thank you, @mrdavidwhitley


This was on twitter and too good to pass up. Background: Nigel Farage says he’s skint. Yes, the Nigel Farage who lives in a £4m house in Chelsea, and draws a £90,000+expenses salary as an MEP. That the ultimate Brexiter is an MEP is an oxymoron in the extreme. Anyway, this is the tweetstorm thread from David Whitley.

Or to read on this page, thanks to spooler for storifying it:

I hope his boiler breaks down.

I hope he loses his car key, and getting it replaced is a costly bureaucratic nightmare.

I hope the delivery he was waiting for arrives when he’s at the sorting office picking up the delivery he missed two days ago.

I hope his favourite pub gets turned into a Zizzi.

I hope his bank makes him change his online banking password to something he’ll never remember, and he has to go through a needlessly complicated reset password procedure every time he tries to log on.

I hope he goes to a toilet in a shopping centre, has a shit, then realises there’s no toilet paper.

I hope he puts a washload on, forgets about it for two days, and when he finally opens the machine all his clothes have attained a permanently damp smell.

I hope he has to spend a day repeatedly going back to B&Q.

I hope he gets home hungry, puts a ready meal in the oven while he has a shower, then comes back downstairs 25 minutes later to find he didn’t turn the oven on.

I hope the chip in his passport breaks, so he has to stand in a queue every time rather than going through the e-gates.

I hope he drops his phone in the urinal, leading to it only working intermittently, but being fine when he takes it into the phone shop to see if he can replace it for free under contract.

I hope he gets a cotton bud stuck in his ear while trying to dewax it, then has to explain it to a nurse who keeps saying: “You do know it specifically says not to do that on the box, don’t you?”

I hope he spills a glass of red wine on his carpet, then when frantically trying to clean it, knocks the table, sending the rest of the bottle onto another bit of the carpet.

I hope, while wrapping presents, he slightly misjudges the amount of wrapping paper needed, and has to start over again. Then, when there’s one present left, to run out of wrapping paper.

I hope he’s horrifically hungover and gets stuck in traffic with a really chatty taxi driver who just won’t take the hint.

I hope Windows 10 does a massive update on his computer when he’s trying to print out tickets at the last minute.

I hope he’s away for bin day after Christmas, and his neighbours don’t put his bin out for him.

I hope his favourite Quality Street is discontinued.

I hope his hotel room has really inadequate curtains, and there’s a streetlamp directly outside.

I hope there’s a little icon at the top of his phone, indicating that he has new messages, but he never has any new messages and doesn’t know how to make the icon go away.

I hope he has to wait in all day for an electrician, and when the electrician finally arrives, he doesn’t have the part needed and it’s too late to go and buy one.

I hope he loses the pub quiz by one point, following an answer that is technically correct, but the quizmaster won’t allow it because it’s not what he’s got written down.

I hope he changes mobile phone service provider to save £5 a month, then realises the reception is really poor in all but the least used room in his house.

I hope he orders a lot of furniture from John Lewis that he thinks will be delivered ready-assembled, but actually requires a whole weekend of flat pack self-assembly.

I hope he cuts his lawnmower cable while mowing the lawn, spends £75 on getting an electrician to repair it, then immediately cuts it again in a different place within three minutes of restarting lawnmowing duties.

I hope he gets a document that’s slightly too big for the drawer in the filing cabinet it belongs in, meaning he has to change his entire filing system to accommodate it.

I hope his credit card company blocks his card as a precautionary measure every time he tries to use it abroad, even though he repeatedly tells them he spends a lot of time abroad for work.

I hope all the chargers for his electrical devices require slightly different connections.

I hope the alarm on his phone has failed to go off on at least two occasions, so that he’s now eternally paranoid about it not working, and can never get to sleep when he’s got an early start the next day.

I hope all supermarkets remove his favourite sandwich from their Meal Deal.

I hope every time he fills in a passport application form, he absent-mindedly puts the current year instead of his year of birth, then has to go back to the Post Office the next day to get another form.

uk election


When I woke up, counting was already underway. I’m very grateful that I was able to follow bbc’s election coverage on youtube.

First, the exil poll that had the Tories at 314 and Labour at 267. The magic number is 326 so no outright majority. The next few hours were riveting, delivering surprise after surprise. Nick Clegg lost his seat; SNP lost seats; the Home Secretary scraped home after a recount.

I caught the results of Islington North and Maidenhead where Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May both won comfortably. The difference in body language were stark: Corbyn was all smiles and Mrs May looked grim. Corbyn’s words about Mrs May’s mandate:

Well, the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support, and lost confidence

While the Prime Minister seemed resigned to the result:

If, as the indications have shown, and if this is correct that the Conservative Party has won the most seats and probably the most votes then it will be incumbent on us to ensure that we have that period of stability


Previously seemingly unassailable constituencies like Ipswich and Canterbury turned red. There had been a Conservative MP in Canterbury since 1918! Chipping Barnet stayed blue but with a majority of only 353. Unthinkable when I was growing up. It’s a sign of the times, I feel like one of those 11.5% in Barnet that swing Labour–a previously lifelong Conservative, they offered us nothing whereas Jeremy Corbyn ran an energetic campaign and, unthinkable at the start of the election, looks the part of a future PM.


My home constituency of Westminster North stayed Labour. I discovered that I can’t just register as an overseas voter, I have to apply for postal voting to get a ballot paper. Next time.

