What We Did Last Rainy Day

What We Did Last Rainy Day (And Then Some)

This has to be the most fabulous Wellcome (I remembered the 2 "L"s!) in all of Hong Kong: Car-friendly aisles in the superstore at nearby WestWood shopping center.

Who needs PlayTown (in same mall) when one can drive past live fish and crabs in air-conditioned comfort without wearing one's seatbelt?

All that's missing is the milk moustache...

When you're 2 1/2, Escalator Fixing is a red-bean bun-worthy spectator sport

The one in the showroom is always more fun.

Then there are 100-year old Turkish carpets (yes, that really is) to be broken in

A good book to nap by is always appreciated

And maybe Mummy won't notice it's the end of the day when we tell her it's time to go out and do it all again.

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Dear Rockstar, This Is How Demand And Supply Works

Dear Rockstar,

Mummy recently attended a class titled “Overview of Legal & Regulatory Framework for Securities and Futures Industry.” It was a bit like Mrs Jane’s Big Boy Class you are currently so proudly attending (“with no Mummy, no Jie-jie,” in your own words), in that there were also rectangles and squares (in something called diagrams) and stories and jokes. Only Mummy’s teacher Mr Eugene used fewer big actions and didn’t do any singing.

Among other things, Mummy’s class was about how a group of people called the SFC’s job is to administer laws about securities and futures. They have to make sure the market in Hong Kong develops well and does not become a zoo (where you have to lock the animals up in case they hurt other people.) If they let the animals hurt people, no one will want to go to the zoo.

So the SFC throws the book at naughty people through fines and jail sentences. But at the same time, they have to make sure they aim right (which they try to do with Defences and Exceptions). If good people got hit with the books the SFC was throwing, they would not want to visit the zoo.

Yes, Rockstar. But even naughtier than that.

Or That (pushing JD's basket out of our bedroom because you two have had your umpteenth fight.) But only just.

As long as it pays more to be a crook than it does to be a regulator, you will get first-rate crooks and second-rate regulators. This is how demand and supply works. Fining naughty people is a way to discourage first rate professionals from being crooks. But Mummy thinks the Hong Kong Government could go one step further by giving the regulators a big raise, just to be doubly sure. Hong Kong market regulation is too important a job to risk attracting monkeys if peanuts are paid.

Mummy and her classmates looked at real cases about what has happened to other people who were caught doing naughty things (like Insider Dealing and Giving Misleading Information, which is roughly Cheating and Lying in the Trading Game). In the last 2 years, the SFC significantly stepped up punishments hoping fewer people would then want to cheat. Cheaters have to pay a lot of money in fines. And from last year, a lot more cheaters started getting locked up, just in case they didn’t feel the pain from the fines. Fines and time are the grownup equivalent of spanking and the SFC wants it to hurt. The maximum penalty for insider dealing currently stands at 10 years in jail and a fine of HKD 10 million, on top of giving back whatever money benefit is made from cheating.

People often tried to cheat when playing the Trading Game because they thought it was easy to make more money. Sure they knew they might get caught, but the prospect of a lot of money made them overcome their fear of going to jail. The more money people stand to make, the more people get attracted to, or start thinking of, new ways to be naughty. This is why being naughty has to be made to hurt.

Mummy thinks the Powers That Be should make sure the really important jobs like teaching, cancer research and yes, market regulation, are held by the best and the brightest of our generation by setting very high minimum salaries – that way our smartest people will focus on nurturing young minds (also curing cancer, catching crooks, creating the best market in the universe) instead of thinking of new ways to be naughty. As Mummy read case studies with tens of millions involved, Mummy couldn't help thinking how much society would have benefitted if that much brain power had been set to more productive use than cheating.

Oh, and Mummy agrees with you that all lessons should include a song. Mr Eugene could have sung your favorite Humpty Dumpty in Mummy’s class – it’s after all about bad eggs who were naughty enough to sit on walls and therefore had falls. All the kings horses and men being unable to put Humpty together again could be the SFC’s theme song for crooks.



