Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Good Bye Tom Bosley...we'll miss you Mr. C!

Just a quick post to note the passing of Tom Bosley, or as we "over 40's" affectionately remember him as, "Mr. C' from Happy Days.  Watching Happy Days was a rite of passage growing up and Tom Bosley's sage fatherly advice was not only for his onscreen family but for many of us watching on TV as well. 

Remember, there was only 4 or 5 stations back then with everyone pretty much tuned to the same show; and for us, Tuesday night was Happy Days night.  It was simple time when the father of a TV family could still be portrayed as loving, competent, and full of wisdom as opposed to crass and moronic.  For those of you under 20,  back then a dad could even be portrayed to be as wise, if not wiser, than the mom...crazy eh?

The accolades coming out surrounding Tom Bosley's death from the likes of Henry Winkler and Ron Howard would testify to a man who was very much in real life like his compassionate onscreen persona.

When icons of my childhood pass on, its always sobering realizing time stops for no one.

So farewell and God Speed Tom Bosley...we'll miss you Mr. C!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lovin' on my Kindle!

I have a confession to make!  I've been seeing a mistress.  The really embarrassing thing is that I was introduced to her by my wife Tammy.  And now my life will never be the same...

Yes, Tammy bought me an Amazon Kindle for my birthday!

I was one of those people who swore I would never give up books for an e-book reader.  Reading books off a computer screen?...Painful!  (Albeit though, far less painful than watching "reality" TV shows)

But then a good friend of mine (thank you Francis) showed my wife and I his Kindle and Tammy got it into her head that this is something I would like.  And wouldn't you know, my birthday surprise was a 3G Amazon Kindle that arrived just in time to take with me on vacation to Italy.

First of all let me say, the days of lugging 3-4 different books on vacation are over.  My slim little 8.5 ounce "mistress" weighs less than your average paperback and can hold up to 3500 books.  In addition, the 3G wireless is free for the lifetime of the product which means if I'm stuck in an area with no wi-fi, I can nearly always access the web through my Kindle.  Granted the browser is a little clumsy but it works in a pinch.

Also, you know when you are taking off and landing on an airplane and they ask you to "close all electronic and portable devices until the pilot says its ok to use them" (like listening to U2 on my 4 gig iPod Nano is somehow going to flummix the state of the art navigational system onboard a Boeing 747) .  Well most flight attendants don't quite know what I'm doing and continue to let me read my Kindle as they remind the guy next to me to close his laptop.

I just got my first magazine subscription on the Kindle as well and although critics mention the loss of perusing many articles at once, I find the lack of peripheral distraction causes me to read the articles more thoroughly.  Reading The New Yorker on my Amazon Kindle while drinking an espresso at Starbuck's; yes, I've truly become pathetic! :)

Couple other quick points: 
  • the ease of shopping: When we were in Tuscany we started discussing the book "Under a Tuscan Sun." around the kitchen table.   Rather than think that I have to pick that up when I'm next in a bookstore, I went online with my Kindle, found the book in the "Kindle Store" and without leaving the kitchen table, I had a copy in about 45 seconds.

  • I'm just reading more!  I've always been a big reader but now that I've got my lightweight Kindle with me whether I'm on the subway, waiting for a ferry, or riding a bus, you will usually catch me reading.

  • The "e-ink" that the Kindle screen uses is so crisp and "booklike" when I get to the end of a page I instictivly  reach up to turn the page before realizing I just need to press the button.

  • Many of the classics written before 1950 are available for free and I've already downloaded a number of them onto my virtual bookshelf.  Anything from Shakespeare, to the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, or the writing of Charles Finny; they're all there for the taking.
People have asked me why I didn't just get an iPad which has been especially the "must get" device here in Hong Kong.  Admittedly, the iPad looks pretty cool, but I'm not exactly sure what I would use it for and everyone I ask here that has one seems unsure as well.   When asked they say things like, "its cool, and you can play games."  Not a convincing argument!

For me though, I like to read and I'm lovin' on my Kindle.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hanging out with the Republicans!

Its hard to beat the fast paced cosmopolitan nature of Hong Kong life...  but as we approach the U.S. mid-term elections on November 2,  I do feel a little nostalgic for some good old fashioned American partisan politics.

Republican style!