I stayed watching throughout the UK morning. There were 20 constituencies still to declare and at that point the Tories needed 20 seats. Labour held Southampton so mathematically no party was able to secure an outright majority.

Theresa May gambled on what was a huge lead in the polls and suffered a humiliating defeat, even though her party had the most seats and votes. Over the next few days and weeks there will be copious analysis on what went wrong; the demographics of who voted where; and much handwringing about what happens next. Nobody expected a hung Parliament, but that’s what we have. It may not be a bad thing. Mrs May is right on one count, we need stability. But the message is her version of ‘strong and stable’ is not the right one. I am looking forward to a rejuvenated opposition and very curious as to what Jeremy Corbyn will do in the next few years.

snap general election


The Prime Minister has called a snap general election on 8 June. What on earth? Most of us kept hearing her say no, there won’t be a general election soon. Clearly she’s changed her mind or is plotting something.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Some analysts say she’s done it to clarify the Brexit mandate. She inherited Cameron’s mess and this is her way of stamping her own authority. Basically it’s a threat, vote for me on my merit or suffer the consequences. She’s also likely to be taking advantage of a big lead in the polls. Labour isn’t an effective opposition party and hasn’t been for a while. The Lib Dems are still too tiny and the SNP is stuck north of the border.

It’s Hobson’s Choice for the voters. One of my fb friends said it best:

would I rather have an incompetent prime minister with his heart in the right place, or one who I disagree with 75% of the time, but who has the ability to deal with foreign leaders, internal dissent, day to day chaos

As disillusioned as I am with the Tories, I cannot stomach voting for Corbyn. Like my fb friend said, nice guy but no presence.

I’m glad I renewed by voter registration. Let’s see if this time roung I get a ballot paper.

US politics #resist

Something heinous and sinister is happening in the US. The new president, KGB Agent Orange, enacted a series of measures in his first week of being president that are intended to bully, divide and self-promote. I watched my fb and twitter feeds this morning as the drama of people detained at various airports unfolded. People who have valid visas; green card holders. In which mature and civilised country is this right? This makes me think very carefully about whether I want to travel to the US. The last thing I want to experience again is the SSSS “random” screening every time I passed through a TSA checkpoint. It wasn’t random. It was racism, no denying it.


That said, it’s great to see how people are coming together with the same reactions and goals. The protests and marches. Friends who believe in doing the right thing becoming passionate activists. Urging people to contact their representatives to make their voices heard.

One of the best things that happened last week came about from another of those heinous and sinister measures. Orange banned staff at several agencies from speaking directly to the public, including via social media. This prompted the setting up of various unofficial alt-twitter accounts: the National Park Service, Forest Service, NASA, FDA, EPA, DOJ, State, DHS, Treasury, WH staff etc etc all have private accounts that aim to keep the public informed and not be gagged. Of course, we have to be careful about these accounts but they seem to all have good and honourable intentions. Definitely not what dystopian novels predicted, that park rangers will be leaders in the resistance.

What’s been very prominent in going through my feeds is that we all seem to be talking to each other in a bubble. I get why people unfollow or unfriend their friends / relatives who do not hold the same view. But not knowing, denigrating and arrogantly ignoring the opposition is perhaps one of the factors that cost the Democrats the election. In order to win, one must understand one’s enemies. I’m still subscribed to a couple of reddit threads that have right wing views, to see what’s on their minds and their interpretation of what’s been happening. It’s amazing how utterly different the perception is from the other side.

One of the vast number of post-mortem articles about the election is this thoughtful piece in the Guardian that paints one side of the picture of how Orange won in rural small towns

despite his vulgarity and his big-city ways

because the people who live in those dying towns are desperate. Not because they are ignorant or small-minded or ill-advised. Because there is no longer any industry in their town, there are no prospects, and they see their way of life eroded by corporatisation. The result is the rise of nostalgia. There’s been a lot of snorting and head-shaking about Orange supporters’ perceived yearning for the good ol’ days. The article suggests that we shouldn’t laugh it off.

There is nothing un-progressive about wanting your town to thrive, about recognizing that it isn’t thriving today.

And surely these are the people Democrats need to win over.

May be my blood pressure hasn’t shot up and I can read the alt-right stuff unemotionally because I’m no more than a distant observer in this. Yes, world economy and world politics will be affected, but America is only one country and it has a tendency of overestimating its importance. I’m closely watching what’s going on in Europe too. And of course our own upcoming CE “election” (a rigged vote cast by 1,200 people in a city of 7 million is not an election). Here, the feeling is positive about the US because relaxation in oversight and Orange’s obvious pro-business stance means more profits and better investment opportunities. Two different bankers told me this. I’ll absorb this piece of information, just like I’m mopping up all the news that is already overwhelming and it’s not even the end of January.

I’m with her

Been quiet about the US presidental election while watching from the sidelines. Like most outside the US, and many (hopefully many, many) inside the US, I shake my head as Trump gets nominated in his party by behaving ridiculously towards minority and talking utter rubbish all the time.

Resisted until this week, then couldn’t help but tune into the livestream of the DNC. President Obama’s speech was awe-inspiring. Don’t boo, vote.

Khizr Khan talking about the loss of his son in Iraq and telling Trump he has sacrificed nothing was one of the most heartfelt speeches I’d watched for a long time.

And then Hillary Clinton walked out.

