Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat
4-10 January 2004
Mon, 5 Jan
Premenstrually tense secretaries, nervous junior managers, hungover gwailos, spotty schoolchildren and vicious 85-year-olds fight for space on a packed Mid-Levels Escalator as Hong Kong swings back into action after the holidays.  We eye-gouge, kick and shove our way to office, school and market.  Would anyone have missed that nasty and obstructive little girl in a ridiculous Edwardian school uniform had I given in to temptation and tossed her overboard onto Wellington Street?  It is a good thing I have made a New Year resolution to be extra considerate to others – she could have hurt an innocent passer-by 20 feet down.

What better way to distract myself from the great Movable Type multiple posting
disaster, than to peruse my share portfolio?  With the Hang Seng Index passing 13,000 this afternoon, I see a screen of impressive gains.  Big climber of the day is Henderson Land, up 10% – and more than 50% up on my purchase price.  Biggest climber of the lot is Petrochina, up 230% from when I bought it around three years ago.  Next biggest is ASM Pacific, up 178% over a couple of years.  Are we actually going to see profits to match?  Possibly.  Government ineptitude and property developers’ cunning avarice will combine to deliver a housing shortage in a few years.  Demand for oil is outstripping supply.  And ASM has cornered much of its unfathomable sector of the technology industry, probably by developing better products than Movable Type.
Tue, 6 Jan
As Guangdong Province orders all first-born civet cats to be put to the sword, Hong Kong’s forces of calm moderation prepare to slaughter – gently – the hopes and dreams of wild-eyed extremists and idealists.  Someone has to knock sense into people like James Tien and Peter Woo, dinosaur tycoons with brains the size of walnuts, who believe that government by dim people who inherited sunset industries is wonderful.  And someone has to pour a bit of cold water on the fiery passion of the pro-democrats, who expect a communist dictatorship to airily hand its richest city over to that most unpredictable and frightening of enemies, the people.  Who better to start the process of managing exciting expectations than a member of the world’s least exciting profession?  Eric Li, representative of the Accountancy functional constituency in the Legislative Council, proposes a step-by-step approach that gives us full democracy as early as 2016 – should we be able to stand the rush – or as late as 2024.  As a halfway measure, he proposes that in 2007 the Election Committee nominate three candidates for Chief Executive for us to choose from.  A filtering system – but of the "anyone except…" or "everyone except…" variety?  Something he hasn’t thought through, finding the future of our indispensable functional constituencies a far more pressing matter.
A pair of palace eunuchs, emissaries of the Tung Dynasty, are ushered into a reception room in the Private Office of S-Meg Tower.  Minutes later, the Big Boss briskly strolls up to the door and enters.  No-one has brought a shoe-shining kit – this is simply a briefing, a little preview of our visionary Chief Executive’s Policy Address, which will be delivered in just 24 hours or so.  It doesn’t take much to make a minor-league Hong Kong tycoon feel important.  Thus the company gwailo is free to tackle fresh, intellectually stimulating challenges, like Movable Type.  What is the meaning of "Can't use an undefined value as a SCALAR reference at lib/MT/ObjectDriver/DBM.pm line 373"?  Could it mean that poor Conrad’s blog isn’t going to be updated any time soon?  Unfortunately, that must be it.  What possesses someone to devise an aid to creative and artistic endeavour that only technicians can use?
Wed, 7 Jan
If someone invented a machine that produced foul odours, made a loud, offensive noise, and discharged quantities of saliva and excrement, would anyone buy it?  It is a mark of human stupidity that people will say "Oh look!  An animal that stinks, yaps all the time, dribbles on the carpet, defecates in public areas, and sticks its wet snout into visitors’ private parts.  Let’s have one in the house."  To which fellow family members will respond "No!  I’ve got a better idea.  Let’s have two!"  There are, however, a few right-thinking individuals out there.  And I am delighted to receive a rare email containing brief New Year greetings from peculiar acquaintance A-Hing, better known – though he is unaware of it – as the Mid-Levels Dog Strangler.  Perhaps the drowning, gassing and garrotting of China’s disease-spreading civet cats, with their repulsive, ugly little pink noses, has inspired the poisoner of Bowen Road canines to be more active in 2004.
Bowen Rd yesterday after 'walkies'.
Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
Psalms 22:20
Thurs, 8 Jan
Twenty minutes shorter than a
Rocky movie.  More stimulating than a conversation with a mummified actuary. Cheaper than 7 million doses of Valium.  More interesting than golf.  The praise lavished on Tung Chee-hwa’s policy address yesterday could go on and on.  Still overwhelmed by the profundity this morning, I sit speechless outside IFC Mall, while American friend Odell sips his banana, pumpkin and jojoba yoghurt.  "Yeah – heck of a speech," he murmurs, holding up a newspaper for me to see.  Indeed.  What else could inspire the HK Standard to produce such a pithy headline as 'Same old rubbish: expert'?

Fri, 9 Jan
Producing 200 gallons of froth a minute, and ranting at 98 decibels, Emily Lau scares me.  Over breakfast of congee, I find that she also scares Winky Ip, Lower Albert Road’s shapeliest Administrative Officer.  "And she absolutely petrifies Beijing," says Winky.  The Year of the Black Sheep has been the year of the reality check, she muses.  The year the Politburo discovered that six years of reassurances from Hong Kong had been lies.  And now, the year the pro-democrats discover their city is part of the PRC.  "What set alarm bells off in Beijing," says Winky, "was the way the Emily Louds were openly calculating how many Legco votes they needed to push through political reform – as if a Central People’s Government doesn’t exist."  "Mmm. Most presumptuous," I say, transferring my chicken claw into her bowl.  "Didn't read the small print."  I put it to Winky that Tung’s appointment of Donald Tsang as head of the constitutional development task force was a minor stroke of genius.  "Yes," she agrees.  "Not that he realizes it."