Thursday, 27 September 2012

Start Up Weekend Hong Kong Edition 9-11 Nov 2012

Aspiring Entrepreneurs, Designers, Developers and other geniuses....Have some cool idea's and want to figure out whether it is worth checking out participating in any of the accelerators as run by Paul Orlando or Stephen Forte!

I am talking about THe Hong Kong Edition of Start Up Weekend. 54 Hours to get your idea shaped up, tested and grilled by a panel of experienced judges.

For more info and Pre Registration.... check out

And for the serial entrepreneurs ...we still can use a few mentors and judges for the weekend of 9-11 Nov!

Friday, 6 July 2012

PADI Recognition of Excellence

Last year I actively picked up teaching scuba diving again in Hong Kong. A nice hobby taking me out of town into nature during the weekends and working with people is also an added positive element.

One of the nice things is to see people progress, develop and smile at the end of a course.

Recently I received some nice news via PADI.

One of the people that did a PADI Open Water course send a message to PADI that they were very happy with the way the course was delivered.

Obviously it was nice to see the appreciation from both customers and PADI!

Thanks guys!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

whale shark sighting in Hong Kong

Last weekend I was out diving again in Hong Kong. When returning from one of the dives, one of the people on board called me over excitedly! An ipad got flashed out and he showed me an article on the SCMP website to point at an article with the unfortunate title "Family tells of terror after shark shuts down beaches"

SCMP gives a silly twist to the event and hooks into the fear of sharks in Hong Kong. A whale shark is a pretty harmless large fish, which feeds mainly on plankton or small fish. Attitude towards divers and swimmers is generally speaking friendly. You can find some more info at the wikipedia site of Whale Sharks. I can confirm this behaviour, in 2010 we went diving in Ahe, Papua, Indonesia to visit a "family" of whale sharks in  Cendrawasih bay. Upon jumping in the water, the whale sharks approached us curiously and sometimes it even looked like they wanted to play.

Got some photos from this trip up at this flickr set

Anyway, back to Hong Kong. A family went out sailing on the water when they spotted the fin. Normally the dorsal fins of sharks trigger a lot of panic, though when looking properly on the movie below you can actually see it is a tail fin. Silly to see shark alerts going up eveywhere as again, this shark (as most) does not have an aggressive nature at all. The "biggest incident" recorded with whale sharks was that someone was nearly sucked into the massive mouth of a whale shark whilst it was feeding. 

The sighting looks like a juvenile whale shark as it is only around 4 meters long. Nevertheless it must have been a magnificent sight to spot a whale shark in Hong Kong. The question remains, what was it doing here.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Dinner with Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche


On Wednesday night my wife and I had the privilege to join a dinner in honor of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. A Tibetan monk, who was in Hong Kong to lead a Buddhist retreat.

Born in Tibet and currently residing Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling, a Tibetan monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal. That means, if he is not traveling the world to conduct retreats or holds lectures/teachings. Those are also called Dharma Talks (

Even though he is "top of the line" in his area, there is no arrogance whatsoever. He is very approachable which he shows by having an open door policy on Saturdays. Meaning that anyone can walk in to listen to the teachings on Saturdays (well when he is in the monastery).

Anyway, the dinner was held at a nice small restaurant in Hong Kong with a limited number of guests, that included his entourage. The entourage were so of his Lama's and a few people that acted as translators from Tibetan to English. Having traveled to Tibet and some other areas around there, I was surprised to hear that the majority of the people were not vegetarian. They at beef, fish and of course vegetables. Now, it could be that the people in Tibet I travelled with were following the Bon traditions.

One of the interesting points of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche is that he does show a genuine interest in the people around him. Attempting to understand who they are, where they come from, what they do. And I have heard from a few people that often he does remember. Meaning that if you get to meet him another time he would recall the occasion and who you are.

Another characteristic is that he loves his humor and laughter. We did have lots of fun on the table, and fortunately were lacking any pretentious talks or one way lectures. Being in Hong Kong, taking pictures was obviously a must do thing. Whilst doing that he used the opportunity to joke around a bit as well.

It was not all fun and games, and a number of well..deeper topics were discussed as well. During the conversations the Rinpoche showed to be well informed on current global affairs. And rather than lecturing on how to fix it, he offered some thoughts for people on how they can think about what to contribute to get it fixed. Oh, and he even the topic of Lady Gaga was discussed as she is having her concerts in Hong Kong at the moment.

Rinpoche his facebook page can be found at

Altogether a very interesting and even inspiring evening, especially when putting it in context of busy Hong Kong.


Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Dubai Airport Lounges

Recently I had to return to Europe, and a convenient route was to use Emirates. Whatever airline I was going to take, there was no way to escape a stop over on either leg of the route. The stop over in Dubai was going to give me the least hassle. Of course a decent price tag, 30KG luggage allowance (yes economy) and the fact I could fly an A380 for the first time contributed as well.

On of my credit cards has the extra service of providing you with a so called PriorityPass. This company provides a membership service, allowing access to a number of airport lounges. It is an independent programme, so it doesn't really matter which airline or class you fly in order to be able to use the facilities.

As I had some time to kill in Dubai, it was time to find a lounge, have a coffee and maybe some food. Better, a decent place to sit, use the wifi and get the emails send. Dubai airport was quite alive (was there around 0400 local time. With heaps of people wandering around the many shops, Starbucks was full as were many other places that were open. People were sitting everywhere at the airport. Anyway, I choose the Marhaba Lounge, in terminal 3 at DXB. Close to gate 230 which was close to where my ongoing flight was departing from.

As usual, registering at the entrance desk is the first thing you do. As it was fairly busy this took a little while. No worries - as I just had been sitting for hours. After registration, let's pick up a coffee and find a place to sit. Oh, coffee machine broken. Then a juice would do. Food.. hmm most of the storage was empty as well. This as opposite to seating opportunities. The whole place was filled up with people, and shopping bags on tables chairs etc. It did look similar as outside the lounge. Finally found a space on a broken chair to sit down for a bit. So experience in this lounge not that great.

On the way back, I had a way longer time to kill. Getting to 10hrs. Well, it was either spending a little more time Dubai airport or stop and waste time at Bangkok for a bit. So I was hoping for a slightly better experience. This time I went to Terminal one where you can find then "DUBAI INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CLASS LOUNGE" between gates 108-110. The setup is fairly spacious, food and drinks in abundance and during my visit there was sufficient space to sit down as well. The wifi does work and has a decent speed.

Food gets refilled regularly and there is a good variation on cooked, salads and other dishes.

Since there was a time limit, I planned to move on the other Merhaba lounge in Terminal 1. When leaving, the gentleman asked if I wanted to extend though choose not to. When walking through the terminal I couldn't help to notice it was still busy with lots of people sitting, sleeping and hanging out everywhere. Anyway, arriving at the Merhaba lounge the welcome was way better than the one in terminal 3. A friendly smile and rapid service, despite the early hour. The setting was slightly better than terminal 3's lounge as well. Possibly due to the time there was sufficient seating - just about though. Food and drinks were sparsely available as well.

So, the best bet if you have to spend some time at a lounge would be the DUBAI INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CLASS LOUNGE.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Hong Kong airport providing a nice backdrop

During the last weeks the weather has been one of extremities. We had a good number of days where the temperature hit 30C and had some blue skies.

We had days where the pollution levels were getting so bad that the skies looked brownish or yellowish.

One of the things I like about living where I live now is the view. It covers the airport, mainland, sea and the hills.

With the diversity of weather it provides superb scenery for pictures.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Woohoo Tung Chung has Medium Pollution

Despite the high humidity, and due to a little with the air quality levels in Tung Chung are not tooooo bad at the moment.

So that sounds good to go for a run today then.....

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

CrossFit to Get Fit

Work out of the day ready #vibramfivefingers #crossfit #getfit #hongkong #outdoors

As the summer is around the corner, and since I have been sitting on my bum to much... it was time to pick up the exercise regime again. Other than the occasional run and bike ride it was time for a little more routine.

With a few others in the neighborhood we picked up Cross Fit. It is combines weightlifting, sprinting, gymnastics, powerlifting, and rowing to improve a strength and conditioning. Through that it adresses ten general physical skills: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and accuracy.

The cool thing is that work outs are 20minutes or less, a time slot that pretty much everyone should be able to slot in on a daily basis. With those short timeframes you are expected to go full on for your set. Which I find satisfying both physically and mentally....yes just to push out that one extra repetition. One of the things I like is that most of the exercises are natural movements, so not too many strange tools to be used. This makes it quite suitable for people doing lots of business travel as well. Many hotels do have some sort of gym facility, and else things like sit ups, push ups and burpees can be done at the hotel room.

It uses either a maximum number of movements during a time frame, or a shortest time for a set sort of approach. This keeps the competitive element in there. There are a number of benchmarking sets to check whether you are progressing or not.

Although I do see the value of the short bursts, I have yet to see how endurance will pick up. For example, how does it improve performing at a high level for say an hour or more.