I watched most of her speech live, then had to go out. Watched it again in full later. Here are some highlights.

If I can vote for her, I will. I hope and wish that my friends who can, not only go out and vote in November, but spread the message amongst friends and family that there is too much at stake this time. Learn from Brexit. Look at the big picture. Don’t let anger and frustration destroy everything.

brexit: what have we done?

In the end, my vote wouldn’t have mattered. Westminster voted 69% for Remain. But that’s where the good news ended. The rest of the UK, outside of London & the Southeast, Northern Ireland and Scotland (and Gibraltar), mostly voted to Leave.


It’s the biggest event in the UK for several generations. The bbc map and analysis shows a country divided. The analysis also showed that by and large:

  • young people voted Remain; older people voted Leave with the crossover point at around the mid-40s years old, the same age range as our EU membership
  • people with higher degrees voted Remain; non-graduates voted Leave
  • people who self-identified as English voted Leave

I was watching the live results. It was a big shock as constituency after constituency returned Leave. A little respite when the first of the London results came in for Remain, but it was shortlived.


Even though the European markets were closed, 24/7 trading meant it was possible to see the moment when the world realised Leave was going to win.


The £ dropped to a 30-year low. I’d bought some last week, when it was around 11.01 against local$, and when I checked my bank it was 10.75. Even as I typed in the online order it dropped to 10.62. Texted sis and mm, mm was able to get some at 10.55.

My FA texted. We were going to sell off one of my GBP accounts anyway, and she wanted to put the order in as soon as the markets open. I said it’s the worst time to sell, since there’d be lots of panic selling and the indices will be sure to fall. It’s not like we were desperate for the money. FA was more pessimistic than us, she thinks the markets will fall further. In the end, we set a line, if the drop is less than a certain % then sell, wait and buy back when it’s still cheap. Otherwise sit tight.

If I weren’t flying to the US next weekend for the conference, I would have dragged mm to London so we can go house-hunting. House prices are expected to drop, even though the top end of the property market will probably go up because of the cheap £.

I sound like one of those detested bankers! Taking advantage of a horrible chaos to try to make money.


And chaos it was. I turned on the tv to bloomberg to watch Cameron resign, and the markets go crazy. Interestingly the FTSE-100 only dropped 4% compared with the CAC and DAX. World markets closed for the weekend with red everywhere. One of my uni friends on our whatsapp group joked:

Brexit to be followed by Grexit, Departugal, Italeave, Fruckoff, Czechout, Oustria, Finish, Slovlong, Latervia, Byegium until the EU reaches the state of Germlonely

And still the recriminations continue. I try to understand where the Leave voters were coming from, which boils down to:

if you’ve got money, you vote in; if you haven’t got money, you vote out

It was all voting from the heart, coming from resentment of a government that has failed the entire country whilst lining the coffers of their one-percenter friends. There is no excuse from the government, but let’s vote them out at the next general election and not use the EU referendum as a temper tantrum.

There was a lot fearmongering about immigration too, that the heart listened to. I get it. I saw my own neighbourhood change when I was back in London after more than a decade away and it wasn’t for the better. It’s true, many people who come to the country didn’t bother to assimilate, but Britain is also the country where a hijab-wearing woman whose parents come from Bangladesh can win the most popular baking competition ever and goes on to bake a cake for the Queen’s 90th birthday. That’s British identity, not Nigel Farage’s stupid poster.

The heart that voted for Brexit didn’t listen to the head and forgot about consequences. How leaving the EU will affect pensions, mortgages, job opportunities, the economy and, closer to home, making their Costa del Sol holiday even more expensive now.

And we’ll have to be British about this. Apologise to the world about the mess we created. Make the best of the situation. Europe already wants us out. Best case scenario, our politicians (and please do NOT elect Boris Johnson) salvage some of the EU benefits and we become like Switzerland or Norway. Worst case scenario…ugh, that’s a bottomless pit.

What have we done?

EU referendum didn’t vote


Results are starting to come in for the EU referendum. Despite me being a good citizen and registering to vote, I did not get my chance to vote. Why? Because I didn’t get my ballot paper. I have no idea why or what happened. I received a confirmation from Westminster council, which I duly filed away. Then waited and waited and waited. Most info and articles were geared towards people in the UK. It’s hard for people outside to find instructions. I wonder if I should have registered for a proxy vote, but I don’t know anyone in Westminster.

So that was the tactic then? Not send the ballot papers or send it so we get it after the event. I wonder how many of the millions of overseas voters got their voting card on time and had their vote count.

What’s this about #yourvotematters? Clearly mine didn’t matter.

A bit mad, to be honest.

p.s. for the record, Remain.

jo cox


What an awful week. Still reeling from Orlando. And now Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen.

Like most people, even in the UK, I haven’t heard of Jo Cox before. But reading all the tributes, watching her maiden Parliament speech, she was just one of those politicians who are what we want from a politician: hardworking, bright, working for her constituents and her country rather than blagging and hogging the spotlight with empty promises.

She achieved so much. Head girl, Pembroke College, Head of Policy at Oxfam. A

tireless campaigner

for Syrian refugees.

She even lived on a houseboat! She left behind her husband, Brendan, and two young children.

What is the world coming to? Awful, simply awful. There are eyewitness reports that her attacker shouted “Britain First” and although it’s not confirmed the fact that organisations like Britain First exist in the first place is a terrible reflection of how the world has become.

