May 31, 2006


Category: uncategorized — Cosima @ 4:48 am

Dragon Boat Festival in Hong Kong

May 30, 2006

How to make your next billion

Category: girlie stuff — Cosima @ 10:22 am

This morning, I looked into my wallet and found exactly one HK$20-note (US$2.60). That doesn’t even pay for two liters of milk in Hong Kong (shocking, isn’t it). So, I searched the internet for money ideas and came across Forbes’ billionaires list. If other people can earn billions, I can too. After further analysis, I came up with five strategies to make a billion bucks:

1) Inherit a successful company from your husband, father, or grandfather. From what I can tell, most people on the list inherited all or at least part of their wealth.

2) If the only thing you ever going to inherit is your grandma’s pot collection, try to get adopted by Bill Gates, he is into charity now.

3) Go to Russia and schmooze with Putin or the Siberian governor, this will get you part of Russia’s oil, iron-ore, or aluminum reserves. But it’s a high risk strategy. If the wind turns, you could end up in jail or have to retreat to London and buy Chelsea FC.

4) Open a retail chain in affluent North America or Europe and manufacture the stuff you sell in China, India, or Eastern Europe.

5) Last but not least, cater to human vices: gambling, alcohol, or candy.

I am going to go with the candy strategy. Michele Ferrero made $10 billion by putting little toys into chocolate eggs and placing them at every supermarket check-out in Europe (”Mama, look! I want Kinder Surprise, Mamaaaaa!”). The check-out counters in China are still candy-free. There are 1.3 billion people in China, 20% are below the age of 14, that’s 260 million potential customers. But I think chocolate eggs are not going to work. Local tastes go more towards gummi bears. I am going to put a handful of gummi bears in a plastic egg, together with a toy (preferably one out of a series of hundred, so that little kids want to collect all of them), and place them at check-out counters throughout China.

I just have to get a good gummi bear recipe … off to do an internship at Haribo ;)

PS: If you cannot come up with your own winning strategy, it’s always possible to marry rich. Ladies, here is a selection of very eligible bachelors: the Google guys Sergei Brin and Larry Page, BMW heir Stefan Quandt, and Richard Li of Hong Kong. Gentlemen, you could try to comfort Christy Walton, nibble M&Ms with Jacqueline Mars, or woo Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler. If you like them younger, you would need to move to Beirut to beautiful Hind Hariri.

Good hunting!

May 27, 2006

Weekly Poem: The Erlking

Category: poetry — Cosima @ 10:56 am

Who rides so late through night and wind?
It is the father with his child;
He has the boy safe in his arm,
He holds him secure, he keeps him warm.

My son, why do you hide your face in fear?-
Father, don’t you see Erlking over there?
The Erlking with crown and trailing robes?-
My son, it is a swirl of fog.-

“Dear child come with me!
Such lovely games we’ll play;
Many pretty flowers are at this shore,
My mother has golden robes galore.”

My father, my father, and don’t you hear?
What Erlking softly promises me?-
Be quiet, stay quiet, my child;
In dry leaves whispers the wind.-

“Fine boy, won’t you come with me?
My daughters shall wait on you tenderly;
My daughters lead the nightly dance,
And dance and sing and lull you in.”

My father, my father, and don’t you see
Erlking’s daughters in the dark place there?-
My son, my son, I see it clearly:
It’s old willows shining silvery.-

“I love you, I’m tempted by your beautiful form;
And if you’re not willing, then I will use force.”
My father, my father, now he’s grabbing me!
Erlking has done harm to me!-

The father is terrified, he rides fast,
He holds in his arms the groaning child,
Reaches the farm with great effort and dread;
In his arms the child was dead.

By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(“Erlkönig” translated by Cosima)

Schubert-Lieder (Transkriptionen): Erlkönig Franz Liszt

German original and short version (probably by kids who had to memorize it in school)

Nifty things: Octopus Card

Category: asia,hong kong — Cosima @ 10:20 am

Name: Octopus Card

What is it?:
It’s an electronic payment card with a radio-frequency chip, that was originally designed for Hong Kong’s subway and buses. Now, it also can be used at 7-Eleven, McDonald’s, Starbucks, newspaper stands, supermarkets, parking meters, vending machines …

It’s nifty because:
I don’t need to carry vast amounts of coins in my wallet anymore. My coins have been replaced by an Octopus Card with HK$200 stored on it.

I don’t even need to pull it out of my wallet when I pay, since it has a radio-frequency chip and just needs to be within a few inches of the reader.

Uploading money is easy at add-value machines, shops, or by linking your bank account for automatic top-ups.

There is also a rewards program merchants can join. Don’t you just hate it if you need to carry twenty cards around to get discounts and collect points?

Who invented it:
ERG Group of Australia
The chip is made by Sony.
The system is run by a Hong Kong consortium.
Octopus Card on wikipedia

May 26, 2006

Merkel and the Maglev train

Category: asia — Cosima @ 5:40 am

This week’s visit of German chancellor(ette) Angela Merkel to Beijing brought the usual stuff of trade agreements and one-China policy reiterations. Angela Merkel and Wen Jiabao also gave a mildly entertaining photo opp at a local park.

