A Day in the Life

5:15 AM – Today is Monday, which means early shift. I went to bed around 9:00 last night, but around 2:00 I woke up and checked the clock, wondering if I should let myself go into a deep sleep. With 3 hours left, I tell myself that I should just let myself sleep. Near the end, I wake up again and keep worrying that if I fall asleep, the alarm will go off. Finally, it does and I stay in bed a couple more minutes before getting up.

5:30 AM – I grab a few extra moments of sleep in the shower.

5:53 AM – I kiss JC goodbye and walk out the door, wondering whether it might be the last time I ever see her. It does seem a little paranoid, but it’s a good way to make sure you say goodbye to your loved ones the right way.

6:05 AM – For coffee I stop at McDonald’s, since it’s the only place that’s open. It comes with a Filet-O-Fish and a hash brown, valuable protein and carbs for later in the morning. I still have a few minutes so I sit at the bar table and open up my coffee, taking a few sips before covering it back up and inserting a straw into the little sippy hole. It will be useful for when I’m on the MTR.

6:20 AM – I’m sitting on the MTR, watching people reading their papers and playing with their phones. Sometimes I wonder if I’m wasting my precious time by just sitting or standing on the MTR doing nothing, but at the same time it’s too early in the morning to be craning my neck down to look at my phone. I prefer to keep my mind quiet and my neck unstrained.

6:35 AM – Now on the Tung Chung line, I see 3 of the same people that I saw last week. One of them turns out to be a cleaner in my building. It’s interesting how if you repeat the same patterns, sooner or later you’ll run into someone else who shares the same pattern. When I’m on late schedule I often run into the same girl heading in the opposite direction.

6:43 AM – Two escalators take me all the way up to the open square above, which I only discovered recently (not a loss though because the weather became walkable only recently). It’s a lot better walking in the open air than inside the shopping mall. The LVs, the Shanghai Tangs, the Piagets, the Piguets, boy it does get stuffy after a while. It’s monsoon season so the wind is strong this morning. The air is pretty clear, too, and I can see IFC across the harbor haze-free. Compared with last week, it’s darker. Pretty soon it will probably still be completely dark at this time.

6:53 AM – I get in to work and eat my hash brown before sending the first report of the day. It’s a weekly check of machines to make sure they’re all running OK. Everything checks out so I begin my rounds. It will take me over an hour and a half to do 5 floors, but in the end if it saves a flurry of calls later on, it’s worth it. As it is every week, a conference call starts playing on the phones. Words like earnings, outlook, and quarter accompany me on my walk. At the end (or actually, the beginning) of the day, it still is all about the money.

8:10 AM – Now I’m on the top floor, the penthouse. The decor is different up here. I rarely see the faces that occupy the seats and offices, because usually no one is in yet at this time. I walk into the office of the CEO, and it’s pretty bare, suggesting that she probably spends most of her time elsewhere. I wonder how someone becomes a CEO. The first thing that comes to mind is you know somebody. Of all the abilities people have, of all their Ivy League educations, the most important ability is to be able to interact with people, to get them to want to put you in a position of leadership. It probably helps if you inherently enjoy being around people. I think to myself that I’ll probably never become a CEO because of this one thing.

8:20 AM – That’s OK though, because now I’m finally done and I get to eat my Filet-O-Fish. I scarf it up (down) while I record the results of my walk. Now, my normal workday begins.

12:00 PM – Just like that it’s been a few hours. I’ve spent most of the morning multi-tasking: reviewing emails after being gone for the Thanksgiving holiday, responding to user queries, and following up on existing cases. Now it’s time to finally close out an old case, to switch out a user’s loaner machine for his real one. He’s a British guy and says “Cheers!” to me when I’m done. I answer “Cheers!” back, but I doubt I’ll ever get used to using this term in this manner. It belongs with a drink in my hand.

12:30 PM – Lunch time, but today we are understaffed so I stay at my desk to monitor the queue. I had brought my laptop to work so I could update my journal, too, carrying it in a big, bulky backpack. No matter, I do enjoy closing out tickets, and coming back from 4 days off it’s a little easier. I’ll call it a working lunch.

4:25 PM – The afternoon has been a whirlwind, dealing with tickets and users left and right. With 5 minutes left in my shift, a user desperately needs my help. I scramble trying to find him a solution, and finally I find what I’m looking for. I bring it up to him and connect it to his machine, and it works. Wow. It is there that I realize that it’s not just for him, but for his entire team as well. The moment of genuine gratitude from the users is the best part of the job.

