avoid a disaster: plates and containers all over the floor, a broken microwave oven and perhaps somebody seriously hurt if they were under the cupboard when it fell.

cupboard before fix

The cupboard before the fix. Notice how it's falling away from the wall.

The fix was easy enough: a couple of quarter-inch expansion bolts designed specifically for concrete. I've done a lot of home repair work in my years including water, electricity, masonary and carpentary. I have to thank my dad for my small abilities in these areas. When I was young, he often required me to accompany him as he built and fixed things around our farm. I was never allowed to hold the circular saw but I guess using the electric drill occasionally was enough to give me a feel for electric tools. Some of the tools I'm comfortable with include electric drills, sanders, circular saws, routers (mine is two and a half horsepower), jigsaws and 'rock cutters'. I'm not the only one in the family with these abilities. My first sister is probably more skilled than I am. While I once upon a time renovated a flat in Tai Po and built every piece of furniture within it, my sister has renovated a whole house in Australia and done an excellent job. She's very talented with her hands. Her specialty is lead/stain-glass windows and doors. And just in case you're interested, my younger sister is also talented. She's incredible with cooking, baking, sewing (including bras and wedding dresses) and handicrafts. I think she received many of these talents from my mum who used to sew all of our clothes. To top it all off, my sister's currently back at university at the tender age of 37 getting a degree in education. She's going to be a teacher.

cupboard after fix

Now that's much better, back exactly where it was when it was originally built.

Back to the main topic here: So the cure for the falling cupboard was to insert two expansion bolts up through the cupboard into the ceiling, all without taking the cupboard down. This required leveraging the cupboard back in place with a strategically placed length of wood and then drilling through the top of the wooden cupboard into the ceiling. It was while doing this simple chore that it happened. I wasn't wearing safety goggles because the only goggles I have are too scratched to see through. Since I was in a confined space looking up at wood and concrete falling down toward me while watching the drillbit carefully so that the holes wouldn't be too deep for the bolts, my eyes were making direct contact with far too much debris.

After finishing the work, I was very aware of something in my eye. Blinking hurt. I looked into our bathroom mirror and couldn't see anything at first. Then I saw something directly over the iris of my eye. I tried to gently move it with my finger tip but it wouldn't budge so I assumed that it was in fact part of my iris pattern. I also assumed that there was probably a small particle of concrete beneath my eyelid.

I put up with the discomfort for two days believing and hoping that tears and blinking would eventually remove the concrete. One night while filming at TVB, the discomfort was bad enough that I tried using a tissue to remove the supposed particle from beneath my eyelid. It didn't work and instead left a small piece of tissue beneath my eyelid. Not good! Fortunately, with some eye drops and a blunt rounded toothpick, I was able to get the tissue out. The discomfort remained though.

My eye continued to tear and water during that night of sleep. I occasionally woke to find spots on my pillow soaked with tear fluid. The next morning, my eyelid was swollen and I knew it was time to visit my doctor.

Incidentally, I have one of our dogs to thank for getting me to the doctor. If Dallas; our first dog; hadn't been barking at two other dogs in front of the kitchen while trying to defend his place in line for possible tidbits, I wouldn't have woken up with enough time to realise the seriousness of the situation and visit the doctor.

Driving to the doctor's clinic was very challenging. The sun was relatively bright and my eye hurt quite badly while I was driving. The only way to reduce the pain was to reduce the incoming light by partially covering my eye with the fingers of one hand while I drove with the other hand. Because my fingers were spread, I was still able to see with both eyes but without the pain.

My doctor; the one who studied one year ahead of me at the University of New South Wales; asked me to lay down and then took a look at my eye. When he couldn't find anything beneath the eyelid, he took a closer look at the middle of my eye and was surprised to find a speck of foreign substance embedded in the cornea over the iris. It turns out that the object I had first observed in the bathroom mirror was really there afterall. By this time though, it had been whittled down by my continual blinking from a small splinter to just a small speck of wood embedded deeper into my cornea. That of course explains the pain I experienced while driving. The wood would have irritated and hampered the cornea while my eye was trying to adjust to the bright sunlight.

The wood had to be taken out of course but how? The eye would have to be absolutely still while the wood was pulled out and that would be very difficult. My doctor gave me two choices. Either book an ophthalmologist and do the operation in a hospital for an estimated cost of around HK$20,000 or lie perfectly still while my doctor took it out. I chose the latter.