Granted, I have not been a huge fan of some of the direction the G.O.P. has headed in lately.  When someone like Sarah Palin becomes the face of the Conservative movement, William F. Buckley Jr. is rolling over in his grave.  It's a pity the serious soul searching and in-house surgery that the party has desperately needed  following our thrashing in the '06 and '08 elections has been erroneously shelved with the subsequent melt-down of the Democrats.

That short sightedness will come back to haunt us.

But hey, its election time and I'm in the mood to get political.  So what did I do?  I looked up Republicans Abroad here in Hong Kong and asked to join.  The next thing I knew I was on the mailing list and being invited to their next meeting which involved a talk on climate change by Lord Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount of Brenchley at a private reception room at The Whiskey Priest bar in Lan Kwai Fong.

Wait a second...Let me get this straight...I'm being invited to a talk at a place called The Whiskey Priest, given by a British Lord to a bunch of American Republicans living overseas in Hong Kong? 

God I love this place!  I am SO there!

Anyhow, I was one of the first to arrive.  Lan Kwai Fong is my old stomping ground and...truth be told, I knew exactly where The Whiskey Priest was ;)  Entering the room, I was immediately introduced to a man who held out his hand and said, "Hello, I'm Christopher" 

I replied, "Hi Chris.. (and then the penny dropped that this was Lord Monckton)..topher," narrowly avoiding an embarrassing fax paux.

The room began to fill up surprisingly not only with American Republicans, but no small amount of Australian Liberals; which is their conservative party (...I know I know...It makes no sense but best not to bring it up with them), and a few British Tories. 

The talk Lord Monckton gave was quite good.  He not only spoke on the politics behind climate change but proved himself to be very well versed in American politics.  Chatting with some of the other guys before and after the talk I realized that I spend so much time with people of opposing viewpoints to my own (something I admittedly look for and enjoy) that it was nice to be in a friendly audience with people who, mostly, echoed my political leanings.

Anyhow, I hope to continue catching up with the Hong Kong Republicans Abroad and who knows...

...maybe becoming part of a vast global right-wing conspiracy

...but, only on the weekends because its hard to get off work sometimes...and I have a baby on the way...and I don't know if my wife will let me... well you know how it is :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Living in Hong Kong: Hong Kong Anniversary!

This week was a special week for me.  On October 5th it was the 20th anniversary of the day I first arrived in Hong Kong.  Three days later on October 8th, I was introduced to my wife Tammy for the first time.

1990...It had been a crazy long flight but designed to be as cheap as possible. The travel agent had asked me where I needed a ticket to.  "China" I answered.
"Which city?"
"Hong Kong" I replied.
The travel agents tone changed slightly and she said a little gruffly, "Hong Kong is Not China" in a way that sounded more personal than informative, and giving a naive American his first lesson into the geo-politics of the area.  I didn't care, I just wanted a cheap ticket.  I got it but...

...arrived in Hong Kong on a Korean Airlines 747 after a grueling 30+ hour flight that had me going from Detroit to New York, to Anchorage Alaska, to Seoul Korea, and finally to Hong Kong.  I was picked up at the airport by "Toby" the guy that I was going to share a flat with.   He dumped me off in an empty reception area of the church I'd be working at until he had time to take me out to my new digs.

As I sat there, blurry eyed with fatigue and desperately needing a shower, a guy came up and asked me if I was busy.  I nodded that I wasn't.  "Great," he said, "because I need someone to clean the bathrooms."
I thought he was joking...

...he wasn't! 

Not only that, he informed me the church was out of cleaner and I needed to go buy some.  He took me to the window and pointed out at a mass of humanity that was Mong Kok and gave we directions to a little Mom & Pop shop where I could get the cleaner.  He gave me my first Hong Kong dollars, an empty cleaner bottle so I got the right stuff, and shoved me out the door.
Again, I thought he was joking...

...he wasn't!

I came back with the goods after my first (but certainly not my last) excursion into the alleyways of Mong Kok and was promptly put to work by the guy, who I discovered was one of my new bosses.  As I sat their scrubbing toilets I felt it was all some surreal dream and I would be waking up at any moment!  Being a young kid trying to make an impression I convinced myself that they were testing me...that they were trying to see if I was made of the right stuff.  No matter how tired I was or how much I smelled...I was going to show them Jesus in my heart...

Turns out I wasn't being tested...and the boss, well he turned out to, how do I say this polietely, he  just marched to the beat of a different drummer :)  But that was my Welcome to Hong Kong moment! Incidently, I was at a church service recently where a number of churches got together in celebration.  I spotted this guy up on the stage in the worship band.  It had been 18 years since I last saw him...

