Monday, May 28, 2012

Part 2 of Baby Sleep Tips. Before the Birth

Since my last infant sleeping post, I've gotten two more emailed photos of newborns. My friends are procreating faster than I can blog.
Take it from a woman who was yelling on her cellphone -- from a hospital room with a bad mobile connection -- dealing with a cot delivery mishap AND a broken washer / dryer while in early labor. Learn from my mistake: You want everything in place well before the birth.
Even if you have extra time and energy, you'll want to spend as much time loving, cuddling and enjoying your new baby, instead of finding out at the last minute that the fitted sheets you bought are 2" too short.
You never know when the little one is going to come. Three of my girlfriends had their waters break early -- one in a restaurant, one at work. I'd have everything in place by 7 months.
I'd also have a broad plan of how you're going to deal with sleep issues before the arrival. After the happy event, you're not going to have free time to read baby books and blogs.
While planning, keep in mind one succinct sentence from Fiona, one of the very efficient English nurses at Annerley: "Your newborn is safest on his back, in your room, in his own bed, with nothing else but a sleeping bag, for the first six months."
I generally didn't like Gina Ford's The Contented Little Baby: The Simple Secrets of Calm, Confident Parenting. But there were a few good suggestions. One was to buy both the  bassinet for our bedroom, and the bigger crib-turned-little-kids-bed for the nursery, at the same time. Initially, we were going to buy the bigger bed later to save money, but I'm glad we followed Ford's suggestion.
As soon as Baby Chloe came home, she spent her nights in her bassinet in our room. On one hand, we wanted to discourage co-sleeping.  On the other hand, it was convenient to have her close so I could hear her cry, and breastfeed her without trundling  between rooms at 3 am. It's also reassuring, since all new parents worry about SIDS the first few months, and the risk goes down  if they sleep close to their mothers.
But for short daytime naps, we put Chloe in the bigger bed in her nursery.
That way, when we transitioned her to her own room at night at five months, it wasn't too difficult. She associated her nursery with comfort and sleep, so it wasn't like she was left alone in a strange place.
Of course, this depends on your own home set-up. Many Hong Kong families have the baby share a room with the maid from birth. Others have enough space that they can roll a bigger crib into the parents room. Do what's best for you. 

Recommended stuff to buy
* Small bassinet / co-sleeper for your bedroom. We preferred one with cloth sides instead of the traditional wooden bars. When they're really young, they get their little arms and legs caught in the gaps, or bang into them. Some other people opt for three-sided co-sleepers that can attach to your bed.

* Bigger crib whose height / settings can be adjusted so that it can be used for two to three years. Having one with a drop-down side will save you much backache when the baby gets bigger and heavier. (We don't have one like this; but in retrospect, I wish we did).
* Baby swaddle sleeping bag.When my brother first gave me a Love to Swaddle sleeping bag from Australia, I thought it looked like an instrument of cruel and unusual punishment and swore I wouldn't use it. But it turned out to be the only thing Chloe would sleep in.
We adults can't imagine wanting to have our arms restrained, but newborns love it, since they crave the snugness of the womb, at least for the first month or so.
But swaddle cloths get unraveled and tangled. The ones with Velcro flaps always came undone. And other brands' swaddle sleeping bags were actually more restrictive, since they bind the arms on the side. The Aussie one was the only one with "wings" so the baby can stretch her arms, though they are still inside the bag. You can't use these after they start to turn, though.
I find the below promotional photo funny and slightly disturbing at the same time.

* When they get bigger, they can move onto something like this, which is safer than a top sheet.

* Little gloves. Newborns have surprisingly sharp fingernails. Since they don't have control of their limbs, they flail around and scratch themselves. A few nights ago, I forgot them. This morning, Baby woke up with a gash on the side of her nose, like she'd been in a bar brawl.
* Two to three sets of 100% cotton bedsheets for the bassinet / crib.
* Disposable waterproof mat to put between the mattress and the bedsheet. You can get this at Manning's, Watson's or any chemist. When the diaper slips and the kid pees all over the bed, you'll be happy not to deal with a soaked mattress in the middle of the night.
* Special pillow to keep baby from rolling out of place. But, like the swaddle sleeping bag, you can't really use this once they can turn on their own, at about three months. (This photo is from her first day home, still in the hospital outfit. I can't believe how tiny she was).

You don't need
* Pillows, bumpers, stuffed animals, specialty  baby blankies,  fluffy toys with dangling strings, etc. These are all SIDS risks. Plus, the most common gifts you'll get are  stuffed animals and blankies, so save your money. If you really must use a blankie, a top sheet or towel tucked firmly into the sides of the mattress -- at the baby's tummy or chest -- will do.
* Loose swaddle cloths. Again, a combination of SIDS risk and popular gift. They're good for daytime snuggling, but not for night.
* Too many sleeping bags. I think two to three is enough to start. You can't have just one, since babies throw up / poo on things, so you need a back-up when the dirty one is in the wash. But ignore instructions  that you have to wash it every  night. Ha! As if any new parent has time. I'm sure that was made up by some marketing person (probably a man who's never scrubbed a baby sleeping bag in his life) trying to convince parents that they need to buy a dozen on the things.
* Special baby sleeping outfits, special baby music. Buy them if you really want to spend the money, but none of it is needed, in my opinion.
Part 1 of this series is here.

