Typhoon Mangkhut & Hurricane Florence – My problem with hanging “leopard signs”

Currently stuck indoors due to typhoon Mangkhut (also known as Ompong in the Philippines since they go by different names).

It’s a BIG one, Catagory 5 on the Saffir–Simpson scale (the highest the scale currently goes to) and a T10 warning has been called for the Super Typhoon in Hong Kong. Luckily, it won’t pass directly over us (it will come about 100km away from HK island) but it certainly feels like it lives up to the monicker of Worst Typhoon in Living Memory.

Lights were flickering earlier today but things seem to have settled down momentarily, so we should be good (we are also prepped just in case things get worse! ). The main road in and out of where I live in Hong Kong has been blocked off by a downed tree, and the tv/social media/online news keeps talking about skyscrapers with smashed windows or flooding, but overall HK is as ready as it will ever be for it.

Tree
From the community FB page

Anyways, since I’m stuck indoors all day today, why not write a blog post?!

I need to talk about the reporting of the typhoon by certain news organizations, in particular, Fox News.

Now… (this is your cue to leave if you don’t want to listen to me talk about media bias in USA news)

I’m not the biggest fan of Fox, but it popped up in my news feed and I’d thought I should read through it before making a snap judgment, as so often happens these days on the internet…

And it may be because I’m a double-majoring Ecology & History university student, thus I care deeply about climate change while spending a good chunk of my time possibly over analyzing the underlying reason/meaning behind the use of certain words.

But this article annoys the heck out of me.

It is titled “2 storms, Florence and Mangkhut, different as water and wind” 

(Linked using donotlink.it so you won’t boost the site’s search engine standings, nor will it the website be able to track where you are coming from) – Check it out if you want to, and keep me accountable!

The general gist of the article is the two tropical storms occurring at the moment – Hurricane Florence in the USA Carolinas area & Typhoon Mangkhut/Omopong in South East Asia (mainly the Philippines, HK, Macao & China – although my relatives in Taiwan also felt some of the storm’s effects) are extremely different – like “wind and water”.

(By the way, meteorologically speaking Typhoons and Hurricanes are the same thing – tropical cyclones – they just refer to which side of the International Date Line the cyclone happens)

Specifically, it points out how:

  • Mangkhut has been a Cat. 5 storm while Florence was lowered to a Cat. 1 before making landfall
  • Mangkhut is “faster-moving” while Florence has been moving “at a pace slower than a normal person walks”
  • Mangkhut will likely be deadlier as it hit “disaster-prone” areas, while Florence’s “insured loses” will be higher
  • There are generally more cyclones in the Pacific than there are in Atlantic (23 vs 10 this year)
  • M was formed “further south and stayed south”, while F was out of the tropics by the time it made landfall
  • M grew in warmer waters, while F was “weakened by the dry air and upper-level winds”
  • M is much larger than F (325 miles/523km vs 195 miles/314km)

Harmless little article containing facts about two tropical cyclones….

Right?

Except as I’m reading it, the alarm bells in my head get louder and louder.

Because all I’m thinking is “Huh… so these cyclones are completely unrelated and it is just an odd, natural coincidence that they are happening at the same time”

And if that is from someone who has decided to make a career out of understanding the anthropogenic (=human-caused) effects on our natural world.

Imagine what the average, layman is thinking after reading this article.

Imagine the fuel this gives human-caused climate change skeptics (who dismiss our impact and insist that the soley change is due to natural fluxuations).

Imagine the ammunition it gives to ACTUAL climate change DENIERS (which is for some reason still a thing).

Since while the facts are mostly sound, they are organized to presents a specific, disingenuous narrative.

The article, by spending paragraph after paragraph pointing out the superficial differences between the two storms, fails to highlight the underlying point.

In the future, we will see wetter, windier and more intense storms like Mangkhut and Florence due to anthropogenic climate change.

Sure, the article does address the problem…

in an off-handed, cursory way…

using an indirect statement instead of a quote…

after 95% of the article…

which was spent pointing out every conceivable way the cyclones differ…

as well as how natural the large typhoons, especially in tropical Asia…

…and only mentions burning fossil fuels as a factor causing warming seas (a point so easily brushed aside by deniers that it might as well not be put in there).

