A Short Summer

My Dear Rotarians and friends, in particular my Action Presidents,

A few things happened after I sent out the first issue of my letters around 26 July 1999. First, they did not reach many of the readers who used to receive Kingspark News by email. They were lost, or non-delivered. I had thought I fixed the bug, but very soon, I found that I was more computer illiterate than I thought I was. Secondly, and luckily, most of the letters I sent out by fax survived. I had even received some rather encouraging feedback. Here, I would like to say a big thank you to those of you who had taken the time to fax me your comments. I value them very much. Thirdly, Governor Dipo had started his official visits to clubs and wherever he went, I followed, or at least I tried to. Fourthly, I found myself watching VCDs a lot, with my family, mainly my daughter, often into the wee hours. Fifthly, my home PC and notebook were both infected with different strains of virus. Indeed, my notebook came down with both Happy 99 and CIH. Now, either one could potentially inactivate all programs and obliterate all data. In my case, my notebook was out of action for more than a week. I would come back to this later. All these meant that the month slipped by rather quickly and that I had a very short summer, so short that I could not find time for my letters. Severe Tropical Storm Sam gave me an unexpected break and here I am.

First, my computers. I found that I had never managed to fix the bug on the home PC. So, for the last four months, I have relied heavily on the notebook. I had collected some 600 email addresses and filed all the incoming and out-going messages during this period. I filed them dutifully and somewhat systematically in the notebook. One morning, PP Stanley Lin called to warn me that my computer had been infected by the Happy 99 virus which was spreading to other recipients of my email. Stanley told me that it was not fatal and in fact he had fixed the virus I sent him. Shortly afterwards, DG Dipo told me the same. His was also infected by mine. He asked me not to send any more email before I fixed the virus. By then, I was no longer able to send or receive messages anyway. The dialogue box said that the computer had performed an illegal operation, whatever it meant. So, I took it to the vendor who promised to fix it in a few hours. He also told me that Happy 99 was not fatal. But when I went to collect it, he told me that my notebook had developed full blown Happy 99 symptoms, which meant that it would take longer to repair the damage. He asked me to come back the following day. I did, and this time, he told me that my notebook had CIH as well, implying that it would be necessary to revamp the hard disk, resulting in the loss of all data. I impressed upon him that I would need the 600 odd email addresses. He said he would invite the company engineer for the operation. The next time I went to the vendor, he told me that the engineer had tried his best, but could not find a safe way to save the data I asked for. This is because the viruses had spread like wild fire and were corrupting programs and data files such that there was no easy way to ascertain which files were infected and which ones were clean. More interestingly, they did not have the recovery software for my notebook model. They only had the latest version. Apparently, mine was already outdated after four months! So more time was lost and by the time I got the notebook back after more than a week, it was as good or as bad as new. Not one data file or email address was left.

There must be a moral in this. I had thought that the data on the hard disk were important. Of course they are, or I would not have bothered to save them in the first place. But now they are all gone, forever and permanently, it didn’t really knock out my communication system, though it had inconvenienced or rather irritated me. I am building up my address book very fast, and I have learnt to create back up diskettes. As to the other files lost, well, I am convinced that the files that are sufficiently important will find their way back. Now, I see stacks of files and papers everywhere in my work area at home. By the same logic, I should perhaps destroy them all and leave myself more space to move around. Maybe that is the moral.

Still on computers, I am sorry that I infected the computers of DG Dipo and PP Stanley Lin. Dipo must be one of the more computer literate Governors the District had. He now seldom sends people faxes and probably through his intervention, all members of Kowloon Golden Mile, some 60 of them, have email addresses. I have been following him to clubs these days like his shadow. He is very business like, highly efficient and effective, and he acts as he preaches. Already, I know that this is a hard act to follow, but like what he said, outshining each other is definitely not our objective. Anyway, by last Friday, he had completed more than a third of the visits. September is going to be more compact. These visits are certainly important and vital, and my ears still ring with what President Carlo Ravizza said about him visiting all clubs in his district, not once but thrice, during his governorship. Time is changing. I understand Rotary International now recommends that the Assistant Governors carry out these initial visits. I would certainly give the matter the most serious consideration, but whatever I decide, I would try to visit all clubs as often as I can during my term, certainly at least once. I would consult the senior and more experienced Rotarians on this, and I would welcome your views.