Picasso’s Hong Kong Period

I like the headline and photo the N.Y.T. InTransit blog editor chose for this. (No, writers never write their own headlines or package their own stories, even if they are also editors at that particular paper).  
Picasso's Hong Kong Period
May 24, 2012, 6:00 pm
"Le déjeuner sur l’herbe after Manet" by Picasso (1960) 
Copyrights: Succession Picasso, 2012; Musée National Picasso, Paris; Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux“Le déjeuner sur l’herbe after Manet” by Picasso (1960)
The largest Picasso exhibit in Hong Kong’s history, featuring 55 works from the Musée Picasso in Paris, is on view at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum through June 22. The retrospective covers the artist’s major periods — Blue, Rose, Cubist and Neo-Classical — and also includes photography and film.
The heritage museum, which is less known than the art and history museums, is housed in a pleasant Chinese courtyard complex on a riverside spot slightly outside downtown. Entry is 20 Hong Kong dollars ($2.50 U.S.); visitors are advised to book online in advance, as there has already been a high demand for tickets.
The Picasso exhibit is part of the 20th anniversary of the annual Le French May festival – which has grown so much that it now runs from April to June. Its events include French music, dance, theater, cinema, fashion and fine dining.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Baby Sleep Tips from The House-Cat Mom, Intro

 This is what you want. 
(But, as my blogger friend Joel wisely points out, the pretty bed furnishings shown here are not recommended for newborns or small infants, particularly not at night. I think they're OK for bigger babies for short naps -- and photo ops. But new parents should keep the bed clear of cute bumpers, blankies, pillows and stuffed animals. Our baby slept in a bare cot, with just a sleeping bag, the first half-year).

It seems like everyone I know just had a baby, or is going to have one soon. Not just friends, family and people in the mummy / playgroup world, but also work associates.
I meet a PR person for a meeting, and she shows up with a big belly. I plan a business trip, and end up discussing infant sleep habits with a gentleman I've never met in Spain.
The one thing everyone asks is how we got our baby to sleep through the night. I keep repeating the same advice, even scribbling notes on an FCC bar napkin for a to-be-dad at the Financial Times. (My friend -- you'll want a few more drinks before this is over).
So, due to popular demand, I'm writing a five-part blog series of Getting Baby to Sleep. Those of you not facing this particular challenge can avert your eyes for the next half-dozen posts.

Introduction, Sources and Acknowledgments
I'm not a pediatrician or professional nurse. I'm just a mom who happens to also be an obsessive researcher, reader and writer.
Unlike baby sleep gurus (some of whom are not professional doctors or nurses either), I don't believe in any dogma. My good friend Daisann said I was the opposite of the stereotypical Asian Tiger Mom. "You're like the House-Cat Mom," she said. "I think that's why your baby is so laid-back and relaxed, because you are, too."
And a caveat: This is not a fool-proof method. There is no fool-proof method -- none. I have a friend who followed the Gina Ford routine to a tee, and her kid still sometimes crawls into her bed at 4 a.m.  No matter how well you parent, you kid is going to have bad nights from teething, colds, flus, nightmares or whatever.
This is just a way to encourage good sleeping habits in general -- so that, most of the time, the baby goes to bed full and content in the evening, and stays there till the next morning. It's not to train your baby like it's some sort of police dog.

I may be  relaxed -- but I did my homework. Lots of it. I'm the House-Cat mom, but I'm also the journalist mom.
I read Gina Ford's notorious  The Contented Little Baby: The Simple Secrets of Calm, Confident Parenting which, despite the cutesy title, is like a fascist regime for infants. I took the basic ideas from it, without following all the insane details.
I found more joy from the classic Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care: 9th Edition, based on the baby book my mother used 30-odd years ago. Yes, I read all 1,152 pages.
Real-life advice will always trump something written in a book. 
So, when Baby Chloe had sleep trouble at five months, I consulted with Deborah Taylor a professional British-trained pediatric nurse at Infant Sleep Resources. I also hired an Australian night nanny for a three nights through Rent-A-Mum. (Surprise, she's now pregnant herself, too). And, instead of running to the doctor all the time, Baby attends a regular playgroup / nursing check-up at Annerley Midwives, who have excellent staff who give excellent advice.
Basically, I spent a hell of a lot of money and time on this, so you don't have to. 
Part 2 of this series is here. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What to wear to an art fair -- The Little White Dress

I hate to break this to you, ladies, but cream-colored lacy / crocheted hot pants seem to be in among the arty this season. (I presume my gentlemen readers, like Fumie, are thrilled).
I spotted not one, but three pairs of crocheted shorts  during the ART HK  vernissage, paired with nice blouses, tailored jackets, high-heeled platform sandals. There were also  no small number of summery lace minidresses. That old art-scene mainstay, the Little Black Dress, has been replaced by the Little White Dress -- in the Asian summer, at least, for those fortunate enough to be long and lean of limb.
There were also many white skirts: tailored pencil skirts, ruffled gypsy skirts, even one nipped-waisted, full bodied, calf-length skirt, a la Christian Dior circa 1950 -- all as white as a fluffy summer cloud.