It reminds me of the following exchange between Mr. Prosser & Arthur Dent in The Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams:

“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

2267252_1
Image Source: Teepublic’s design by metacortexpod4 

Let me emphasize this again.

Typhoons & Hurricanes like Mangkhut and Florence will not be the last of such intense storms to affect us.

This will slowly become our new normal.

We aren’t at the point where we can consider reversing climate change or even stopping in its tracks.

We are still trying to convince people that maybe  just maybe – it might be a good idea to ease the pressure we have on the gas pedal as we dive headfirst toward the Cliff of Runaway Global Warming.

Change needs to happen:

  • Not a couple of decades…
  • Or a few years…

It needs to happen now!

Stop hanging leopard signs over the issues.

Don’t put in a throw-away line about global warming at the end of your article and pretend like it was the focus of your piece when you have spent the preceding paragraphs undermining the issue.

Just as democracy is only as good as the information people get, information can only be as good as people’s ability to access it. I’m worried that this is the road media will continue to take in the future, not as a means of conveying impartial information, but as a mechanism to propagate a certain ideological stance.

True, it has been happening for a while now, but it scares me how subtle it has gotten.

I genuinely hope this was just a case of Halon’s razor:

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity/ingorance”

But honestly, I’ve been burned too many times before.

This post has honestly gone on for a while, so even though I have much more to say, I am going to give it a rest for now.

If you like these long-form posts, let me know! I’ll be trying out a couple of new things on this site and seeing what sticks.

Stay safe HKers – hopefully, there won’t be work/school tomorrow!

-Rebecca


Update 17 Sept: So even though the T10 weather warning was taken down before today, there is no school/work due to clean up. Which just goes to show how crazy intense the typhoon was this time around, since usually the moment the warning goes down, it is back to business as usual.

Also while editing this post, I noticed that Fox changed the name of the article to:

US hurricane, Asian typhoon: 1 brings water, the other, wind

Like it is word-for-word the same article, by the same person, just the name has been changed and it has been given a new link so this version is the only one you see on the front page.

Not exactly sure why, but the new title is less infuriating than the old one, so I guess it’s slightly better?

Still doesn’t address the underlying point I made – in fact it might make it stronger since it shows that they are trying to highlight the superficial differences between the tropical cyclones to undermind how connected they are to climate change…

Or maybe they just thought the new title sounded better, who knows. Going to Halon’s Razor this one since I’ve got bigger issues to deal with right now…

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I’m Back! Also, A Few Summer Plans…

So I’m back from the Mainland China photography trip with my mom (well was back in HK a few days ago, but took a few days off to decompress etc).

I’m having trouble uploading some of my photos so it will take a while before they are online, but they will be coming soon! I’ll probably create an Instagram of Flickr account to post photos, since there seems to be a storage space limit for photos uploaded on this wordpress website (since it is the free version).

But anyways…


Right now, I’m focusing on a few different things:

  • Doing research on things to do in Leeds and the surrounding area
    • In particular, this website called Leeds-List has been incredibly helpful about everything Leeds and Yorkshire.
    • I’ve also been reading up on some hiking trails I might want to try – in particular the Brontë Way, since I am a MASSIVE FAN of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.
    • Lastly, I’m looking at things to do in Manchester and York since they are less than an hour away by train, so will make for good “weekend trips” away for me to do in my own time.
Map Leeds
Map of the region – Source: European Rail Guide

 