This quote from her maiden speech sums up how we should carry on her legacy:

we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us

We simply must do better.



I didn’t vote in the last general election because I didn’t keep up my registration on the electoral register when I left the UK. Not that my one vote would have counted, I figured. Except that’s exactly the wrong attitude. I’ve been following what’s going on in the SMH-worthy US primaries. Time and time again people are telling their friends to go vote, because their one vote does count. People who are passionate about their parties and issues are more likely to vote in large numbers, and sometimes that’s led to bad results because people with extremist or discriminatory views have simply cared more than the lethargic majority.

Sis has been nagging me about 2 things: get health insurance and register to vote. We were talking about Brexit and she reminded me to go register asap. The FCO has been calling on the estimated 5.5 million overseas British citizens to exercise their right to vote.

It’s really easy to do online and yes it only took around the time to make a cup of tea. R is registered in Chichester; Sis and I are in Westminster. When I have time, I’ll register for mm too. Seems like the publicity is working with over 2000 registering every day.

The criteria is that the person has to have been registered as a voter or left the UK in the last 15 years. Don’t know why it’s 15 years, sounds arbitrary. Some people who left more than 15 years ago are also fighting to have their voting rights recognised.

Hopefully more than 106,000 overseas British citizens bother to vote at the June referendum. That’s the number in the last general election.


Another senseless terrorist attack. Ths airport and Maelbeek Metro station in Brussels came under attack on Tuesday.


There’s a small part of me that is angry at TPTB. They knew the Paris bombers lived in Belgium, there was talk that an attack on Brussels was planned / foiled. But honestly, all the police in the world can’t stop someone with a backpack going to the landside of an airport, or a metro station. Mostly, I’m sad and want to reach out to the victims and everyone in Brussels. This drawing from Le Monde is poignant and full of sympathy. We all feel like France at this moment.

In less than 10 days’ time, Mum and I will be in Paris and then mid-April we’ll be in London. Am I worried? I’ll be a fool if I said flippantly, “no.” But am I tempted to cancel? Absolutely not, and reddit agrees it’s still safe to travel to Europe. I’ll be vigilant and prepared to go through plenty of security checks. It’s a way of life in the world now, I doubt the threat of terrorism will decrease during my lifetime.


I have good memories of Brussels and this is what I will think about today. A beautiful, cosmopolitan city with beers, chocolate and frites.


Great architecture and a pleasurable city to walk in. That’s the Brussels of my mind.

on the #timhunt incident

My niece was complaining about her Chemistry teacher so I offered to give her some Chemistry help over the summer holiday. She didn’t really say yes or no; can’t blame her, who in their right minds will voluntarily do schoolwork during the summer holiday? Anyway, I’ll have to read up on the topic if I do need to help her, I’d all but lost my chemistry knowledge. Why did I leave my research job? It was boring and there didn’t seem to be a good career progression.

A dinosaur masquarading as a Nobel Laureate made stupid comments about “girls” falling in love and crying when criticised and was asked to resign from his post at UCL. I agree with the outcome, and even though I should feel sorry about the speed and ferocity of his treatment by social media and his employer, I don’t. He claims it was a self-deprecating joke and he’s been hung out to dry but again, no sympathies.

People are allowed to express their opinions in private; this is the basic tenet of a free world. But he wasn’t in private, and as a Nobel Laureate, he is a role model and speaking from a position of eminence. Did he think before he spoke? Obviously not. Did he think what he said was wrong? From his half-hearted apology afterwards, no. He only apologised more profusely after the backlash. It’s another case of being sorry that his remarks were heard by journalists.

Here was someone who took credit for work done by scores of undergrads, postgrads and postdocs under his supervision, and yet his attitude towards 50% of the population is so backwards that I wonder at atmosphere in his labs. Then again it’s likely that his labs had around the national average 12.8% women (oh sorry, Prof Hunt, “girls”) so it’s not like they count, right.

Lots of commentaries, tweets and opinions about this incident. Women scientists started posting pictures of themselves looking #distractinglysexy. Other prominent male scientists rushed to his defence. Even Boris Johnson chimed in. Astrophysicist Dr Katie Mack summed it up nicely:

scienceresearch01 scienceresearch02

In other news, scientific research is bizarre. In Ways of Knowing, photographer Danier Stier took photos of actual research going on at actual research institutes. He says,

we get the wrong idea of science when we look at something like National Geographic, we think of lab coats, high-tech equipment—the realities couldn’t be more different

Hmm, there aren’t that many women in the photos either. Credit to them that they’re not crying.


lego parliament via mashable

I tuned into BBC as soon as I woke up and one of the first MPs returned was 20 year old Mhairi Black from the SNP. That would set the tone for the entire general election results. I watched as the SNP annihilated Labour in Scotland; then the Tories proved too strong for both Labour and the LibDems, who ended up getting decimated. Cameron got elected back to No. 10 without needing a coalition partner.

I’m not 100% happy but I’m not all that sad or angry at #ge2015 results. It was a shock to watch the decimated LibDems and Labour’s poor showing, though in hindsight there wasn’t a real alternative to the Conservatives—Miliband and Clegg were gracious in their resigations, where was the backbone before the election?

ge2015scotland gd2015maggiesimpson

Quite astounded at the SNP landslide. A lot due to Nicola Sturgeon’s good performance, though ironic that she wasn’t even standing. I don’t know a whole lot about Scottish politics or the everyday priorities of the Scottish people. It seems to me that they voted in the SNP not because they want independence, but because they want effective representation in Westminster. It’s telling that the voice of non-public school, London-centric Britain now falls to a party that was, many years ago, considered marginal. I hope they reward their constituencies’ faith in them and not hijack issues for their own purposes.

