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solar eclipse

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first day in hong kong, i'm lazing around surfing the internet thinking "why am i lazing around surfing the internet when i should be wandering around outside?" when i come across the news that there's totally A SOLAR ECLIPSE visible from Hong Kong AT THAT VERY MOMENT. It's only a partial eclipse here, but still... "So that's why it's not so bright outside," I thought, and I rushed outside to check it out. (The other thing I thought was, "Good thing I was surfing the internet instead of wandering around outside"). I took this picture of the sun's image (look in the lower left quadrant) as projected through a pinhole of a leaf.*

Apparently the Space Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui was having a public viewing, which probably would have been more exciting, but I wasn't sure how long it was going to last. I took this picture at 4:30pm local time, about half an hour before the maximum. According to the Hong Kong Observatory, the eclipse started at 3.33pm, maxed at 4.54pm, and ended for HK viewers when the sun set at 6pm. Pretty cool, huh?

  • and yes, people were like, why is he taking a picture of the wall?

Hung Lee

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If you're in the Tsim Sha Tsui area of Hong Kong and need to eat, I highly recommend 洪利粥店茶餐廳 (Hung Lee), on Hau Fook Street 厚福街, which is not on the tourist map but is right in between Granville and Cameron, off of Carnarvon.

The 粥店 part means they serve jook, etc. (the etc. part being noodles). The 茶餐廳 part means they serve milk tea (奶茶) and other drinks, and Hong Kong-style breakfast (A餐 B餐, etc.). Before you go, brush up on your Chinese---I didn't see any English menus.

Wikipedia on 茶餐廳:

and the Cantonese version:茶餐廳

I ♥ Hong Kong

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Hong Kong is so great. I forgot how great it was, after being in mainland China for so long. I forgot how great it was to have people smile at you when you pay for dinner, or be friendly when you pick up brochures at the tourist info booth. I forgot how nice it was not to live in a police state. (According to today's HK edition of the Epoch Times, foreigners in Beijing are afraid of the stern police marching around on the streets.) The police here can chat with each other while they're patrolling, they look like they enjoy their jobs, and they actually look like nice people.

"Better Cantonese"

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Recently I've been listening to these one-minute segments on how to make your Cantonese more correct, called 粵講粵o岩一分鐘.

It's basically a big prescriptivist-fest, telling native Cantonese speakers to correct their "lazy sounds" and not merge /n-/ and /l-/, not drop initial /ng-/, etc. There's two "hosts": the guy is 何文匯, whose name is on various Cantonese dictionaries, and the girl is 黃念欣, who I don't know.

For some reason, the guy is really good at making you feel stupid. "People are too lazy to look up the dictionary," he says. Or, "if people would just think logically, they wouldn't pronounce things all wrong." The girl is much more encouraging, but says things like, "if you say things wrong, you'll sound really childish."

Despite the tone, there are some interesting etymological/philological notes in some of the segments, and I did learn some obscure characters which I've seen before but never knew how to read.

Although they can get rather pedantic, in some ways it's kind of reassuring that people are being prescriptivist about Cantonese, because that means people actually care about preserving the language... and that's a luxury not all languages enjoy.

Big Buddha

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Maybe it's because it's the only tourist destination I've specifically gone to on this trip to Hong Kong, but I keep thinking about the Big Buddha at Lantau Island... It turns out it's actually relatively recent, finished in 1993, which means it wasn't finished the first time I visited Hong Kong (in 1992, if I reckon correctly). I'm not sure exactly what it is... giant Buddhas are (1) impressive (2) peaceful, and (3) kind of useless. I mean, in a good way. That's why they're so great... The wikipedia page on it (look up Tian Tan Buddha) lists other large Buddhas in the world, and I think I've now put them on my mental list of things to see.

In Hong Kong

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I've been writing in my journal almost daily about boring stuff like research progress, but I suppose I should throw a bone, so to speak, to my regular (*cough*) blog readers.

Today's the first day all to myself in Hong Kong. I got in on Monday night, went to the phonetics lab on Tuesday, and have been basically working all day every day, running subjects and trying to do some data analysis. When I'm not in the lab or at Manki's place, it's basically too hot to do anything else.

I still think taking the airport bus and sitting in front on the top level is the best way to get in/out. The view is excellent.

The university itself it pretty small. It has, like, one building. The phonetics lab is the best (the only?) in the region, and they actually keep running all through the summer--no such thing as summer break if you're in grad school here. Thank goodness I'm at Berkeley. They also have super-long weekly lab meetings.

Today I went to Ngong Ping (昂坪), where the largest sitting Buddha in the world is. I must admit, it really is super-cool, and the trails on the Lantau Island (大嶼山) have excellent views. You can see the airport and Tung Chung (東涌) and the Buddha and stuff. I took the MTR in, which is an experience in itself and only 20 dollars (HK)! Then I took the bus up, which actually goes up and over to the south side of the island before climbing up to the Ngong Ping. Then I had a great vegetarian meal, and then I climbed up the 234 (or so) steps up to the base. After that I hiked around Nei Lak (彌勒) Peak. I'll post pictures when I get the chance. Then I thought I might take the new sky-tram thingy down, which I think officially opens on the 24th, according to the MTR web page. But apparently it had been starting and stopping all day and there was a huge line of people there and they were thinking of busing the people away because it was having problems. So I took the bus to Mui Wo 梅窩 and took the ferry back (which was only $11!). All in all an excellent day.

I will now hunt for food...

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so here i was in guangzhou, keeping all these plastic bottles to throw away at the train station, only when i got to the train station, i didn't see any recycling bins. no problem, i thought, i'll get rid of them in hong kong. fast forward to cosmic guesthouse. i discover from the woman behind the counter that, no, hong kong doesn't recycle its plastic bottles (or anything else, for that matter). all the trash just goes together in the same bin. whaat? hong kong, of all places. so the next morning i'm struggling to fit seven plastic bottles into my backpack, and Monkey was not pleased. i ended up sacrificing one of the bottles.

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here i am in hong kong, once again using the free internet access at the convention center. i mean, centre. i hate to admit it, but as i was riding the bus from the airport to tsim sha tsui (at hkd33, a much better deal than the hkd90 airport express train. you can ride on the upper deck of the bus, right up front (shotgun?) so you can see everything), i thought, hong kong is so much better than taipei. the highways are all new and modern, and the streets and sidewalks are nice and wide, and the air and everything just seems so much cleaner. and today i'm walking around and reading all the ads in cantonese, and i felt so happy.

of course, it's not without its downsides. seems like everyone smokes here, and it's also relatively expensive, and people drive on the wrong side of the road. and i'm sure it's not comfortable living under the claws of mainland china.

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