  • Earning money to subsidize part of the trip (through selling second hand books and tutoring people)
    • While my parents are covering the plane ticket and living expenses, I’m trying to find ways to earn some “fun-money” so I can do more on my trip.
      • *Insert Obligatory Plug for my listing page HERE if you live in HK and want to buy said second hand books*
    • Meanwhile, tuition during my study abroad trip will be the same my current HKU fees (HKD21,000 or around 2,700 in USD for a semester), since my university is partnered with the University of Leeds.
      • Also unlike with USA colleges, universities around the world are actually affordable WITHOUT massive student loans or scholarships 😛
  • Figuring out student visa and immigration stuff
    • As far as I can tell, I’m exempt from the English language requirements and a few other things as I am an American citizen ( born in the USA and lived in Texas for most of my life before moving to Hong Kong).
      • However, my dual citizenship with Taiwan might make the situation a bit less straight forward…
      • And I also have a HK permanent resident card – the HK equivalent of “citizenship” (since HK isn’t a country but many people in HK can’t get PRC citizenship for various reasons too long to get into) so yeah….
      • Also, while the University of Hong Kong is an English-medium university (since HK was governed by the UK until 1997, again long story) it is not in an English speaking majority country so maybe I don’t qualify? I’m not sure at the moment, but am working on it!
United Kingdom visa in passport
Yay ! I Love Travel Paperwork! 🙄  -Source: Gov.UK
  • Learning to take better photos with my DSLR
    • The trip was incredibly fun, but I have a TON left to learn before I feel like I’m ready to bring my camera “into the field” as it were, without experienced people guiding me through the basics.
  • Doing some summer undergrad research
    • I’m working under a professor with Oriental Magpie Robins (Copsychus saularis) around HKU campus at the moment. I might post about it in the future if that is something people are interested in, but probably not since it isn’t related to anything “study abroad”-esque.

But above all, I’m…

  • Enjoying my summer break
    • Because as Calvin and Hobbes put it…
Calvin
July 4, 1986 by Bill Watterson – Source: @Calvinn_Hobbes & C&H Search Engine

Thanks for reading!

– Rebecca

Day #9 – An Angry Letter of Complaint to a Bee (of all things)…

Dear Ingeborg “Apidae” Trunchbull the Bee,

Yes, I know that isn’t your real name.

In fact, since you are just a bee that lives around Centennial Garden I don’t even need to make one up for you.

But I’m doing so anyway to make me sound less crazy when I am personifying and writing a letter to a freaking insect.

Ingeborg by the way because it was the most random girl name I could think of starting with an “I” (since I assume you are a worker bee which are all female, and the letter to stand in for Insect, just because). Apidae for the taxonomical family you are in (along with all other bee species).

As for Trunchbull… well I needed a last name and your threatening buzzing around in my hair reminded me of Agatha Trunchbull’s words (clip from the 1996 movie) from Matilda by Ronald Dahl.

matilda_and_the_trunchbull_by_piano_kun-d309n7n
Thanks, GreenGlassesGirl from DeviantArt! 🙂

Anyways…

Hi! I’m Rebecca.

You know, that girl who shows up in Centennial Gardens a lot to help give recorded feedback about friend’s spoken English for a school project?

The one you keep following for no good reason?

Yeah.

Hi. I’m not happy right and want to talk, Ingeborg.

Please… sit. (or hover menacingly, I don’t care as long as you listen)

I’m not sure WHY you keep chasing me in particular, maybe it is my hair scrunchies that you keep mistaking for flowers or the new shampoo I’m using or whatever,

But please:

For the love of all things holy…

STOP IT!

This is nearly the 4th day in a row now.

And its always me specifically.

Not the person I’m tutoring, not the other students near me, heck not even the dozen or so other people milling around the park at any given time!

No, it’s always ME.

And you have some weird obsession with my hair.

I get it.

You are a vital part of our world’s ecosystem and have a job to do so you don’t starve over the coming winter months.

Maybe you are behind on nectar collection and need to work overtime.

Or maybe I’m giving you too much credit.

Maybe you just want to imitate Barry B. Benson from the Bee Movie (2007) by falling in love with a female human, accidentally altering the world’s ecological balance, before stealing a party float, hijacking a plain and saving the world’s flowers.

Or I’m galactic royalty and you are acknowledging it like I’m Jupiter Jones in Jupiter Ascending (2015).

But today…. TODAY….

Today was the last bloody straw.

Today, you held my freaking laptop hostage to get my attention.

Bee
Caught in the act!

You forced me and my Tutee to relocate to the stairwell of Hoi Oh Chow to continue our recording (which is much louder than the gardens).

Heck, you showed up at Happy Park today to annoy me while I walked around different booths learning about service opportunities.

Don’t you dare deny it! I’ve got a good half dozen witnesses!

Like that’s not even part of Centennial Campus!

What the HECK, Ingie??

(unless it was one of your friends/sisters in which case, tell her to stop as well)

So yeah.