4:48 PM – Finally in the elevator on my way out now. I send a message to JC to tell her I’m on my way home. Since it’s early shift today there’s no free shuttle until 5:00. Rather than wait, I take the MTR. It’s nice to be able to get a seat again, even if it’s for one stop. I’m not so lucky when I get to the Island line.

5:15 PM – I don’t get why people never move into the center of the car. I don’t get why people don’t vacate their seats for an old lady. That’s people for you. It will never change. If you are a government or someone in a position of leadership, you’d better take this into account.

5:29 PM – Home in less than an hour, and still less than an hour from my official off time. Not too bad, and dinner is about to be served, too. Tonight’s dinner is vegetable pancake and miso soup. Good stuff. I eat two bowls of rice while checking out the news every so often. Wow, so Occupy has deteriorated into this. I just wonder, in any relationship, what would happen if one party decided to completely ignore the other’s expression of concern, and then use forceful action to get them to stop expressing those concerns. Or, in other words, JC tells me something bothers her, I beat the shit out of her, realize that it’s the incorrect course of action, ignore her for a month, then two, then get a marriage counselor to order JC to suck it up, and then get tired of her nonstop complaining and beat the shit out of her again, all the while claiming she’s violating our marriage vows. Wonder how long I’d stay married if that were the case.

7:00 PM – We watch a show about the Vietnamese refugee situation in Hong Kong in the 80s and 90s. We have some ties to this community and it’s interesting to see the old footage. We wondered if we might see anyone we know. The funniest thing heard was a refugee saying that he felt like he was being played by God. He left Vietnam to escape communists only to find Hong Kong handed back to them again.

8:00 PM – It’s only the first day back but I’m exhausted already. This is the worst part, the energy cost I mentioned in this post. Even if there’s time, there’s no energy. I decide to go take a shower hoping it will refresh me a little. Before I go I pour myself a bottle of wine from the box I got for Thanksgiving. The boxed wine is pretty awesome, it’s vacuum packed so it keeps for weeks in the fridge. I just have to let it sit for a bit before drinking it.

9:29 PM – I had a nice shower but it didn’t really rejuvenate me. I came in to the office and started typing this. I wanted to type it this morning after reading another “day in the life” of a celebrity over the weekend. I’m no celebrity, but I wanted to see how I spend my day. If anything, it might help me organize my time better. You know, do the important things rather than the urgent things. It’s 9:30 PM now. My absolute deadline for bedtime tonight is 12:15. I’ll review and post this and then call it a night.

9:49 PM – Going to post now. Good night.

Menu Week of 5-19-14


Steak Plate

Sirloin Steak with Red Wine Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Simple Salad

I was at a supermarket with a more Western variety of foods (getting some Jameson Whiskey) when I ran across some Australian sirloin steaks that were on closeout. They looked pretty good so I snapped them up for Monday’s dinner. I’ve mentioned somewhere that beef is not as popular in Hong Kong, which means that deals can be had at the end of the day when supermarkets are trying to clear out inventory.

On the way home I realized that I hadn’t gotten anything to go with the steak. Luckily, I had bought some lettuce the previous week, and I still had a tomato and an onion. Instant salad. I also had a couple of potatoes left, so I opted for mashed potatoes, something we haven’t had since Thanksgiving of 2013.

Something to note for next time is that whole potatoes take a long time to soften. I was lazy and boiled them whole thinking they’d be nice and soft by the time I finished playing video games. They could definitely have been softer, especially when the only thing I have to mash them with is a fork. After applying some elbow grease, they came out okay. In tribute to my Aunt J, I left the skin on, because that’s how she used to make it.

The gravy was made with flour, butter, beef stock, and Cabernet Sauvignon.


Tuesday Night Meal

Water Convolvulus with Chili and Fermented Bean Curd
Stir-fried Lettuce with Garlic
Carrot and Lotus Root Soup
Cabbage, Corn, and Beef Sukiyaki

Variety is the spice of life, but when certain vegetables are in season it’s OK to eat a lot of it as well. Right now, it’s all about the water convolvulus (通菜).

As I said above I had some lettuce from the previous week. A popular way of cooking them here is to stir-fry them with some garlic. Cooking lettuce isn’t really something you see in Western cuisine, but it’s done in HK a lot. Doesn’t take long to cook, either.