A slightly more do-able trend was bright yellow. My friend John  Batten and I saw two lovely ladies of a certain age in matching canary yellow, which they claimed they did not wear together on purpose. That got me thinking that a) they were lying or b) if two fashionable women have exactly the same shade in their closets, that must mean something.
"My underwear is bright yellow," John joked with them, before the ladies made an excuse to back away. (Art folk can be so serious).
The art fair's backdrop and carpeting was a minty shade  -- and it was striking how many women matched that yellow / green tone with their outfits, to the point that I was wondering if socialites had actually called up the convention center in advance for color advice. (This is Hong Kong. It wouldn't surprise me).
As my taxi drove away at the end of the night, I saw two ladies in green cocktail dresses. 
Grass green, bottle green, emerald --  matched with crisp white and sunshiny yellow, it makes for a nice palette. 

Hong Kong Art Fair

As for me, I just got a great deal on a midnight-blue Lanvin silk shirt-dress I'd been lusting after for some time, but couldn't afford -- at least not until it was posted on the Outnet, Net-a-Porter's discount site. (I track these things, the way richer, smarter people track stocks and investments).
I love the reverse cowl neck that exposes the nape and upper back -- it's subtly sexy, while being forgiving of someone still carrying a bit of baby fat. (Though, mercifully, less so than before).
I wore it the whole fair with different accessories. For the opening party, I paired it with a bright yellow Prada necklace and Prada platforms, both from the fashion bloggers' second-hand stuff sale in SoHo, which I read about on Hong Kong Fashion Geek.
 I chose a more sober pair of shoes -- J. Crew heeled oxfords, also from that SoHo sale --  for the next day, when I had to do some reporting.

What should I wear to the art fair?

For my last day, though, I put on an old bright-green retro green shift, for fun.
Looks like I was musing on the role of hot pants at art fairs even a year ago, at this post here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

ART HK -- Not bigger, but better

Petroc Sesti's sculpture "Sphere" reflects the corridors of ART HK during the preview on Wednesday.
One of the many very nice photos taken by Thomas Lee for the International Herald Tribune. 
(It's always fun to spend the day working with someone easy-going and talented)
Hong Kong Revs Up for International Art Fair 
Published: May 16, 2012 in the International Herald Tribune

HONG KONG — The week leading up to Hong Kong’s international art fair, which opens Thursday with 266 participating galleries, has become the busiest in the cultural calendar. Events now spread far beyond ART HK itself: Artists prepare studios for overseas visitors; galleries put on their best shows; and everyone from auction houses to museums time events and announcements for May, when they have the world’s attention.
It wasn’t surprising that Art Basel’s organizers waited until last week to announce details of what they are calling their first Hong Kong event, which will replace ART HK next year. It follows their purchase last May of a majority stake in the Hong Kong fair, which started with a modest 80 galleries in 2008 and quickly grew to the largest event of its kind in Asia. Art Basel last week promised “significant differences” in 2013. Magnus Renfrew, the ART HK director who will be retained as Art Basel’s director in Asia, said that his colleagues from Basel gave advice and expertise to help improve the fair this year. “Basel were available for me to bounce ideas off of, which I’ve done frequently, since they are very clever people,” he said.
At least superficially, the event looks much the same, so far, under the new ownership. It has kept its 50-50 divide between galleries from the West and those from Asia, which it defines broadly as spanning the Middle East to Australia. Looking ahead to 2013, it is expected to be about the same size and to keep its annual spot in May. (Plans to move it to February, to fit better between Art Basel’s two other fairs, were reportedly scuttled by Chinese New Year.)
But in more subtle ways, the fair seems to be striving to reach international standards. In past years, the focus was on expanding in leaps and bounds. This year, the last under the ART HK banner, marks the first time that it will not increase significantly in size, as organizers concentrate on making the content better, not just bigger.
“It was important to have a consolidation year, to tighten up the quality and build up the audience,” said Mr. Renfrew, who has been with ART HK since its first year. He added that 700 galleries vied for 266 spots.
It is also the first time that a high-profile figure in the art world — Yuko Hasegawa, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo — will put together large-scale installations. The 10 works, to be shown on plots around the fair, will include eerily realistic silicon rubber animals, complete with built-in respiratory systems, by Shen Shaomin, who is represented by Hong Kong’s Osage Gallery; Tatsuo Miyajima’s six-meter, or 20-foot, mirrored tower covered in LED lights; and Yin Xiuzhen’s shipping container refigured as a round-cut diamond.
ART HK has always had million-dollar pieces by big-name artists at big-name galleries, particularly from London. But the feel of the trading floor has evolved from endless identical cubicles to something looser and more creative. Galerie Gmurzynska in Zurich, for example, commissioned Zara Hadid to design its booth this year.
While there are only six more galleries than in 2011, there is significantly more floor space, taken up by the curated installations, plus additional talks, tours and side events. ART HK was always going to be a different animal than major fairs in the West because of Hong Kong’s relatively new and undeveloped art scene. The city’s limited gallery and museum offerings, particularly back in 2008, meant that ART HK was seen not only as an art trade show, but as a catalyst to something greater.
“When I first moved here in 2007, I asked a lot of people about the art scene, and a common response was that Hong Kong was a cultural desert,” Mr. Renfrew said. “But once you scratch beneath the surface, there’s a lot going on. There was a problem with visibility. There was nothing around which galleries could galvanize, which is why we’ve encouraged people to organize events around ART HK.”
“It’s different from fairs in the West because we created it completely from scratch,” Mr. Renfrew added. “There’s been an art market in the U.S. for decades, and in Europe for centuries. It’s a very young scene in Asian and Hong Kong, so we feel that have a cultural function as well as a commercial function.
“An international art fair adds momentum,” he continued. “It gives people a greater sense of confidence that Hong Kong could be a cultural center. The key to our success has been good will from exhibiting galleries.”
Pearl Lam, a Hong Konger who has long had a gallery in Shanghai, is one of several gallerists opening a new space here this week. She voiced a common concern among those in the art scene here that the art fair retain its unique Asian identity under the Art Basel name.
“The first year of ART HK was very exciting,” she said. “But by last year it was getting boring. There was too much of what we see in Europe and America. It has to be very distinct. If any Asian art fairs takes on a Western model, it will have to work to find its identity.”
At the same time, Ms. Lam saw ART HK as a rallying force.
“Before Frieze, contemporary art was not that popular among Britons,” she said of the influential magazine that debuted in 1991 and the London art fair that began in 2003. “They preferred dead artists. No offense to dead artists. But then an art fair changed everything in England.”
Ms. Hasegawa, the curator, has watched the Hong Kong fair evolve. Instead of seeing an Asian event trying to fit in with the West, she saw Western galleries and organizers reaching out to the East. “Western galleries are searching for the taste of the Asian collector, the Asian art viewer, the local audience. There has to be an adjustment,” she said. “ART HK is quite unique, and I hope it continues in that direction.”
ART HK will be at the Convention and Exhibition Center from Thursday to May 20. Tickets cost 250 Hong Kong dollars, about $30:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Most expensive flat in Hong Kong?