#ge2015 live cross-stich via tom katsumi on twitter

It’ll be a very different Britain in the next 5 years. I want to be hopeful that Cameron & Co will do the right thing, but I’m more afraid that they will put the interest of their corporate buddies before that of the British people.

charts via independent

People have been talking about electoral reform. That the UK needs to move to proportional representation because how come the SNP had 1.4mil votes and got 56 seats, while the Greens got 1.1mil votes and only one (yay for Caroline Lucas, btw).

What alarms me is that, if we had PR, Ukip would have won 80+ seats. That’s scary. I grew up in a Tory stronghold (Chipping Barnet has returned a Conservative MP since 1974, when the constituency was created) and I have some empathy towards the Little England view of immigrants (despite the fact that I’m one such immigrant myself). I felt the change in Britain since I left. In the space of 2.5 years it does seem that we have been overwhelmed by newcomers. No one on the tube spoke English, no one selling us tea or coffee were native English speakers, house prices have gone through the roof with foreign investors and their buy-to-leave tactic. I get it. People who move to a new country must do so sympathetically and respectfully and there are people from certain countries that simply do not (it’s not just a UK problem, those people are everywhere in the world.)

The world is still reacting to #ge2015 results. Financial markets were up, and share prices for property related shares shot up with the news. Is that a good sign? Can economic recovery be sustained for the next 5 years? What about small businesses and taxpayers? Children and pensioners? Europe? I don’t have a good feeling, I think the country will become even more extreme as the wealth gap increases. I hope that Cameron means it when he says stuff like “one nation” because we need to be one country.


we’ll be back #occupyhk #umhk

After 79 days, the last of the #occupyhk #umbrellamovement camps at Causeway Bay was cleared on Monday, following the Mongkok site clearance two weeks ago and the main Admiralty site clearance last week. There was polite, peaceful resistance to the end.

About 20 people were arrested, adding to the 200-odd arrested and 900-plus whose ID card details were registered by police at Admiralty. Those arrested included Uncle Wong, a elderly supporter who had already been arrested last week at Admiralty. Go Uncle Wong!

What next? The CE declared the end of the protests and people went back to going about their daily business, or so the blue ribboners think. Students and protesters are regrouping.


That the Movement lasted over 2 months is beyond everyone’s expectation, but its scale and spontaneity are unlikely to be repeated in the near future. The next wave of activities will likely be smaller, more covert and unexpected like #9wu shopping trips and guerilla banners. Communication will continue to take place over social media. The idea, as the last ditch banner in Admiralty said, is that we’ll be back.


As for me, I’m tucking my yellow ribbon and yellow umbrella away into my coin holder. This way, they’re with me all the time but not forgotten. When the time comes again, they and I will return.

p.s. after I published the original post, I received a couple of messages on twitter. I think we’re onto something.


nano day 06 | 3658 words 25576 total


3658 words | 25576 total

Had lunch with mm at the marriott lounge — salad, noodles, curry, a little pasta, dessert. She had a 50% off card she borrowed from a friend so we took our time and sampled as much of the food as we liked. Afterwards we walked around occupyhk main site, it’s the first time she visited. Still lots of tents and more artwork. We came across an origami station and a display table with umbrellas, pikachu and giant duckies. Very cute.

Got home at 7pm, so with futzing around and shower, writing started at 9pm. Two hours and 15 later, I got to 25k. Halfway in 6 days, that’s about right, looking at the past few years.

This is the point when the story gets a little rambling, some of what I wrote will definitely need to be either rewritten, moved or deleted altogether. I’m not bothered, it is what it is. The point is wordcount, nothing else. Heh, I’m not only preaching to the converted, I’m preaching to myself. 

occupyhk: a personal view


This week marks one month since police threw 87 cannisters of tear gas at unarmed people who were fighting for something quite fundamental: a say in the way their city is governed. The background and development of how #occupycentral turned into #occupyhk and #umbrellarevolution have been well documented and analysed. Here are some personal thoughts, observations and pictures.

“time is on our side”


One thing is clear, the movement has been very polarising within the community and within families. From anecdotal experience the older generation is against the movement; to them it’s foreign-influenced troublemakers stirring the pot, and the students should go back to school and not disrupt traffic. Overheard:

woman in her 70s: I hate them, I can’t go to the wet market
another woman: how about going to another market?
70s woman: [no answer]

70s woman: my bus had to divert around Nathan Road, it’s so annoying and added an hour to my journey
other woman: take the MTR
70s woman: I don’t like the MTR, I have to walk up and down all the stairs
other woman: there are lifts in all stations
70s woman: [no answer]


At the other end of the age spectrum, younger people seem to be more supportive of the movement; they have travelled/studied/lived abroad and are exposed to diverse, global views through social media. Those in their thirties and forties see the changes in society over the past decade and want a better future for their children. In his NYT op-ed, student activist Joshua Wong said:

I would like to remind every member of the ruling class in Hong Kong: Today you are depriving us of our future, but the day will come when we decide your future. No matter what happens to the protest movement, we will reclaim the democracy that belongs to us, because time is on our side.