If I haven’t made this abundantly clear by now….

Piss off, Ingeborg Trunchbull the Bee!

Stop chasing me around and messing with my hair, or… or… [Insert statement here that a bee would find threatening]!

Ha!

Signed with (heavily sarcastic) love,

Rebecca

Day 21 – Scampering Around Trying to Sort My Life Out (A Filler Post & Rant)

Yesterday, I said I would be doing Snacks: part 2 today, but given the title, you can probably see where this is going.

Just as a heads up tomorrow will also be a filler one, since I am going to Ocean Park with some of my school friends, so won’t be back til late (and need to sleep earlier today), so if any of you are waiting for the snacks post, see you some time after day 23 (because I really need a few days of doing nothing and relaxing right now)!

On to the prompt! Which is…. * drum roll *

Scamper (July 2)!– (It showed up earlier than normal, so I can actually do today’s prompt, rather than yesterday’s one)


Scamper!

That word just about sums up what I’ve been doing for a while now.

Scampering from one project to another, one idea to the next.

Thought after thought fills my mind without pause, from the moment I wake up to the second my head hits the pillow. Even my dreams are sometimes filled with tense situations that ask – nay – demand my attention.

I’m being pulled 90 directions, trying to make the most out of “the best 4 years of my life”.

Trying to:

  • figure out how to apply for exchange
  • look for internships
  • decide my next semester’s classes
  • type up blog posts/Camp Nanowrimo
  • list textbooks on Carousell
  • catching up on books I need to read

On and on the to-do list grows…

But above all…

Trying to figure out what I want to do after I graduate university. 

It’s not a controlled run, where there is a goal in mind and a pace to be set.

It is a frantic grasping of straws, attempting everything at once and getting nowhere.

And I am EXAUHSTED.

Pure and simple.

Because I JUST DON’T KNOW!

I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know how or what I’ll get a job in (Ecology and History not really known for tons of jobs) and I don’t know what the future holds for me!

If I did, it would be simple.

Just complete the skill tree that leads to me following my career path (which at this point, is more a meandering stream). Unfortunately, it’s not.

The fear of the unknown causing is to dart off wildly in an unclear direction right now, and I hate it.

All that build up of my life til this point and this is what I end up as.

A tense, anxiety ridden mess, reacting to things rather than proactively planning a course of action

Though now I think about it…

I guess that is the feeling that a cockroach gets when I suddenly switch on a light!

So much change has happened, but no time to plan.

In that instant, just one action comes to mind…

SCAMPER!


Thanks for taking the time to read my semi-rant 😛

Rebecca

Day 14 – Return of the Wifi

And the wifi is back at home! Whoop!

Bit unsettling how much I rely on it these days… Like it truely is something you don’t realise how much you use, until you have to switch over to your phone’s 3g 

But yeah once again it is getting late (28 minutes to finish this post) and I am frantically typing away. I really nees to work on my planning for these things.

As I was typing this date out, I just noticed that tomorrow will be the half way mark to completion of this challenge.

Still not sure how I’m going to end this thing off, though I have a few ideas based around some of the reoccurring themes that seem to crop up in my posts (late minute typing, book and or greek myth references, talk about Austin/HK etc). We will see though! 

Been thinking (or more accurately worrying) about my uni scores (coming out soon) and just my general life goals and where I will be in 5 years time a lot in the past few days

Not sure why, I guess it is a combination of meeting old secondary school friends and realising that I am not a kid anymore. Like my future is quite literally in my own hands and I can’t really rely on those childhood fantasies of hidden innate talent or a dream of being famous without effort now.

And that I am behind, like so many other people my age not only have done something, they’ve succeeded ans made a carreer out of it. Heck many people younger than me have won olympic medals or acted in shows that will continue to be seen years from now. 

In comparison, I’ve… gotten into uni I guess? Doesn’t seem the same does it…

I don’t know, it seems like all the young adult fiction books have the heroes doing something fantastic with their lives by the time they turn 16 or 18 at the latest, no one really talks about being there at the cusp of adulthood and teenager years. Maybe I just need to read more books XP

Well I’m running out of time (11 min now) and still need to put tags on this thing! More tomorrow!