 Photo by Jerome Favre/Bloomberg News
The Opus Hong Kong is Frank Gehry's first major project in Asia.

A Celebrated Architect’s Hong Kong Building Helps Define ‘Superluxury’

The New York Times

May 14, 2012

HONG KONG — The Hong Kong skyline is like a roll call of celebrity architects: There are the Bank of China by I.M. Pei, the HSBC building by Norman Foster and the International Finance Center by César Pelli. But in a city whose twin obsessions seem to be property and luxury brand names, there has never been a “starchitect”-designed residence until now.
Last week, Swire Properties unveiled to the public Frank Gehry’s Opus Hong Kong — the first major project in Asia for Mr. Gehry, a winner of the Pritzker Prize, an annual award for a body of work in architecture.
Opus is reaching the market as doubts swirl about Hong Kong property. In interviews, analysts and agents predicted a decline of 10 percent to 15 percent in residential prices this year. The local media have reported that Hong Kong’s new chief executive, who will take office in July, may alter land policy to loosen the grip of major developers, which could drive prices down.
Still, analysts put what they call “superluxury” properties in a category of their own. Worries about the rest of the market do not seem to have damped Swire’s enthusiasm for what it is describing as potentially the most expensive apartments in the city.
The company’s marketing blitz began two years ago, when it flew Mr. Gehry, now 83, to Beijing for a retrospective that spotlighted his masterpieces like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, before concluding with a sales pitch for Opus.
In March, Mr. Gehry was in Hong Kong as the final touches were put on the project. A dozen publicists ran around, ushering television crews in and out. Mr. Gehry looked out a curvy floor-to-ceiling window at an expanse of green in the upscale Peak neighborhood, drinking black coffee and ignoring the hubbub around him.
“Your quote will have to wait,” he said to one of the many journalists, “until I finish this piece of chocolate.”
Hong Kong property is among the world’s most expensive, partly because the government controls land supply, and there is precious little buildable land left. It is a city where high-rises hold as many tiny homes as possible, where even ordinary new offerings of property for sale result in huge lines and where the police stop overly aggressive real estate agents from harassing passers-by. Against this backdrop of frantic buying and selling, Opus is something of an anomaly: a relatively small superluxury development that Swire expects to hold onto itself.
Compared with Mr. Gehry’s more experimental works, Opus is tame in terms of design. It is essentially a glass cylinder with gentle curves, as opposed to the explosion of flaps, sails and ripples seen elsewhere.
The twisted support beams are on the exterior, leaving the vast interiors column-free. Seen from above, it is shaped like a flower, with the curved windows and balconies of the “petals” offering views that would be impossible with a more conventional construction.
“The level of iconicity depends on the appropriateness of it,” Mr. Gehry said of the building’s relatively quiet design. “This site on the Peak allows for a very dynamic, sculptured piece. The best thing is to be respectful, and not to pre-empt the neighborhood.”
The project stands out for two reasons. First, the 12-story building has only 12 units: two duplexes with private gardens and pools on the ground floor, and 10 apartments above, each taking up a whole floor and each with its own design. Apartments range from 6,000 to 6,900 square feet, palatial by Hong Kong standards.
Second, though the development is hardly modest in price, it is modest in scale because of Opus’s particular circumstances. It could be built only because the Swire Group — a conglomerate, controlled by a British family, whose origins date to the 19th century China coast trade — released a plot that had been held privately since the 1940s and had previously been used for a company director’s home. That home was razed. Swire had to apply for special government permission and could build only to a certain height.
“We couldn’t do the horrible chopsticks,” Martin Cubbon, Swire Properties’ chief executive, said in an interview, referring to the towering spires typical of the cityscape. “We recognized that we were doing something special.”
Swire is aiming at high-end tenants by dividing the building into a small number of large apartments. Typically, a developer in Hong Kong would use that same space to create as many as 50 to 100 apartments, starting at 600 square feet, which is closer to the size of an average Hong Kong home.
Opus is also different because Swire intends to rent, not to sell. “The family want to retain ownership,” Mr. Cubbon said of Swire’s ultimate owners. “They are not interested in selling unless there’s an exceptional offer.”
Anthony Hindmarsh, director of Qi Homes, a boutique real estate agency in Hong Kong, said that high-end apartment owners were increasingly holding onto their property.
“A lot of owners don’t want to sell cheap or at all. They don’t know where else to invest, with the stock market so unsteady,” he said. “They don’t need to sell, especially unique properties.”
According to a report by Savills, the global real estate company, Hong Kong property costs rose steeply from December 2008 to June 2011: Average home prices increased 87 percent during that time, while luxury properties rose 188 percent.
Hong Kong residential real estate is divided into four broad categories: public housing, mass-market units, luxury apartments and superluxury. Analysts set superluxury apart as a category that is all but immune to the usual market fluctuations and other factors, like mortgage policy.
According to Centaline, a property agency in Hong Kong, prices of secondary private residential properties are near their highest levels since 1997, the year Hong Kong was handed from British to Chinese rule. While most analysts and agents are predicting a correction in general housing prices this year, they are more sanguine about the very top end.
“In the superluxury market, it’s not just about the price,” said Vincent Cheung, Cushman & Wakefield’s national director for greater China. “On these properties, the price will not go down.”
According to “Wealth Report 2012,” released in late March by Knight Frank and Citi Private Bank, Hong Kong luxury property prices grew about 60 percent over the last five years, making them among the fastest-growing in the world.
“There is still a shortage of properties,” said Thomas Lam, head of research for greater China at Knight Frank.
He called superluxury “a totally separate market” and added, “It’s not about income. It’s about lifestyle.”
“Per square foot, it will be among the most expensive in Hong Kong,” Mr. Cubbon of Swire said about Opus. “These will be among the highest rents in Hong Kong, quite possibly among the most expensive in the world, except for very special individual properties, like a penthouse at Hyde Park” in London.
Swire has not released potential rental prices for Opus. Listings of nearby buildings and estimates by analysts, however, put top-end rents on the Peak at 60 to 90 Hong Kong dollars, or $7.70 to $11.60, per square foot a month. The monthly rent for a 6,000-square-foot flat like one at Opus would work out to 360,000 to 540,000 Hong Kong dollars, or about $46,000 to $69,000.
While expensive projects in Asia, and particularly China, continue to lure many Western architects, Mr. Gehry has done nothing in the region before Opus, except for what he called “a little restaurant in Kobe,” in Japan.
Now, however, he is one of three finalists competing to design the National Art Museum of China. “I heard that it’s hard in Beijing to get close to the client,” he said. “You’re just blind.
“But I love the idea of a culture that is aggressively building new worlds and sustainable cities,” he added. “An old guy like me finds that interesting, and I want to help them. I’d like to be involved in their new cities. I could be valuable to them.”

Friday, May 11, 2012

Shameless Mother's Day-Olympic tear-jerker

Happy Mother's Day, everyone.
Here's to all of us normal moms who haven't produced Olympic champions or straight-A students, but who are still up all those late nights and early mornings.
I've never done any work as difficult as those first few months of motherhood.
I know, I know. It's a Procter & Gamble ad (and a finely wrought one at that). Still, it's a catchy slogan: The hardest job in the world is the best job in the world.

And here is a gem of a YouTube comment -- something that every angry blogger should do: "Instead of wasting time over ridiculous fights on the internet regarding what this ad projects, how about you pick up the phone and call your mom?"

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Would you wear white sneakers to work?