So far am enjoying the ride as there is a big area for improvement!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Hong Kong Underwaterlife

Scmp article about hk underwater life

In a recent SCMP I picked up the article above under the letters to the editor section.

Although you would not associate Hong Kong with reefs like Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia that doesn't mean there is nothing to see. Often the first comments about diving in Hong Kong waters are like - nothing to see, cold, where?

Hong Kong waters are on the top side of tropical reefs, and therefore you will still be able to see hints of coral reefs. As the water temperature varies between 30c in summertime to 16c or so in wintertime, a good number of corals have difficulties growing. Though, a staggering 84 species of corals can be found (Out of 800 worldwide)! Not bad.. given the fact that the salt levels change  a lot, due to typhoons and other activities the turbidity can be quite high and there are big temperature fluctuations. All things not in favor of coral growth.

A 2011 ReefCheck shows some positive developments of the conditions of Hong Kong its reefs. Minor bleaching, and no real damage through dynamite and other destructive fishing. Some damage was caused by abandoned and lost fishing nets and other garbage.

The sites that do have an abundance of corals are a pleasure to dive, as this also means an increase in fish-life. There are many dive operators using the waters for training ground. Fortunately avoiding the really sensitive areas. Though with proper training and therefore good buoyancy control, those sites should be paid a visit. It would send a good signal to people that there is life in Hong Kong waters. This hopefully would also slow down the crab, lobster hunting as well as spearfishing on too small fish. In the summer of 2011 there was some good excitement about a sting ray spotted in Little Palm Beach. The excitement got tempered when the stingray was spotted in a bag, after being shot by a speargun.

Anyway, where are those areas? They mainly grow along the northeast and eastern shores where the waters are both sheltered (from storms and thus waves) and free from the influence of Pearl River (fresh water, sand etc). To be a little more specific, places like Tung Ping Chau, Kat O, Shelter Island, Chek Chau and Hoi Ha Wan are host to colonies. In the eastern region, likes Sharp Island, Shelter Island, Bluff Island and along the Sai Kung Peninsula smaller colonies can be found.

Want to see more about Reefs in Hong Kong? There is a lot of media available, from books to iPhone apps. The ReefCheck App can be found through here.

Interesting reads are "Hong Kong Reef Building Corals", a must have for any local diver. It provides some good background information on what corals are, their importance, how they grow and..where they can be found.

A more detailed one is "A Field Guide to Hard Corals of Hong Kong", an indepth write up of hard corals that can be found in the area.

Books can be bought at Cosmo Books

Monday, 27 February 2012

Portait Winery Hong Kong

Over the last years Hong Kong has experienced a boom on wine-bars, wine shops with some new business models coming through as well. For example sampling menu's, wine by the glass or by taster, get a card and "tap" as they do at California Wine Bar.

A new comer on the block, with definitely a cool concept is Portrait Wines. They import grapes from a few selected vineyards and do the whole winemaking process in Hong Kong. Winemaking takes place at their "factory" in Tsuen Wan. Besides making and bottling the wines, there is also a distillery where spirits are distilled. Pear schnapps is an example of what was available when I paid a visit to their tasting room (31 Staunton Street, Central, Hong Kong).

After a startup phase they started bringing their own wines to the market. If they were to sell to the big shops, bottles would be easy to recognize. The labels are made in a 1940's style graphics with the wines having similar themes. Definitely something different!

Their tasting room has a nice atmosphere, and a good place to pop in for a pre-dinner drink, whilst waiting for friends or anything else along those lines. Whilst being there, there are a number of tasting options if you feel in an exploration mood.

Their Rose (Farmgirl Rose) is a nice surprise and could grow quite popular. Compared to many others it is not overly sweet, and a good warm weather drink! It has a refreshing strawberry (not overpowering) and citrus aroma, with subtly dry flavors of ripe melon, peaches and red-red berries coming through.

Other red and white wines are definitely worth a try.. and to not spoil the surprises.... I will not share any more details. Pop in and enjoy :)

Sunday, 26 February 2012

International Association of Hand in Hand Divers Hong Kong

IAHD Hong Kong Logo

I am not really the kind of person who is into new years resolutions and things like that, though one topics on my "going to do list" is/was doing some work for volunteer organisations. Having been a diving instructor for some time now, I thought that doing something along those lines would be good.

There is one organisation in Hong Kong that supports people with disabilities who still want to explore the underwaterworld. The International Association of Hand in Hand Divers (Hong Kong) is a member of a global International Association of Handicapped Divers, which happened to be a Dutch organisation as well.