Before he had examined my eye, he had applied a local anaesthetic to my eye. I concentrated on this fact knowing there would be no pain during the procedure while I stared at a single point on the ceiling, conscious of the doctor's blurred hand and long needle being directed towards the centre of my eye.

It was over in less than ten seconds; probably five; and the doctor showed me the speck of wood. It's hard to believe that such a small speck could cause such incredible discomfort and if left alone would have eventually lead to infection and blindness.

I began swimming at our local beach a few weeks ago. I swim out to the far side of the shark nets and then swim laps from one side to the other and back again. I was getting used to the distance (approx 640m) and could feel my body strengthening. It was great. I haven't been swimming this week though. My doctor said that my eye would need to be protected from dust and dirt for approximately one week while the cornea healed. The sea water here is so cloudy and mucky (and polluted?) that I can only see one meter ahead of me while swimming. It would most probably lead to infection if it entered my eye so swimming was definitely out of the question this week.

Tomorrow or Monday, I'll be heading back to the doctor for a follow-up examination. He'll apply a special solution that will cover my eye with a coloured film allowing him to see clearly whether the damage has completely healed. I'm pretty confident that everything will be ok. I have never felt pain in the eye since the extraction procedure and it generally feels pretty normal except for some irritation caused by the antibacterial eye drops I have to apply every few hours and some dryness caused by the generally dry air we're experiencing as we enter Autumn here in Hong Kong.

my right eye
Sometime soon, I'll be making a visit to Sheung Wan 上灣. A friend of mine has informed me that there's a shop there specialising in safety equipment. The shop's name is easy to remember because it sounds like one of the local triad organisations, 新儀安全設備有限公司. Hopefully, they'll have a good selection of high quality scratch-resistant safety goggles and I'll be able to avoid a future replay of this incident.

By the way, my eyes are green which you will rarely see in the TVB series because the lights are too high up to illuminate the irises of Caucasian actors whose eyes are usually set deeper than those of Asian actors.

Update (Tues, November 15, 2005)

I saw the doctor yesterday. He applied an orange-yellow liquid to my eye and found that everything is fine. The hole has healed although there's a slight cloud which will need another three to four weeks to heal completely. For two hours after seeing the doctor, I walked around with a yellow band around my eye, looking as if I'd been hit in the face by someone. My wife thought it was funny.

Incidentally, my wife and her sister saw the doctor too. It would appear that everyone in our household has been affected by the bug that made our helper sick. I had slight diarrhoea for a few days last week but recovered fairly quickly. All I have left is a slight cough. My wife and her sister are still suffering though, and so is our helper. Hopefully, they'll all be better by next week. That's what happens when families live together. When a bug pops up, everyone shares it. It's just the way things are.

We’re all equal. NOT.

Filed in Hong KongTags: , , ,

When our previous helper left us to go back home and re-marry, she introduced her friend to us, one who was very eager to work for us. In fact, all of her friends wanted to work for us because we're fair to our helpers. Apparently, many Hong Kong people aren't.

The new helper has proven to be great to have around. She has no problems with our dogs, loves to take them on their walks; even though it requires three trips per walk, two walks per day; works consistently all day without any prompting and keeps our flat cleaner than our previous helper. All in all, we are lucky to have her.

She became sick a couple of days ago; vomiting, headache, dizziness. I took her to a doctor in a near-by clinic. The doctor; a youngish thin man with unbrushed long 60's type hair; said it was gastro-enteritis and prescribed vomit-suppression tablets and pain killers. He said that gastro-enteritis was virus related so taking antibiotics would not help. (antibiotics only kill bacteria. you knew that right?)

The next day after one day of rest, our helper was still just as sick with the same vomiting, nausea and headache symptoms, and one extra symptom; pain in the back of her neck. I took her back to the clinic and we saw a different doctor because the first doctor wasn't in. This doctor; a more doctor-like late twenties early thirties lady; told us that the virus had entered our helper's intestinal region and she would need stronger medicine; including antibiotics (antibiotics? but… now I'm getting confused).

Today, our helper still hadn't recovered. We don't expect instant recovery. My wife had severe gastro-enteritis a few months ago and it took her four days in hospital with a drip and injected high-strength antibiotics to get her up and around again. We do however expect a little improvement each day. What was weird to my untrained eye was that lying down, our helper looked fine. She even felt fine. It was only when she sat up or stood up that the nausea and vomiting began.

I decided we needed better expertise on the matter and called my favourite doctor; someone who studied one year ahead of me at the University of New South Wales in Sydney Australia and excels at everything he does. He constantly amazes me. When he heard about the neck pain in combination with the other symptoms, a light turned on and he immediately suspected meningitis. Only a blood test would be able to confirm it.