I don't mean if you're a gym teacher. Would you if you were a professional woman in a big-city office? If you were many, many strata higher, and a couple decades older, than the student summer interns?
I saw this from a visiting colleague, who paired white sneakers with a black suit and men's-styled button-down. 
You couldn't get away with this in banking or law, but I think media and other creative industries are a grey area. I must say -- in all unfairness -- that the young and male could pull this off much more easily than the middle-aged and female. Personally, I wouldn't. Would you?

Would you wear white sneakers to work?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Do Asian universities' reputations precede them?

When I started a website in 2006, the main point was to have a place to put my published writing, since having cardboard boxes filled with yellowing  scraps was not particularly efficient. It was only later that I started using my online space to blog. Now the tables have turned -- I use Joyceyland as a place tfor  personal writing, and I often forget to post my I.H.T. / N.Y.T. stories in a timely manner.
I've been so busy with my new job as the I.H.T.'s Education Editor that I haven't put my education-related writing here. In the post below is a round-up of brief items I've done  -- though "briefs" are not usually particularly meaningful or fun to read; they're just straight-forward factual writing. 
The story below is way out-of-date (it published 6 weeks ago), but I found it pretty interesting, especially as Asian universities try to make their mark in the field of higher education, which has historically been dominated by the U.S. and Britain. 

Asian Schools Gaining Respect, Report Finds

Last Thursday, the magazine released its second World Reputation Rankings in a report that said, “The West loses ground to the East in the global index of academic prestige.”
The very elite schools, which the magazine calls the “top six supergroup,” are the same American and British schools that top most university rankings: Harvard in Massachusetts; the Massachusetts Institution of Technology; Cambridge in England; Stanford in California; the University of California, Berkeley; and Oxford in England. The United States dominates the list, with 44 of the top 100 universities in the world.
Japan is the only Asian nation to crack the top 20, with the University of Tokyo, also known as Todai, keeping its previous spot as No. 8, and Kyoto University squeaking in at No. 20.
Phil Baty, the editor of the Times Higher Education Rankings, said by telephone from London that Japan’s success was “exceptional” and was based on decades of postwar development.
“Our reputation as Japan’s leading university is unquestioned,” said Masako Egawa, Todai’s executive vice president. “It is built on Todai’s long tradition of educating the nation’s political, industrial, scientific and cultural elite and its role as a key route for acquiring Western learning, the route by which Japan became the first non-Western developed state.”
The upward movement of Asian schools is seen mostly in the rankings’ second tier. The National University of Singapore moved up to 23 from 27. Tsinghua University in Beijing improved its standing to 30 from 35. Peking University rose to 38 from 43, leapfrogging the University of Hong Kong, which moved up to 39 from 42.
“East Asia is consistently creeping up the rankings,” Mr. Baty said. “The notable shift is from West to East. It’s subtle, but significant.”
“Everyone is conscious of Asia’s rising and of the increase in government funding. That contrasts with the problems we’ve had, with austerity measures and students rioting in Westminster,¨ he said, referring to mass protests in London in late 2010 over rising university fees.
Tan Chorh Chuan, president of the National University of Singapore, said in a statement that the magazine’s ranking of his institution was “a strong endorsement of our continued efforts to pioneer educational innovations that provide a top quality education, global student exchange and internship opportunities, as well as our cutting-edge research.”
Top Asian schools seem to do better when ranked on reputation than on more solid criteria and performance. In the more conventional rankings, Todai is listed at 30 and Tsinghua at a modest 71.
“Reputation is more forward looking,” Mr. Baty said about the discrepancy. “Meanwhile, our regular rankings take a long time to climb, since they depend on criteria like research and citations.”
The best-regarded 100 universities are still overwhelmingly Western and Anglophone. China is the only country among the world’s four major developing nations — the others are Brazil, India and Russia — to have a big presence.
Brazil is represented by one school, the University of São Paulo, which ranks among the top 70 schools. Russia and India have no schools in the top 100.
“There’s a real buzz about China, but there are still problems with academic freedom, curriculum and building a culture of inquiry,” Mr. Baty said. “China is producing more research, but it now needs to look at the impact of that research, and not just the quantity of papers. If you look at hard, objective indicators, China has a long way to go.
“For the Harvards and Cambridges of the world, academic freedom is very important. This is the next step for East Asia.”

All about education

Here are some more short articles I've written -- briefs, we call them -- that have appeared in the I.H.T.'s weekly Monday eduction section. 
Briefs -- April 27, 2012

By Joyce Hor-Chung Lau

Tokyo business school helps rebuild areas hurt by quake
The Graduate School of Management at Globis University in Tokyo will work with the Daimler-Nippon Foundation Innovative Leader Fund to support reconstruction work in areas destroyed by the deadly earthquake in Japan in March 2011, the school said in a statement last Friday.
The project aims to train future leaders in finding solutions to challenges, like those faced by communities hit by the quake, the statement said. The fund will also award scholarships to students who open businesses in the devastated Tohoku region.

