Archive for October, 2016

The lunacy of bureaucrats (or my most memorable Hong Kong experience)

October.29. 2016

While transiting in Hong Kong recently, I lost this fearsome looking object to the security guys at the transfer stations.

Fearsome hijacking implement

This was not the first time they had tried to ‘confiscate’ my personal property. (Is there a black market in HK for airport security confiscated property?)

But this time I refused to let them have my prized Muji nail file, which besides being extremely handy in trimming my guitar fingernails is apparently also a dreaded hijacking implement (in Hong Kong anyway).

Here’s how it works.

They take your ‘dangerous’ device at the security check. If you object, they issue you a receipt which you have to produce to retrieve the property.

Now here’s the master stroke, to recover your item, you’ll have go out HK immigration and look for some small Lost and Found office hidden away in some obscure upper level corner. And you have to do this within two weeks.

If, after all this, you somehow manage to recover your precious property, you’ll have to bring it through security again which means they’ll take it away from you again. (If not a black market, maybe a special section on


Fortunately, I had two helpers from my airline (unnamed for now but their initials are CP). Unfortunately, they were quite rude and spent more time admonishing me for my stupidity (??? So why is HKG the only airport in the world banning nail files, why not toothpicks too? Is there a documented case of an airliner being brought down by a nail file? Who gets to keep these confiscated objects?)  in trying to bring these dreaded objects through security than in being helpful.

Moral of story:

Avoid Hong Kong like the plague.


October.23. 2016

If you take a book and open it, and all you see inside are blank pages, or maybe just a thick piece of cardboard.

Is it still a book?

Or you take a car and you open the hood and inside is a gaping hole, no engine, no battery, no nothing.

Is it still a car?

Or you can make a sword out of paper mache and give it a shiny metallic coat of paint.

Does that make it a sword?

How do we define something?

By its appearance or is there something deeper?

To give a few more examples.

We can make something look like food out of Styrofoam, does that make it food?

Or we can make flowers out of plastic, does that make them flowers?

Or we can make a beginner guitar student sit and hold the guitar like a pro, does that make him a pro?

How do we define something?

For me, there’s something deeper.

Something that I call its essence.

A quality that defines it.

And that something is spirit, for lack of a better word.

This spirit has nothing to do with the supernatural.

When musicians say, ‘capture the spirit of a piece of music,’ they’re not alluding to anything supernatural, they’re just referring to that essence.

Understanding the spirit of a work helps them express it better.

The key to life, I’ve found is to disregard the external, the facade, and focus on the essence, the spirit.

The spirit is where you find truth.

Why is truth important?

Because as they say, truth will set you free.

You tell me

October.21. 2016

Speaking of words and actions, it’s quite fashionable these days in some parts of the world to call a certain country the ‘Great Satan.’

And I do agree to a point.

There’re many things in that country that will merit that description.

But when Ebola strikes in some distant corner of the world, who are the ones who go (at great risk to their personal well-being) to help combat the outbreaks?

Funny, I don’t hear of any great martyrs from one particular holy land volunteering to go and help.

But I do hear of volunteers from the ‘Great Satan.’ (with volunteers from other  ‘Satans’)

Very satanic–risking your life to help your fellow human beings fight a deadly scourge.

Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed holy men are out in droves, on a mission to get to paradise where they hear, a few dozen virgins are patiently waiting for them.

So who’s the Great Satan?

You tell me.

Cutting through the crap

October.19. 2016

To live in the twenty-first century is to live with crap.

Crap from politicians, crap from teachers, crap from friends, crap from strangers, crap from well-wishers, crap from evil-doers.

But I’ve found a helpful way to cut through the crap.

The trick is to focus on results.

Ignore the hype, the clever words, the excuses, the alibis, the rationales.

Focus on results and on actions.

So if a certain religion insists that theirs is a religion of peace, look at the results of their teaching. If all you see is death and carnage, well, that’s a hint right there.

If a guitar teacher insists he has the keys to guitar heaven, look at his playing. If he can’t play for peanuts, that’s another hint right there.

If a life coach tells you he has all the answers to your problems in life, and he’s going through a third divorce, that’s a clue right there.

If a certain politician tells you she’s for the middle class but she’s hobnobbing with the upper class and getting paid quarter million dollar fees for opening her mouth, that’s another strong clue.

Cutting through the crap involves recognizing that Truth exists and it is non-compromisable.

And that Truth resides in actions and results, and you can’t hide behind clever words  (otherwise known as crap).

It’s based on that famous axiom, don’t tell me, show me.

If yours is a religion of peace, show me.

If you have the keys to guitar heaven, show me…