Now the first thing that comes to mind is why didn't the second doctor at the clinic think of the same thing. Apparently, neck pain combined with headaches, nausea and fever (and no diarrhoea) are classic symptoms of meningitis. I always viewed cheap clinic doctors as being sub-class doctors with their multitudes of tablets and their cheap rates (admittedly one of my own perhaps unjustified prejudices). Where my favourite doctor charges a minimum of HK$500 per consultation and includes one or two high quality medicines, these other doctors charge HK$170 per visit and include five or six medicines. Who needs five or six medicines? It's pretty obvious that first, many of the patients expect more medicines (more is better, right?), and second, the medicine is low quality so more is needed to cover the various aspects of the sicknesses. Yesterday, a friend of mine; a local Hong Kong girl with a baby boy who occasionally needs to visit the doctor; said she never expects to get better quickly when she visits these doctors. The medicine seems to only be sufficient to prevent the illness from getting worse but that's it. I'm apparently not the only one who has this view of the cheap doctors.

(To be fair, the doctors may have been right. Our helper's symptoms could be related to lots of different ailments and illness. We won't know if they were right until later.)

So one call to my favourite doctor and we discover that our helper might have meningitis. Now while I try to care for everyone in our family equally, I admittedly don't want to spend money that I don't have to. To confirm meningitis, a blood test is needed and I know that getting that blood test at our favourite doctor's clinic would be expensive. The alternative was to book our helper into the local hospital. She's down there now waiting in Emergency with my sister-in-law.

One strange thing occurred during the conversation with my doctor. After explaining our helper's case to him and talking about the meningitis, he said with some degree of emotional charge "so what do you want? I can't tell you that there's nothing wrong with her.". Weird! To my mind, this could only mean that he occasionally gets requests from employers who want him to say that their helpers are faking their symptoms, don't need treatment and are in fact ok to work. That's a sad reflection of the state of helper racism and prejudice in Hong Kong.

When I called my wife to tell her about the possibility of meningitis and the need for our helper to stay in hospital, her first reaction was dismay and concern for our helper. Her second and almost immediate reaction was disappointment because there would be no-one to perform normal household duties and because we'd need to care for our helper. My wife is a great person; she really is; but she grew up in an environment where helpers are treated as work objects. Her family never had helpers because they could never afford them, but many of the people working with her have helpers including one of her best friends and that's where the problem is.

One of my wife's friends and one of my wife's sisters living in another part of Hong Kong both treat helpers like slaves. They expect the helpers to work full speed all day long, listen to their every demand, never make mistakes, never take holidays, and never expect any niceties. My wife's friend already thinks my wife is wrong because we pay our helper full wages and give her all of her legally required holidays. When she overhears that we might be placing our helper in hospital my wife is planning to cook congee for our helper, she looks at my wife with confusion and objection. Why would we do that? Why would we place our helper in hospital cook for our helper? Why should we care so much? The normal behaviour would be to get the cheapest medication available, keep her at home and preferably keep her working while she recovers.

Words are rarely spoken between my wife and her friend about these matters but the looks and feelings are clearly there and it affects my wife. The people around her make her feel inferior, weak and taken advantage of because she treats her helper as a human being, almost as an equal. For my wife, it's even more difficult because on the one hand, she faces these people; people who matter to her; who treat their helpers as inferiors, and on the other hand faces a husband who dislikes any sound, word or action from his family that portends to prejudice or unfair treatment of others. My wife is in a very difficult place.

My sister-in-law just called from the hospital. The doctor doesn't think it's meningitis. He's not even going to test for meningitis. I asked him over the phone if he would take responsibility if it turned out to be meningitis. He didn't like the comment because it questions his judgement. In turn, he indignantly expressed to me questioning curiosity that a doctor would diagnose meningitis from the symptoms. In his mind, headache, neck pain, nausea, fever and vomiting did not mean meningitis. We'll see. In the meantime, they're going to xray her neck to see if anything has been damaged physically. They won't be testing for meningitis. I hope he's right. If he's wrong, it may have dire consequences for our helper.

This whole situation shines light on two persistent problems in Hong Kong; the treatment of helpers by their employers, and the existence of low-quality private doctors when the government is trying to implement a new system to force more of the general population to seek private doctors rather than use the Out-patient and Emergency sections of the public hospitals. Both problems will be impossible to solve and difficult to improve.