The real sticky stuff however remained unresolved. China has announced that it will extend the Transrapid maglev line in Shanghai, using its “own” technology. The original line runs from Shanghai’s centre to Pudong airport and was build with German technology and ample financial support by Germany’s taxpayers. Germany’s government had hoped that the initial project would lead to further lines, securing jobs back home.

But alas, now that Chinese engineers had a first-hand look at the technology, they developed their “own” much cheaper version. Not surprisingly, the Germans are a little bit annoyed, asking – no begging – for participation in the extension line. But the Chinese must have misunderstood. They are demanding Germany’s financial participation (a few hundred million Euros) in exchange for using German technology.

I almost forgot- Wen also vowed that China would further improve the protection of intellectual property rights.

By the way, the Maglev train really is fast. I saw it on a recent trip to Shanghai, for a couple of nanoseconds.

Go Anson go!

Category: asia,hong kong — Cosima @ 2:59 am

Hong Kong politics are yaaawn-boring. It has something to do with Hong Kong leaders being very careful not to step on the toes of big shots in China’s central government, fearing to loose their jobs. That’s a recipe for painfully boring speeches and less than exciting characters. Have a look at our current head dude Donald Tsang and you know what I mean.

(Be wary of politicians with bow-ties!)

The present unexiting state of local politics cannot be blamed on this city’s inhabitants. We go to large-scale democracy-demonstrations and people vote for politicians that actually try to change something. The problem is that their is no universal suffrage in Hong Kong. 50% of the local parliament (called legislative council) consist of appointed members, so democracy leaders never get the top jobs.

Out of revenge, voters tried to make the life of Donald Tsang and his cabinet as miserable as possible by electing Leung Kwok-hung aka Long Hair into the legislative council. He is the only Trotskyite in Hong Kong (maybe the world?) that I know of.

As the antics of Long Hair are getting old, people look for alternatives, and these days turn to an old time favorite: Anson Chan. Donald Tsang made the mistake of having lunch with her earlier this week and Hong Kong media pounced on the idea of Anson Chan considering a return to politics. There’s just nothing else to report these days.

Anson Chan was chief secretary for administration from 1993-2001, which is the second highest post in HK’s government. She oversaw the transition of the civil service before and after the hand-over in 1997.

Five years have past since she quit her job, and Hong Kong people still haven’t forgotten her. The reason being, that she is the only HK politician who held a top job and still spoke her mind. She has called for faster democratization of Hong Kong, defended press freedom, and got a dress down from China’s vice premier Qian Qichen (for not adequately supporting Tsang’s predessor Tung Chee-Hwa), which secured her long-term fame.

The next chief executive election is next year. !!!GO ANSON GO!!!

May 25, 2006

Happy HNT! #3

Category: hnt — Cosima @ 7:31 am




May 18, 2006

Narrow miss

Category: asia,hong kong — Cosima @ 10:55 am

Call me crazy, but I was a little bit sad, when Hong Kong only experienced the outskirts of typhoon Chanchu yesterday. I have experienced quite a number of storms while living here, and I was sort of looking forward to see this one.

Contrary to what you might believe, most people in Hong Kong like typhoons. The biggest reason being, that people get the day off from work, after the highest warning signal is hoisted. And then, it’s quite nice to get a break from Hong Kong’s hot, muggy weather. The wind cools down the temperature and also clears away the air pollution.

Of course, we also like the excitement. Nothing gets done at work, because people constantly check websites, radio, and TV for the latest updates. You don’t want to miss the last ferry or bus, before everything closes down. And when you are at home, it’s fascinating to see nature’s forces raging outside your window.

We had some really bad typhoons in the past, with people getting swept out to sea, boats capsizing, and flood damage, but if you do the sensible thing and stay inside a building it’s quite save.

I still remember the last superstorm with windspeeds of over 200km/h. I live in a high-rise building at the ocean and the rain was pounding horizontally at my windows, garden furniture was flying by, and the building started to sway a little. (That was unnerving, but it’s actually a good sign. Swaying is better than breaking.)

Yesterday, we only had the good air, but not the excitement.

Hong Kong Observatory
Satellite image of typhoon Chanchu

Weekly Poem: Wanting

Category: poetry — Cosima @ 10:12 am

Wanting to be with you
from the midst of what one does
wanting to be away
vanished at your place

Nothing but with you
nearer than hand in hand
closer than mouth on mouth
wanting to be with you

Within you being tender to you
kissing you from outside
and caressing you from inside
so and so and the other way too

And wanting to breathe you in
always only wanting to breathe in
deeper deeper
and drinking without breathing out

But seeking distance in between
to be able to see you
from one two hand’s breadth away
and then kissing you on and on

by Erich Fried
(“Wollen” translated by Cosima)

Happy HNT-Anniversary! #2

Category: hnt — Cosima @ 9:59 am
I will survive!