University of Hong Kong says goodbye to arts home
The Faculty of Arts at the University of Hong Kong bid a formal farewell this month to its home for the last 99 years: the Main Building, an imposing 1912 structure with granite columns, turrets, courtyards and a clock tower.
The university gave several reasons for the faculty’s move to the new Centennial Campus, which is still under construction: It will allow all arts departments to be under once roof and will provide more room for facilities, historic archives and exhibition spaces. The Social Sciences and Law Faculties will also move to the new campus.
Hong Kong schools are rushing to make space as the territory’s universities move from a three-year to four-year curriculum, meaning that there will be twice the number of freshman heading to campuses in September.
“We were facing serious space and technical constraints,” said Dr. Kam Louis, the dean of arts.

New M.B.A. at University of British Columbia
The Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver announced a new M.B.A. program in a statement last week.
The 16-month program starting this autumn will focus less on academics and more on practical skills. It will include a trip to one of the program’s three partner schools: The Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, Copenhagen Business School or Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

London business schools working with Arab Society
The Association of Business Schools, based in London, announced last week that it would collaborate with The Arab Society of Faculties of Business, Economics and Political Sciences on a reciprocal membership agreement. The two organizations represent almost 200 business schools. 

Briefs -- April 2, 2012 

20 business schools to meet at Global Network gathering
The heads of about 20 business schools are scheduled to meet in New York April 26 for a meeting of the Global Network for Advanced Management.
The Yale School of Management, which has convened the group, called it the first global network of business schools. Participants include the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; Insead of France and Singapore; the London School of Economics and Political Science; the National University of Singapore; Renmin University of China; and Seoul National University. — JOYCE HOR-CHUNG LAU

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hong Kong day trips on the water

When I was an editor at HK Magazine -- God, a decade ago -- we had a stockpile of "service articles." They were seasonal and, I hate to admit, often tweaked slightly and repeated years after year.
Every December it was "Top Ten Christmas Gifts," plus "Top Ten New Year's Parties," followed inevitably by "Top Ten Healthy Resolutions." Our springtime perennial, the un-glamorous "Top Ten Ways to Get Rid of Mold," was surprisingly popular. Beaches in the summer, school classes in the autumn -- you get the idea.
Even then, I knew this wasn't serious journalism. They were easy-to-write, easy-to-read, crowd-and-advertising-pleasing space-fillers.
I don't do many service article  anymore, since the I.H.T. is so serious. So it was fun to do this little puff piece. I hope it helps some of our summer visitors.
Special Report: Asia Travel