I didn't go up to say hi! :)

Young Couple

Two days later on Sunday morning I was at my first church service and Tammy (my wife to be) walked through the door.  My first thought was, "Well, this place is finally starting to pick up a little..." 

The next day on Monday I made my first trip into Mainland China bringing Bibles.  I was really excited and when I walked into the office to meet "Jeff" who would be leading me in on my first trip, Tammy was working and I was introduced to her for the first time.  BTW, I made it in with all my Bibles on that first trip and tried to visit the opening of the first  "McDonalds" in China which was on the same day but we couldn't even get close such was the crowd of Chinese eager to get their first Big Mac!

With Gray Hair

This week Tammy and I had an Italian dinner at "Cafe Roma" near our house to celebrate our "anniversary".  I asked Tammy if she thought on that day that twenty years later we would be married, living in Hong Kong, and that she would be 6 months pregnant with our baby?

She replied honestly, "Nope!"

Oh well, I still got the girl!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nobel Peace Prize for Liu Xiaobo

Chinese dissident and Tiananmen Square alumni Liu Xiaobo is serving an eleven year prison sentence for "inciting subversion of state power."

He also just won the Nobel Prize for Peace.

In and out of prison for 20 years now he has been a champion of political reform and Human Rights in Mainland China and is one of the chief architects of the "08 Charter" which calls for such subversive demands as:

  •  Freedom of expression & assembly
  •  An independent judiciary
  •  Freedom of religion
  •  Civic Education
and other normal stuff that makes the Communist Party squirm.

The Chinese Government has denounced the award to Liu and has threatened that trade between China and Norway could be threatened as the body that grants the Nobel Prize is based in Norway.  The Norwegian government of course, being a free country, has answered that the Nobel committee is a private group over which the government has no say.

You see, that is a concept the Communist Party just doesn't get...

...and when the Chinese Government finds something going on in private that they just don't get, they:

  1.  arrest it,
  2.  charge it
  3.  sentence it
  4.  "re-educate" it.

I joke a little but I have great interest in China.  I live here, have close Chinese friends here, and have met a number of people in China who have spent time in prison for conscious issues.  They love China and have the hope for a better China one day.

Here's hoping Liu Xiaobo will be able to walk out of prison soon and claim the award he richly deserves.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Gun totin' 7-yr olds!

Couldn't believe this when I read it but a school board in Broward County Florida has upheld a school expulsion for a seven year old boy who brought a toy gun to school!

A lot has been written about abuses that would occur if the "radical Right" are in political power; the incident in Broward County shows what happens when the Left controls things;

...a toy gun is classified as an A-1 firearm. 

The crazy part was that after the school expelled the student under their zero tolerance policy the school board upheld the expulsion.  You think that if one level of crazy had been hurdled, someone higher up would say, "Maybe its not such a good idea for kicking a 7-year old out of school for a year for bringing in a toy."  But no, it would appear the level of crazy in Broward is multiple and many faceted.

But the far Left mind, like its close cousin the far Right, is not a rational organ.  How does this mind think you ask?  How could this happen?  Let me tell you a story:

Once when I was living in Boulder Colorado (the Mothership for people on the Left) I was attending the Boulder Creek Festival with the family.  Gabriel was about 5 at the time and wanted a toy wooden gun that was being sold at one of the booths there.  He was walking around playing with it when a lady came up to me and chastised me saying, "You let you son play with guns?"  I must admit I was caught off guard and simply responded, "Well, its not a real gun.  Its a wooden toy with a big orange plastic thing on the end."
She responded in tempered disgust, "The negative energy he is shooting is just as bad as real bullets."

Now you understand...

I'm a school administrator now...I have an idea of how to handle things.  Last year after class a teacher came to me with a student that had brought a pocket knife to school.  (I was the campus coordinator so these things came to me).  I asked him why he brought it.  He said it was new and he wanted to show his friends. 

Hey, I was a boy too and I remember what it was like.

  I took the knife from the teacher and told the student knives were not allowed, that he could collect it after school from me, and if I ever saw it again he wouldn't be getting it back.  No hysteria, no expulsions, no meetings with parents, counselors, and police.  Just common sense!

By the way, I'd like to take this opportunity to announce my candidacy for the 2012 presidential election...