He’s right. Reminds me of the age divide in issues like marriage equality, religion and gun control in the US. As millennials grow and enter the workplace, their political views, which are more progressive and tolerant, will become more prominent and important. Time is on their side. In 25 years, Joshua Wong will be in his forties and in prime earning and contributing power; the woman in her 70s will hopefully be still be with us and enjoying life but but will have less influence on society as a whole.

“still a very easy place to do business”


Personal experience is positive. Less traffic means less pollution, I have walked more; the first few days when all my local buses were cancelled, I walked further to catch other forms of public transport. I allow more travel time and actually find the MTR less crowded. I am moved to see the discipline and ingenuity of the protesters, from wi-fi ready study areas and free tuition to donations to gardening and recycling.

Although the anti-occupy rhetoric focuses on the effect of disrupted traffic and the perceived effect on the economy, article after article has found that HK is still a very easy place to do business:

Tourism to the city actually increased. Only one of 15 economists surveyed by Bloomberg has lowered their Hong Kong GDP forecast for the year. And Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was world’s second-best performing index in October.

The PRC is outwardly not getting directly involved, their strategy is more clandestine. From blocking all news behind the Great Firewall or only showing one side of the story, to perpetuating the foreign-agitator conspiracy theory, to limiting the number of travel visas. They are “punishing” HK by not letting hordes of tourists come to grocery shop for baby formula, defecate in public and launder money through property purchases. Mayhap that’s not punishment after all.

Ever since the handover, the attitude of mainlanders towards HK is that HK cannot survive without them since they prop up the economy through tourism, water supply and fresh food imports. In actual fact tourism accounts for only 5% of the GDP [pdf]. HK has enough reservoirs and desalination plants to move towards self-sufficiency, the government has not move forward on total water management [pdf] for obvious reasons. Rice is imported from Thailand, and surely China is not the only country exporting meat, fruit and vegetables!

what next


A small poll showed that protesters are willing to occupy for a year if necessary and, from the oganised nature of tent cities, some are digging in. Pragmatically though, blocking three main traffic arteries for a year may not be popular in the long run.

Time to add other activities to spread the message..


The movement’s supporters come from all walks of life. There is plenty of room for ideas and creativity. It is a humbling experience, visiting the sites and seeing all the artwork: the awe-inspiring Lennon Wall with post-it notes of encouragement, the origami umbrellas, the sculptures and artwork make the sites a living museum of civic disobedience.


Recently, a picture of Chinese president Xi Jinping holding an umbrella won a journalism prize. HKers wasted no time in photoshopping the image and co-opting President Xi into the movement. He is everywhere at the protest sites. The support extended to adorning waxworks of Chinese leaders at Madame Tussauds with yellow ribbons.

A large banner demanding universal suffrage appeared on the Lion Rock, an important local spiritual landmark. A group of runners ran 106km around HK, tracing an umbrella shaped route via GPS. Students at the University of Hong Kong graduation ceremony held a sea of yellow umbrellas. Postgraduate students at the University of Science and Technology bought 689 yellow umbrellas to display on the lawn. These are exactly the small, subtle activities that cumulatively keep the movement alive, in the news, and silence the anti-contigent’s cries of “traffic disruption.”

Hong Kong has been forced to change for the worst in the past 17 years. It took the actions and bravery of 17 year olds to shake the community out of lethargy. Change must happen, and it must be for the better.

More pics on flickr: occupyhk



oclp003central oclp013admiralty

Day 5 of #occupycentral started slowly, with only a few people at the main sites in the morning — 30 reported at TST and a handful at admilralty. I walked down after lunch, turned out that my black t-shirt fit in with the unofficial protester dress code. The bottom of garden road was deserted, ironically also the road outside the BoC building with its national day banner. Walked up the flyover towards admiralty and the scene was different — people milling around the nornally busy road, student protesters sitting at the side of the road and impromptu gatherings giving anyone and everyone their 3-minutes to address the crowd.

oclp022angrysign oclp046draw

oclp072msgwall oclp142cardsign

Lots of signs, almost all of them handmade. People could just grab a piece of cardboard, a post-it note or a blank sheet of paper and write or draw whatever was on their minds. The signs were then displayed at various locations — along the side of the concrete flyover, on the pavement, at the side of a building. Some signs were by and in different languages too, it was moving to see. It was, like the #occupycentral movement itself, ad hoc and free of rules or pretentions.

After the police tear gas attack on Sunday, the movement also attracted the name of #umbrellarevolution. An umbrella sculpture took pride of place at civic square outside the legco building, and a bank of umbrellas lined the side of the road nearby.

oclp111supply oclp122recycling

What impressed the world about this protest was that it was spearheaded by students. The movement was described as having the world’s politest protesters and had its own idiosyncracies. There were supply stations providing water, snacks, towels, cooling patches, first aid. People donated all sorts to the students and someone was pushing a trolley full of fruit. There was a loudspeaker announcement that the supplies were for people who needed them, not tourists. I did grab a pear, it was hot and I was running low on energy. I also saw a group of people donating a large container of starbucks coffee and a couple giving chocolate and biscuits to the students. Volunteers were also out in force collecting rubbish. This was probably the only protest in the world where participants were encouraged to a) take their rubbish home or, failing that, b) sorting their recyclables into different black bin bags. The road had never been so clean.