Touring Hong Kong’s Waterways

May 2, 2012, The International Herald Tribune / The New York Times

Adrian Bradshaw/European Pressphoto Agency
HONG KONG — Life here has always revolved around the water. For centuries, Victoria Harbor was this bustling port’s lifeline to travel and trade. Hotels and skyscrapers sprang up on its banks, growing into the skyline known today.
Hong Kong’s waterways can be as busy as the city streets themselves. The harbor has wooden junks vying for space with luxury cruise ships and slow-moving ferries steering clear of giant cargo ships.
Particularly in the summer, it is a starting point for yacht trips and seafood excursions, as well as a gateway to almost 200 islands in Hong Kong. Barring a helicopter flight, the best way to see the real Hong Kong is by setting sail.
When asked where she would send a time-pressed new traveler to Hong Kong, Echo Zhu, chief concierge at The Peninsula hotel, recommended a surprisingly modest attraction: a rickety historic ferry that costs no more than pocket change (at most, 3 Hong Kong dollars, or about 40 cents).
“For first-time visitors, I recommend walking down to the Star Ferry pier, taking the boat across the harbor, and then going up to The Peak,” Ms. Zhu said. “The ferry is 100 years old and a Hong Kong icon.”
From the top deck, you watch the double skyline go by on the 10-minute ride between the Kowloon Peninsula and the Central financial district on Hong Kong Island.
Ms. Zhu said that her guests often asked if they could ride “the Chinese boat,” after seeing red-sailed wooden junks in the harbor. Her recommendation is that tourists make a telephone booking for the Aqua Luna , which was crafted by an 80-year-old artisan and is now run by a local restaurant group. It offers 45-minute harbor cruises, with cocktails served on board, for 120 to 240 dollars a person.
Ms. Zhu’s second choice is the Duk Ling , which was built in Macau a half-century ago. The Hong Kong Tourism Board calls it “the last authentic sailing junk in Hong Kong.” It is slightly less convenient than the Aqua Luna because visitors have to go to a tourism booth with their passports to register — plus, there are no cocktails — but it is the real deal. An hour tour costs 100 dollars a person.
Few visitors realize that about 40 percent of Hong Kong is protected green space, with much of it easily accessible from the city center.
At piers tucked below the International Finance Center, ferries shuttle between Central and the outlying islands. In 30 to 50 minutes, you can reach car-free isles with fishing villages, hiking paths, small beaches and sidewalk seafood restaurants with plastic tables, cold bottles of beer and live fish and crustaceans splashing around in tanks. To do as the locals do, find the fish-hawker in the black rubber boots and point out the poor creature you want to become your dinner.
The ferries are frequent and user-friendly enough that an enterprising traveler can do a half-day island trip without a tourist guide or much preparation.
The most popular destination is Lamma, a cross between a fishing village, a free-spirited hippy hang-out and a tourist attraction.
If you are pressed for time, take the ferry to the village of Sok Kwu Wan for its seafood restaurants. Those who can spend a day can choose the larger village of Yung Shue Wan, where there are small shops and a relatively easy hiking path leading to Sok Kwu Wan.
A quieter, smaller alternative is the island of Cheung Chau.
Visitors with young children might choose Lantau Island’s Discovery Bay, a car-free suburban enclave where residents get around in golf carts. It has a modest-sized beach, a row of waterfront restaurants and a plaza filled with children and pet dogs. It is pleasant enough, though probably not a particularly authentic local cultural experience.
Those who want to visit the islands by more luxurious means than the public ferry can rent a “junk” for a day or half-day. (In Hong Kong, almost all leisure craft are called junks, even if they are modern yachts). Usually, this is a good option for a group, but there are certainly moneyed visitors happy to rent whole boats for themselves.
Saffron Cruises can arrange a four-hour Lamma dinner trip, which includes sailing to and from the island, and having a seafood meal preordered for you. (It saves you from having to choose your own jumbo shrimp).