I must clarify that I am not a perfect person. Like my wife and many others, I too would not like to see one of our helpers get pregnant requiring three months of paid pregnancy leave. It would be very inconvenient, both from a financial point of view and from a housework point of view. For this reason, many Hong Kong people including my wife and I are very wary of potential helpers who have never married or are developing relationships with a man either here or in their home country. Some Hong Kong people even worry when their helpers go home for holidays each year. It's impossible to know if they'll come back pregnant. I fully believe and understand that it's their right to have a family and raise children. Nevertheless, it would be very inconvenient if this were to happen during their time with us.

Sickness is entirely different. No-one wants to be sick and everyone should be entitled to treatment and rest while sick so as to recover as quickly as possible. There's nothing you can do when a helper gets sick, nothing except to accept the situation, realise that it's hopefully temporary and plan as best you can how to handle the housework that needs to be done while your helper is sick. The way some people view their helpers, I wonder how far they are from saying "put her down and get another one". Harsh? Exagerated? Unrealistic? Definitely, but look up the term 'genocide' and then tell me what you think.

I'm fortunate. My wife and her two sisters living with us have very similar attitudes to my own and that's something I treasure. Within this family, we'll look after each other. If our helper lives here, then she's part of the family; even if she is the hired help.

Update(Tues, November 8, 2005)

Our helper is back home. While the doctor and nurses were examining her, she was vomiting and crying from the headaches. My sister-in-law showed them the medicine she has been taking over the last two days which at least proves to them that we didn't take her to the Emergency ward without trying other venues of treatment first (something I'd like to talk about; perhaps later). While taking her pulse, her heart rate for a moment was only in the mid 30's which was quite a shock to the nursing staff, motivating the doctor to ask for several indepth tests including an ECG (electro-cardiograph) and blood tests. They also gave her injections to ease the pain and nausea.

All tests were negative. She doesn't have meningitis, but she doesn't have gastro-enteritis either. In fact, they don't know what's wrong with her. She has new pain killer and vomit-suppression medicine and is back here with us at home, resting. If she doesn't get any extreme headaches or nausea, she doesn't have to go back to the hospital until next Monday for a checkup.

And she has a doctor's slip giving her three days sick leave ;-)   We thought that was funny because we would never require her to work before she's recovered, and because I usually forget that we truly are her employers and not just her 'family'.

A Hollywood TV peeve

Filed in Entertainment Ind.Tags:

I've a peeve with the actors/actresses in Hollywood TV.

If you take note, you'll see lots of coffee in the Hollywood series. The NCIS actors have coffee in their hands every episode. Most of the police in other Hollywood series also drink coffee throughout the series. I drink coffee too; more than my fair share; so what's my peeve?

Watch their cups. Watch the way they hold them. Is there any weight in their cups? Is there any fluid in their cups?

No! And that's my peeve. If the actor can't 'remember' the weight and movement of a cup containing at least half a cup of coffee, at least put water in the cup. It takes away from the realness of the shows which means it takes away from the entertainment value.

Put coffee in the cups people!


Filed in MiscellaneousTags: ,

I'm guessing it's the hair spray from last night.

A few minutes ago while I was attending to Rose our new companion after reenforcing a suspended cupboard in our kitchen that didn't want to stay suspended, a bee started flying around my head much closer than I would deem normal. If you don't aggravate a bee, it won't generally sting you so I stayed still and let it be, thinking that it'd fly away. I was wrong. Instead of flying away, it settled on my nose! After walking around there for a few seconds, it took off, flew around my head a few more times, landed on my ear very close to my ear-hole, took off again and then landed on my head, just above my hairline. I then walked into the house with a bee crawling through my hair.

I was rather astonished at how sticky his feet were. Many insects use small hairs on their feet to adhere to surfaces. Obviously, those hairs work really well. They were so 'sticky' that they almost stung as he walked around up there.

I walked back outside the house and he flew off again, this time far off into the neighbouring trees.

But now he's back! While I'm sitting here typing this, he's (from memory, all worker bees are male) flying around above my head making a very loud humming sound.

Now he's at the door and Siu Bak 小白; our second dog, our first bitch; is very intent on catching him as he flies by. She's already made several attempts to catch him but without success. He's a little too high up for her.

It must be the hair spray. I was filming last night at TVB and didn't wash my hair afterwards because very little hair spray was used. Apparently, bees like it. If he comes back again, I'll be forced to wash my hair, even though it's only two in the afternoon. Who'd have guessed that a bee could compel someone to take a shower???