From DG visits I move on to family life. Every summer, I try to go places with the family. When the children were small, this was a relatively straight-forward operation. We would visit the in-laws in Los Angeles, lose some money in Las Vegas and see Mickey Mouse in Anaheim. I would never forget the days when Rosita went shopping with her sisters, leaving me to take care of seven kids of varying ages. It was tiresome enough to go through those long queues, but this was nothing compared with deciding on which queues to follow. It was then I experienced the hard fact that democracy is nice to look at but hard to follow. I survived, and so did the kids. As they got older, my job was reduced to taking them to the entrance and telling them when and where to assemble for the return trip. Now that these kids have grown up, it is no longer practical to have them staying together for longer than a meal. Each family would therefore organize its own summer program. For me, Stephanie came back mid July and went on a two-week orientation program of animal husbandry. She is thinking of joining vet school. Her brother Lawrence was waiting for the HKCEE results and it would not be practical to go places before 10 August. In the mean time, he enrolled as a volunteer at a hospital in Wanchai. The result was that it was impractical to take a vacation together. Family life began in the evening, very often after dinner. Soon I found myself sitting in front of the TV with the family watching soap opera. I must have watched more TV in a month than I did in a year.

It was fashionable to watch Yongzhen at first, but then it was perhaps too heavy for the ladies who very soon got hooked onto the Princess Huanzhu. Watching them watch the series was perhaps even more entertaining, relaxing and heart warming than watching the series itself. Those hearty laughter, girlish giggles and quiet sobs would last me a long while. Alas, watching one episode of the Princess each evening was not enough thrill, particularly when the complete sequels were available in VCDs, 24 discs for the first and 48 for the second series. Moreover, the more critical viewers said that the local TV version with Cantonese voice-over was no match to the original version in Putonghua. So they bought all the 72 discs in the first or second week of August. Now, Stephanie had to return to Berkeley on 16 August, and it was of course vital that she finished all discs before she left. What followed therefore was long hours of VCD watching each night under rather strict protocol. No comments or questions were allowed during play-time, and no irreverent remarks on their favourite protagonists would be tolerated at all times, even during breaks. Well, I survived, and I would recommend you watch the series with your family and loved ones. This is not actually a drama epic on historical Qing Dynasty as such. Rather, it is a simple romantic story built on love, traditional family values, loyalty to friends and country, righteousness and so on. It is very entertaining in places and highly watchable drama. Oh, by the way, watch them in Putonghua to get maximum value.

From VCD watching, I go back to Rotary stuff. After the very rewarding session with President-elect Frank Devlyn on 1 June 1999, a few President-elects of the district decided to meet each other. Alexander Lam of New Territories sent out a short note to find out who would be available on which of the four dates he proposed, or I gave him rather. In the end, we had two sessions, one at Kowloon Cricket Club on 7 August and one at Aberdeen Boat Club the following day. Both were very enjoyable sessions, full of fun and fellowship, and I am glad that over half of the team turned up, including a few from Macau and a few spouse. The group decided to meet again in two to three months for good food and better fellowship. I am looking forward to that. Unfortunately, we have yet to have the full list of the Presidents-elect. For some reasons, a few clubs have yet to select their PEs while some PEs were unable to respond either because we got their phone or fax numbers wrong or because they were away for the summer. So, if you are one of these clubs, I would appreciate if you could make early contact. Ideally, I would like to have the email address of the PEs.

This brings me back to my opening point about my inability to reach some of you by email with my first letter. I have since repaired my system, and for the addressees with email, I am enclosing my first letter below. For readers who receive this by fax, if you would give me your email, I would send you future issues this way, unless you specifically request for a hard copy. And if you don’t want to receive future issues, tell me all the same. Thank you.

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