Carrot and Lotus Root Soup

Carrot and lotus root soup came out great. I remembered to add a sweet date (蜜棗) this time, too.

Beef Sukiyaki with Corn and Cabbage

The sukiyaki was new. It’s a pain in the ass trying to think of new dishes to make on a daily basis. It seemed like we’d been having a lot of pan-fried meats (i.e. steak, pork chop, etc.) and I was browsing through the meat case trying to figure out what I could make. I saw some sliced steak and I thought of the times when we did hot pot with it, so I tried something new. I had a quarter of a cabbage left so I cooked that with some packaged instant miso soup, added corn, and plated while leaving the liquid in the pot. I then cooked the beef slice by slice, removing each slice immediately after cooking because the thin slices are super easy to overcook. I enjoyed this one.


Chinese Marrow with Dried Shrimp

Beef Stewed in Red Wine Sauce
Chinese Marrow Flavoured with Dried Shrimp
Leftover Lotus Root soup
Leftover Sukiyaki

Had some leftovers from Tuesday so made just a couple of dishes today. Used the leftover gravy from Monday to make a beef stew. Nothing complicated about that, bought some beef brisket and cooked it with the gravy and some added water. Soaked some dried shrimp beforehand, cut up some garlic, and stir-fried those until fragrant before adding the marrow and a little water. I used two kinds of dried shrimp, 暇米 and 暇乾. 暇米 as the name suggests is the smaller version. 暇乾 is dried-up regular-sized shrimp. I probably could have soaked those a little bit longer, because they came out slightly chewy. Overall I was happy with how this one came out.


Carrot and Marrow Soup with Dried Scallop
Steamed Pork Spareribs with Black Beans and Garlic

This is one of the easiest (simplest) meals ever. The soup takes 2 to 3 hours to simmer, so make it beforehand by cutting up some carrot and marrow and throwing it into some water along with a piece of lean pork. I like to parboil the pork with some ginger before adding it to the soup. Helps remove some of the nasty shit that boils up. A note about using carrot in soups: the giant ones with the dirt all over them really are sweeter and more flavourful. I only needed one for this soup.

Next, marinate some spareribs with soy sauce, minced garlic, sugar, white pepper, corn starch, sesame oil, and black beans. Place some on a small dish, stick it into the rice cooker with the steaming attachment. Rice and pork ready at the same time. Scoop out some of the carrot and marrow to eat with the rice.

It was Saturday night and I ate while watching TV without formally setting the table, so sadly no photos.

And so, another week goes by. I’m glad I took some time off this week. It can be difficult trying to think up meals, preparing them, and cleaning up afterwards.

Terra Vega Gran Reserva 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile

Terra Vega Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011

In Hong Kong (with no income) I’ve been drinking some cheap wines, usually in the USD$5.00 range. Though they are acceptable and enjoyable on the most part, there are sometimes flaws (such as weird aftertastes). The other night, I decided to try a slightly pricier wine, a bottle of Terra Vega Gran Reserva 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. For HKD$89.00, I was completely happy with this wine and its ability to enhance my New York steak. 😉

I would like to emphasize that as with whiskies, price isn’t always a good indicator of quality. There’s no guarantee that a pricier wine is better (whatever “better” means), and of course most people can’t even tell the difference between a $100 bottle of wine vs. a $10 one. At the end of the day, drink what is good to you and ignore all the noise that doesn’t really matter. Salud!

Tonight’s Dinners

Tonight we did takeout for dinner again, sampling a couple of styles of iconic Hong Kong food: street food, and the “rice box” (飯盒).

Ribeye Roast in Red Wine Mushroom Sauce

Ribeye Roast with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce

My dinner tonight, shared with family. It was one of those meals where I spend hours preparing it, and then eating it seems anticlimactic because it’s over so relatively quickly. Also, with all the hustle and bustle in the kitchen, it’s difficult to just sit down and eat. I kept getting up for one reason or another. Maybe in the future I’ll rest myself as well as my roast before I start eating.

Note to self: the Bridlewood Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles was pretty good, in case you want to get another one.

Random Food

This is a collection of random food items that I have enjoyed.

Random Food
August 26, 2010: Chicken wings marinated in fish sauce, cilantro, lime juice, and some other seasonings, then grilled.
Random Food
August 16, 2010: A nice New York steak dinner that I fixed up. I was especially proud of the red wine sauce.
Random Food
May 24, 2009: Steak and eggs, a classic breakfast.