oclp118homework oclp117roses

Other images include kids doing homework — I saw a girl studying a powerpoint printout entitled market research, drawing signs or making ribbons. When the crowds got too noisy cheering a speechmaker, or a bottleneck appeared, a volunteer would politely ask the crowds to calm down or disperse. Far too often, protests get derailed because passions become overheated and people act impusively. Rocks get thrown at the police, looting occurs or other groups with different agendas hijack the movement, turning it violent and giving governments excuses to escalate and start cracking down. The organisers of this came prepared and the training showed.

oclp101notparty oclp168blockcentral

I was there between 2-4pm, and the crowd had swelled by the time I left. The atmosphere was serious but not tense. Many people were there with their children, family and even pets. It was sort of like a carnival without the noise, loud music and rubbish everywhere. Ultimately though, we were reminded that this was not a party. The occupy zone was protected by barricades that could be charged by the police at any moment. The zone was also bookended by the PLA headquarters at the western end and the police headquarters at the eastern end.

I’ve been following on twitter and fb and things are getting more tense as the night progresses. The protest has been taking place during a “good” week — wednesday and thursday were public holidays so the city is quiet and a lot of people had taken the week off. Business day on Friday, and BAU expected on monday. How the government would tolerate an entire week of disruptions at the busiest areas is anyone’s guess. Buses are diverted or cancelled; some shops and restaurants are closed; all of us who live at mid-levels / peak have a hard time getting to and from home. It’s a waiting game.

As an aside, something has been bothering me for a while. I posted links, pics and videos on instagram, twitter and fb. I’ve been getting feedback on both instagram and twitter but absolutely no reaction on fb. Zero. I’m guessing either a) fb’s great algorithm in the sky has been hiding my posts or b) my fb friends have no interest in something that is happening outside their region or their comfort zone; seems that if I want attention I should pretend to be a buzzfeed quiz, cat or baseball team. Ah well, why am I surprised. Time to consider scaling down fb anyway.

p.s. apologies to those of you who actually read this post, I appreciate you and I know who you are.

p.p.s. flickr set: here


lady thatcher

Watched Lady Thatcher’s funeral service on BBC World News. A State funeral in all but name. Surprised at the American accent of her granddaughter who did the first reading. Glad that the Bishop of London and others who led the prayers stuck to simple and sombre subjects above politics. Found my hymn book and followed the hymns sang during the service—for a Catholic, both my bible and hymn book are CofE, from school days. (I wonder if I should get proper Catholic stuff, but it shouldn’t matter.) The final hymn, I Vow to Thee My Country was powerful and poignant.

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are Peace.

There’s a picture of the family waiting on the steps of St Paul’s at the end, with the Queen at the background. Not very often that the Queen isn’t front and centre, and it felt right.

alternative vote


I haven’t been following the debate on alternative vote as closely as I should have so no, I didn’t vote. I’m so used to living in countries where I can’t vote that I was surprised to receive my poll card a few weeks ago. I put myself on the electoral register for the purposes of getting a parking permit (in case I wanted to buy a car), certainly not for political reasons.

where was i


Inauguration Day 2009: President Obama takes oath, originally uploaded by USA TODAY

This is one of those moments in history where you have to remember where you were when it happened. I watched the Inauguration of President Obama at work. Corp Communications have a TV, usually it’s on mute but people started gathering around it around 10.30am (CET) and the numbers grew, watching the ceremony.

not my fight but…

Just as well that I’m in the US. Like millions of people I caught Sarah Palin on SNL. I thought it might be funnier, I guess the “Tina Fey does kickass Sarah Palin” is getting old. Amy Poehler was great though.

I learned that people are already able to do early voting. Hopefully most people have made up their minds on who they’d vote for. I’m not American, but if I could vote — yes, I know who I’d vote for. I’m finding that there is a lot of intense, powerful opinion for or against either Obama or McCain, much more emotional than I’d ever experienced with a general election. I was staying with my friend’s family over the weekend and they are extremely staunch supporter of one of the candidates. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs and feelings, and I respect it very much. Which is why I listened intently and with a lot of interest, it’s not my place to agree or disagree; and I’m not as well informed to be able to have a meaningful discussion.

American political theatre

I’m fascinated by the current round of American presidential nomination drama. I didn’t see Senator Obama speech but I’m sure I can find it on youtube. And now Governor Palin’s nomination as VP candidate, and her announcement that her daughter is pregnant.

I’ve been reading the newspapers all day, and can’t get enough of readers comments. On the New York Times the consensus seems to take the form of a collective disbelief that the Republicans want to force people to behave in the judgmental, morally superior way they think of themselves, and then on the other hand have their poster child du jour behave in the complete opposite way.

I also like the LA Times’s columnist who said

The point is that the Palins were able to make all these decisions according to the dictates of their own consciences, formed by their own religious convictions, within the privacy of their own family and according to its values and traditions. What they decided is nobody’s business but theirs; the fact that they were free to arrive at their own decision is everybody’s business.

The particular brand of social conservatism in which Sarah Palin quite evidently believes deeply would deny other American families and other American women the freedom to make these same intimate decisions according to the dictates of their own consciences, religious convictions and traditions.

When will certain Americans learn that values, beliefs and behaviours are not black and white? And that there is nothing to gain by forcing one’s viewpoint on others. It was certainly naïve arrogance on Gov Palin’s part to subject her young children to the scrutiny of the world. By hijacking the word “choice” for their own purposes, the social conservatives are shooting themselves in the foot all by themselves. They really need to take a look at their own houses before deigning to butt into other people’s private homes.