Saffron, which has about 30 boats, is popular for junk parties — a Hong Kong summer staple in which dozens of friends or relatives sail out, anchor offshore, and spend the afternoon eating, drinking and swimming.
Paco Goetschalckx, Saffron’s sales manager, said that the boats used by local crowds — mostly larger, slow-moving, budget-friendly China-made models — were often booked early for the peak months of June to September. For upscale or business travelers, he recommended, “higher-end European vessels that have a smaller capacity, but are very fast compared to traditional junks.”
“It’s like the difference between a Rolls Royce and a Toyota,” he said.
These boats can sail from the beaches on the south side of Hong Kong Island to the more open New Territories in an hour, making them a good choice for visitors with time constraints. According to Mr. Goetschalckx, high-end vessels are more likely to be available on short notice.
A typical offering would be a British-made yacht with two bedrooms and white-leather interiors. For 40,000 dollars, a two-man crew can take a dozen people out for a half day. Alternatively, you can rent a four-man or five-man sailboat for about 10,000 dollars. “If you’re an experienced sailor, you can sail it yourself, though our captain will be on hand to help,” Mr. Goetschalckx said.
Like most junk companies, Saffron offers catering: canapés, hampers or a three-course buffet. But, as this is Hong Kong, anything is possible for a price.
“We’ve been asked to do champagne, fine wines, caviar,” he said. “We also work with private chefs who can work right on the boat, or at a beach barbecue.” Some corporate clients have even arranged to be picked up directly from the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center by Victoria Harbor.
There are a handful of companies like Saffron. Jaspa’s Junks is a smaller operation with six boats and a greater focus on dining, as it is run by a local restaurant group. All the boats have fully equipped kitchens and prices include food, drink and servers. Meanwhile, Spoilt can arrange private lessons in watersports for active, individual travelers, or four-hour sailboat sunset trips for small groups.

Friday, May 4, 2012

OK, OK. We're not a cultural desert. Stuff going on around town

In December 2010, I wrote this in the I.H.T. / N.Y.T., "Picasso sightings are usually few and far between in Hong Kong. There are none in the city’s museums."
 I'm happy to say that Hong Kong has  proven me wrong.
Tickets go on sale today (Friday) for an exhibit of 55 works by Picasso, making it the largest retrospective of its kind in Hong Kong.  ‘‘Picasso  —  Masterpieces from Musée National Picasso, Paris’’  will be at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum from May 19 to July 22.

"Jeune fille assise" (1970), © Succession Picasso, 2012; © Musée National Picasso, Paris;  © Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux 
In September 2010, I reviewed a lovely exhibit at the Hong Kong Museum of History about the cheongsam, but lamented that there was no catalog, and that the show would fade away into obscurity after it closed.
I'm still not sure about the catalog, but a smaller version of the exhibit has popped up in my local Olympian mall in Kowloon.
It's obviously not as large or well curated as the one in the museum -- which would be pretty hard to do when it's sandwiched (ha, no pun intended) between TASTE and Starbucks. But I'm glad the government is making an effort to bring these shows to the types of people who don't usually go to museums.
Plus, selfishly, I'm glad to have a beautiful, serene exhibit to walk past on my way to the grocery store, instead of the usual throbbing B-list Canto-pop stars or pushy car shows that often appear in that space.
Since the below photo was such a hit with my boy blog-readers, I will reprint it. (For some reason, the Qing Dynasty qipao that looks like an embroidered potato sack was not as popular)

Courtesy Hong Kong Museum of History
Tomorrow night (Saturday), the world's cutest heavy metal guitarist will be playing at the Foreign Correspondents Club. I interviewed the pre-teen Japanese prodigy back in October 2010. (Hmmm, all these stories are from autumn 2010. It must have been a busy time at work.)
Unfortunately for Yuto Miyazawa fans, the FCC is a private club -- but maybe Foamie, Ulaca or some of my journo friends will see this.
The kid's going to be a heartbreaker when he grows up. (Yuto, that is. Not Foamie)