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The Accidental Housewife – Not

On a whim yesterday, I cabbed down to Wing On Center, shelling out HKD 790 for Hong Kong Securities Institute’s Overview of Legal & Regulatory Framework for Securities and Futures Industry 2-day course that began that very evening. It had to do with a sudden wish to chalk up the requisite 5 CPT (Continuous Professional Training) points that go toward maintaining my HKSI Type 1 licensing.

Why would I do that? Wasn’t I sure about staying home to raise rockstar?

Returning a few hours later to the HKSI training center (having bathed and checked Rockstar's dinner), I found myself listening intently to what would ordinarily have been a snoresome course for me had I still been working. I hold speaker Eugene Lee partly responsible, “Please switch off your mobile phones. We wouldn’t want to accidentally wake someone.” You have to understand, he’s a Head of Legal & Compliance. I don’t know that many with a sense of humor.

Back when I worked, guys like Mr Lee would sometimes have been seen as the enemy. People get pushed for budgets, other people get pushed to keep the people with the budgets from regulatory breach, thereby sending everything everyone has worked for down the toilet, both sides are adversarial, hopefully everyone meets reasonably somewhere in the middle.

On and off during the course, I felt pangs. I can be such a hopeless idealist. Which is even sadder when you realize the career I had was in, of all things, banking. It embarrasses me to admit that it took several months away from work irritations to look at the regulators and feel someone was actually trying to make things better.

At a time when cynicism is cool and making fun of watchdogs is cooler, this feeling is horrible and I hope it goes away soon. I was in 3 mergers in my career, accounting for at least half a dozen banks on my 10-year CV. That should be cynicism enough. And that’s not counting all the management coups de tat where you don’t have an actual legal merging of the two entity names. (For eg, Big Boss leaves. New Big Boss comes in. New Big Boss brings host of Little Bosses from his old shop.)

Mergers bring out the best and worst in people. And so I believe. I believe in an inherent goodness in people, the kind of thinking that could get me run over by Hong Kong’s famous taxi drivers. (How many people in Tung Lo Wan Causeway Bay was it they bump into every week? I get taken for a literal ride round Hong Kong not infrequently – I find myself paying a lot more taxi fare because of my accented and dubious Cantonese.)

So ok, to not sound so psycho, let’s make that some people. I believe in the inherent goodness in some people. Each time there was a merger I clung to this belief. And I daresay I was rewarded by a friend or two. (Most of whom, sadly don’t read blogs regularly. But this one’s for them anyway – and I guy named Randall who gave me some of the best blogging advice: “Be Yourself. And write what you know” – it’s giving me the guts to write stuff even when I think I am so getting scoffed at.)

And so here I am, safely away from mergers, hoping still for a chance to meetInherent Goodness. Hi there. I missed you so. Guess that means I do miss my job. This scares me. Gweipo talked, among other things, about the perils of rejoining the HK workforce, as has Joyce and myself briefly in our comments. What happens when Rockstar is grown and has his own life? What Next, indeed.

Here’s why I’m still fine: Every decision is a package. Every job, every friend, every person we date, whoever we choose to spend our lives with – everything we ever choose, all the big ones, will be a package. We can never take the good without the bad, it seems like such a trite thing to say, I know, but most people I speak to seem to see this, but not really see this.

I have a list. What’s most important to me. What I can’t live with. Then I choose the option that has the most of what’s important to me and the least of what I can’t live with. In moments of self-doubt, I review the list to see if anything on it has changed:

Most important to me: Bringing up my son right.

What I can’t live with: Bitterness.

The sweeter the idealist, the more bitter the cynic upon disillusionment. In current market conditions it’s just too easy to become disillusioned. Being bitter I believe is a terrible way to raise a young mind. It will affect everything you say and do with the child. I've had some experience.  This belief supersedes even my fear of not being able to return to the workforce someday.

So I’m staying housewife. But I’m keeping my CPT records.

Hello, CPT points.

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