Heh. I bet this becomes outdated news soon. That’s the beauty of news, right? That it holds our attention for its alloted 15 minutes of fame, then we move onto another subject with equal passion.

do not offer an opinion on politics, religion or children

While I have almost zero understanding of how an American voter would view the current elections, I must admit, perhaps controversially, that I was glad that Mrs Clinton won the New Hampshire primary. It is shaping up to be an extremely interesting election, with both sides not having a clear favourite. I haven’t been impressed by the Republicans; perhaps they privately feel that the current administration has tarnished the name of their party beyond repair … at least for the foreseeable future.

I’m hesitant to get caught up in the Obama juggernaut. Yes, Mr Obama is charismatic, idealistic and so very appealing. It’s easy to get riveted at one of his speeches. But he doesn’t scream leader, not yet. Mrs Clinton may not be perfect, but now I think her experience will count.

Keeping my mind open though.

bombay alert

I’m going to Mumbai on Sunday for business, coming back on Friday. Seems like everyone and their second cousin thrice removed are flying there, it was hell to get a business class ticket.

There was a travel advisory because Dubya is visiting India, but I didn’t think the protests would be so widespread until I checked out the mumbai metblog. More about anti-Bush protests organised by the Committee Against Bush Visit.

I think he leaves before I get there. He’d better.

iron lady in song

I came across this last week, Thatcher the Musical played for a short run at the Warwick Arts Centre. Mrs Thatcher is played by 10 different actresses, all representing different stages of her life, starting from life as a grocer’s daughter to one of the most respected prime ministers. Key moments include the Brighton bombing, the Falklands war and the miner’s strike.

Reviews were not wonderful. The Independent gave it one star out of five and says that it’s “so relentlessly superficial, so innocuous, that it rouses only apathy.” The Telegraph was more sympathetic, call it an “enjoyable romp” and “grateful that someone in the theatre world has finally had the decency to acknowledge her seismic role in British politics.”

The plastic wigs (left) are reminiscent of the Spitting Image puppets (right). I guess we’re supposed to take the musical as seriously as we took Spitting Image. That is, not at all.


criminally spiritual

From booman tribune and progressive independent via boing boing

Boy am I glad I don’t live in Indiana. If this is real it’s a joke. The “lawmakers” there are drafting legislation that requires potential parents who want to become pregnant via assisted means such as IVF and sperm / egg donation to be married. Performing an unlawful artificial reproduction procedure is a criminal offense.

okay, that means unmarried people who conceive by means other than regular sex are criminals?

One of the readers commenting asks the interesting question: does that mean that the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit will be hauled up before the courts, cos the conception of Jesus was definitely “assisted” and definitely “by means other than sexual intercourse.” Mary may not have been given a choice in the matter, which bodes even worse for the

Imagine being handcuffed while still holding your turkey baster. LOL.

Here’s the original article

The Crime of “Unauthorized Reproduction
by Laura McPhee

Republican lawmakers are drafting new legislation that will make marriage a requirement for motherhood in the state of Indiana, including specific criminal penalties for unmarried women who do become pregnant “by means other than sexual intercourse.”

According to a draft of the recommended change in state law, every woman in Indiana seeking to become a mother through assisted reproduction therapy such as in vitro fertilization, sperm donation, and egg donation, must first file for a “petition for parentage” in their local county probate court.

Only women who are married will be considered for the “gestational certificate” that must be presented to any doctor who facilitates the pregnancy. Further, the “gestational certificate” will only be given to married couples that successfully complete the same screening
process currently required by law of adoptive parents.

As it the draft of the new law reads now, an intended parent “who knowingly or willingly participates in an artificial reproduction procedure” without court approval, “commits unauthorized reproduction, a Class B misdemeanor.” The criminal charges will be the same for physicians who commit “unauthorized practice of artificial reproduction.”

The change in Indiana law to require marriage as a condition for motherhood and criminalizing “unauthorized reproduction” was introduced at a summer meeting of the Indiana General Assembly’s Health Finance Commission on September 29 and a final version of the bill will come up for a vote at the next meeting at the end of this month.

Republican Senator Patricia Miller is both the Health Finance Commission Chair and the sponsor of the bill. She believes the new law will protect children in the state of Indiana and make parenting laws more explicit.

According to Sen. Miller, the laws prohibiting surrogacy in the state of Indiana are currently too vague and unenforceable, and that is the purpose of the new legislation.

“But it’s not just surrogacy,” Miller told NUVO. ” The law is vague on all types of extraordinary types of infertility treatment, and we wanted to address that as well.”

“Ordinary treatment would be the mother’s egg and the father’s sperm. But now there are a lot of extraordinary thing s that raise issues of who has legal rights as parents,” she explained when asked what she considers “extraordinary” infertility treatment.

Sen. Miller believes the requirement of marriage for parenting is for the benefit of the children that result from infertility treatments.

“We did want to address the issue of whether or not the law should allow single people to be parents. Studies have shown that a child raised by both parents – a mother and a father – do better. So, we do want to have laws that protect the children,” she explained.

When asked specifically if she believes marriage should be a requirement for motherhood, and if that is part of the bill’s intention, Sen. Miller responded, “Yes. Yes, I do.”

ETA: Looks like the proposal was dropped. Still, it’s scary that it was out there at all.