Today was my first encounter with the organisation and the way dive activities run. Normal divecourses are buzzing on the side, with students assembling their own gear and groups on multiple sides of the pool. Each group is lead by an instructor and sometimes a dive-master. Though in this case, there is a whole team of surface supporters. People that assemble gear, people that help the participants getting ready and so on. As not everyone is mobile, the "on deck" coordination is quite heavy to prevent chaos.

In most cases the in water work varies a fair bit as well. Try to move around if you can't move your arms or legs. How about handsignals underwater if someone can't see.....

My role today was fairly simple and straight forward, observe and lend a hand where you can. I have been doing exactly that. This included swimming/diving around the pool with some people. Nothing crazy, though it was nice to see and get some appreciation at the end.

Can't wait to get my instructor conversion sorted and run some open water and advanced courses!

UPDATE 05 March 2012: RTHK had a radio session regarding support for the disabled, a recording can be found here

Friday, 24 February 2012

Hong Kong Humidity hitting 100%

7-Day Weather Forecast

During spring time (yes, it is getting there here in Hong Kong) the temperatures show a rising trend again. They can bounce up and down as can be seen in the picture above, though it gradually increases.

With that, the relative humidity definitely goes up and for months it will hover in the higher regions. Think between 80-100%. Some of the effects are that your laundry won't dry for days, condensation all over the house and dampness of clothes and bedsheets for example. Of course, as soon as you get outside, you feel sticky and sweaty already.

Even some long term effects can be seen on books (turning yellow or show mold). A remedy is placing of dehumidifiers - shops in town sell lots of small little boxes filled with chemical stuff that absorbs the humidity. Obviously, leaving behind a massive trail of waste as most of the boxes are on time usage only.

A better solution I believe is using electric dehumidifiers as they have a good capacity and are stronger as well. And indeed.. Groupon Hong Kong has had some deals coming through already.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Social Media Analytics and Regulation #SMWKHK

Social Media Analytics & Regulation » Social Media Week

This week was Social Media Week in Hong Kong. A global series of events held in numerous cities with the theme.. well you might have guessed it, Social Media it is.

A whole week of events around the social media theme. Topics on how social media can be deployed, what kinds of social media there is and of course lots of sharing from people in the field. Although I didn't think the line up was very strong, there were some interesting sessions.

One of the events I attended had the topic:

Social Media Analytics & Regulation

With so much data being collected, it would be interesting to hear the state of affairs from the industry and potentially governments on data protection, privacy etc. The talk was divided in 4 sections:

  • Introduction and setting the scene by Kenneth Kwok Beehive Strategy (@BeehiveStrategy) who talked about why and how social media is deployed. He touched base on the how and why of social media, and shared some interesting movies like the one below, on the Return of Investment on use of social media. 

Basically use of metrics and analytics can help drive down the total cost of marketing as the marketing that is done is more effective and efficient. It obviously starts with defining what do you want to achieve from a marketing point of view. Define the goals and objectives of campaigns.

According to Kenneth the industry is working on some sort of self regulation at the moment, through for example the Hong Kong Digital Analytics Association ( Am curious to see how they will develop codes of practice for the industry.

The little bit of privacy discussion came up by showing the next video which is about Google+. The amount of data coming available to google is often raised as a point of concern for people. The old adagio: "if you don't pay for the product, YOU are the product" comes around the corner. Though, lets look at the next video..

An interesting point highlighted is the different Circles of people you hang out with, and what you would like to share with them. Google+ allows you to have more control over what ends up where. A better segregation on what you share with whom is possible. Though, a point not brought to the front is the fact that it allows Google to collect even more data around an individual. Uhh yes it is a big pitch on Google+ indeed.
  • Second section was by Jeremy Smith from EmailVision, a company providing email systems and hyps of tools to support campaigns etc. He talked a little on some of the drivers companies can have (marketing, customer service, events and lead generation) to use social media. In short he did show some of the product the company runs, though no serious touching base on discussing analytics and legal impact. One point he made was measure what matters. My interpretation of that is.. the number of likes on Facebook, do they actually help achieving your goals?
  • The last section was done by Dr. James She who just started a social media lab at he university of Science and Technology here in Hong Kong. Coming from an electrical and engineering background, he started of with talking about smart buildings and smart grids. How better data collection can help in forecasting utilization of buildings, and therefore can support decision making on energy conservation. People want to maintain a certain lifestyle, though this can sometimes mean a tradeoff on "savings". On that topic, I would say that there is still a significant amount of savings that can be achieved. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle can help, switching lights off on time, thinking about your temperature settings. The interesting bit comes in when there will be a link between currently used social media and other systems. To for example predict numbers of visitors for restaurants, building utilization etc etc. This will require vast amounts of data as well as hefty processing power. This data can really provide a personal profile for people. For once not only to provide targeted advertising but to improve the quality of life. A key question he put up was, who will be the owner of information. For example, if you tweet...if you write something on facebook, or when you log in using foursquare. Though it would be quite interesting to see your aircon at home switch on when you check in at a particular trainstation at a particular time.
  • Section 4, was supposed to be QA though not many questions were asked.
In short, the last part of the last presentation was quite interesting though unfortunately the sessions didn't really adress the topic of the event.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Hong Kong Air Pollution and its impact