Rebecca

Day 8 – Filler post: Why is it so hard to get rid of textbooks in HK?

Because no one likes to here excuses about why the promised speed cubing post isn’t out yet, quick fire round of the excuses reasons why there is a filler post today:

  • The speed cubing post started to get longer and longer to the point where it really was better off if I split it up into different posts, which requires some editing
  • Posts with photos of things just take longer to do and I was out all day at Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Garden (yup, combined with the LBJ garden reference from the last post and your assumption that I am a massive biology geek is 100% accurate)
  • Considering it is 10:30pm right now, there would be no way I would finish it in time, and I’d rather not lose my streak on day 8, especially since I posted a few days ago about how easy it was so far

So instead, you are going to get a filler post of sorts, where I ponder something quite pointless in the hopes of giving “future me” enough time tomorrow to finish it up (or come up with another post on why I’ve delayed it again)

So on to the question…


Why is it so hard to get rid of used textbooks in Hong Kong compared to in the USA?

And I don’t mean that rhetorically either, I am genuinely curious about this, and if any of you have the answer or any theories, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

All the normal places you would think to sell textbooks turn out to be dead ends:

  • Websites like Slugbooks or Chegg are USA + Canada based only, and even if they weren’t you run into shipping cost problems
  • Amazon forces you to either sell on the Mainland China market (where the demand for English language textbooks is extremely low) or find a way to sell on the USA/Canada one (which while I get past some issues since I’m an American, customs, shipping time problems, and extremely negative opinions on things sold from Asia by some Amazon users make it not worth it). Oh and currency exchange issues as well
  • All second hand book stores I’ve checked explicitly ban textbooks (don’t blame them, otherwise there would be no room for anything else)
  • Public libraries won’t accept them (same issue as above)
  • The various other charities are want textbooks for younger kids, not the Year 12 & 13 books that make up most of the clutter in my room
  • No luck with my school’s second hand books facebook page either, everyone already seems to have bought their books new already

So right now I’m flogging them off on Carousell (the Asian equivalent of Cragslist but an app). Several weeks in so far, and still no bites, but we will see…

But I can’t for the life of me figure out why it’s so difficult compared to the US.

(Or at least my experience spending a summer selling textbooks online or donating them to the numerous second hand books stores before moving to HK)

Tons of people are selling their books for half the cost of new books in perfect condition, yet no one is buying second hand books for some reason.

Is it just that Hong Kong has more of a throwaway culture compared to Austin?

I’m not so sure. While it is the argument often given time and time again by newspaper opinion pieces, to me it seems unconvincing, as the recent phenomenon of replacing rather than fixing isn’t exclusive to one place.

Perhaps new textbooks are cheaper here, thus there is less of an incentive to buy used?

Possibly, though again, since pretty much all of my textbooks are in English with a international curriculum, the cost should be more or less the same and a quick Amazon scan confirms that theory. While some are indeed cheaper (I’m guessing because the textbook industry here isn’t as powerful as it is in the US, though don’t quote me on that), its still a huge amount of savings buying used compared to buying new.

A question of storage space and convenience?

This is my leading theory, that expensive land prices mean that there is an incentive:

  • not to take up space with big bulky second hand textbooks that might never get sold/ get sold for far less than other books that could take up the same
  • to just order and have them shipped to the school then placed in a locker, where they never have to take up space at home (until the end of the school year where you fall into the same situation I’m in with a tiny room overflowing with textbooks and no way to get rid of them

Or maybe HKer’s just like new textbooks 😛

I mean you should see how carefully some people wrap their books in plastic and use only sticky notes that won’t mark the pages, being careful not to crease the cover…

then again is an equal amount of people who highlight, annotate, make up and dog ear pages to the point where the book is unrecognizable ala “Half Blood Prince Potions Book” (minus all the magic, then again chemistry might as well be potions considering how little of it I understand at times )

But yeah..

Makes you wonder why there are thousands of books about how to buy things in different places or organise them in your home, but no books on how to get rid of stuff in different cities… maybe increased consumerism is the right answer all along?

Who knows? All I can tell you is that my old textbooks have staged a coup d’etat and invaded large parts of my room, so if anyone has advice on how to fight back against the hoard , I’d love to here it!

Rebecca