The air quality in Hong Kong is a constant returning topic of discussion. Where does it come from, who is responsible, how do we measure it, what is good and what is bad. A major pain point is that the government only publishes the so called PM10 data which refers to the size of particles in the air. The size  of those particles also determines how deep they can penetrate in the body, and thus directly related to the damage they can do. For whatever reason there is no current data published on the so called PM2.5 measurements in Hong Kong, even though this seems to be an international standard.

The effects of inhaling particulate matter that have been widely studied in humans and animals now include asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular issues, birth defects, and premature death. The size of the particle is a main determinant of where in the respiratory tract the particle will come to rest when inhaled. Because of their small size, particles on the order of ~10 micrometers or less (PM10) can penetrate the deepest part of the lungs such as the bronchioles or alveoli.[11] Larger particles are generally filtered in the nose and throat via cilia and mucus, but particulate matter smaller than about 10 micrometers, referred to as PM10, can settle in the bronchi and lungs and cause health problems. The 10 micrometer size does not represent a strict boundary between respirable and non-respirable particles, but has been agreed upon for monitoring of airborne particulate matter by most regulatory agencies. Similarly, particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers, PM2.5, tend to penetrate into the gas exchange regions of the lung, and very small particles (< 100 nanometers) may pass through the lungs to affect other organs. In particular, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that PM2.5 leads to high plaque deposits in arteries, causing vascular inflammation and atherosclerosis — a hardening of the arteries that reduces elasticity, which can lead to heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.[12] Researchers suggest that even short-term exposure at elevated concentrations could significantly contribute to heart disease. A study in The Lancet concluded that traffic exhaust is the single most serious preventable cause of heart attack in the general public, the cause of 7.4% of all attacks.[13] - source
Hong Kong government currently seems hung up on some internal processes to get legislation approved. Though, in reality it looks more like they are dragging their feet. An example can be found here, an article by Friends of The Earth describing the "recent" developments with regards to upgrading the AQO's into the 21st century. Question would be why.....

You can argue that the government benefits from creating a healthy environment where people can perform well. With Hong Kong still using expatriate talents, loosing this talent-pool could have a negative impact on things. Articles in international (UK Telegraph) and local media (SCMP)  provide examples on people leaving due to the air quality. People return to their home country, or move on to arch-rival Singapore.

What is the impact on the local economy? Then University of Hong Kong its School of Public health keeps a tab on what the daily pollution levels are and translates that into the impact on the economy. The website can be found here with an example of the dashboard below:

Hedley Environmental Index

It would be interesting to see what course of action government will take in the near future with regards to the local creation of pollution, and what cross border initiatives are developed to adress pollution coming in from mainland China.

The issue is not only a challenge for Hong Kong, people in Shanghai and Beijing are also reconsidering their options. An example is serial entrepreneur Marc van der Chijs who also wrote a blog post about it which can be read here.

Silly enough, it is something you start considering as a part of living here. Checking air-pollution levels when you are about to do some sports outdoors. Heavy smog, irritated eyes, irritated airways and other silly things. People often have sinus problems like colds etc. (yeah - blasting aircons are not helping either). "Funny" bit is that when you are out of town to areas where air quality is better, many of those things disappear within 2-3 days.

Slowly step by step awareness is growing with the people. Organisations like Hong Kong Clean Air Network, Clear the Air Network, and Friends of the Earth work on public and government level to educate and initiate action.

It would be nice if action starts at individual levels, by decreasing polluting activities. Airconditioners on "non freezing"levels, insulation of buildings to keep heat out and cold in, switch of lights when not needed etc. Lets see what will happen next....

update 23 Feb 2012: The Wall Street Journal Blog put an article up called "Hong Kong's Killer Pollution", with an interesting comment of Joanne Ooi from Clean Air Network Hong Kong referring to local traffic being a major source of pollution as well.