with Ben Kwok
Retrospective takes a few choice snippets from an overflowing mailbag
Spare Lai See if you haven't had replies to your mail or email. In two years with the column, he has read many megabits of emails, ranging from Franklin Wong's pledge to build a German Zeppelin Airship to Suzie Wong's difficulties in booking flights through Asia Miles.
Hand on heart, reading your messages is one the funnier things in life and is beyond value.
So, for the benefit of readers, let me reprint some from this week.
Pluto off map but star still shines
First, from Seven Dwarfs in Anaheim who protested at his friend Pluto being omitted from astronomers' latest classification of planets.
Through the agency of Ogilvy & Mather, the global press release reads:
'Although we think it's DOPEY that Pluto has been downgraded to a dwarf planet which has made some people GRUMPY and others just SLEEPY, we are not BASHFUL in saying we would be HAPPY if Disney's Pluto would join us as an 8th dwarf. We think this is just what the DOC ordered and is nothing to SNEEZE at.'
As Mickey Mouse's faithful companion, Pluto made his debut in 1930 - the same year that scientists discovered what they believed was a ninth planet.
As a white-gloved, yellow-shoed source close to Disney's top dog said: 'I think the whole thing is goofy. Pluto has never been interested in astronomy before, other than maybe an occasional howl at the moon.'
However, don't let these cloudy nights upset your day. Pluto is still destined to remain a permanent star in Disney's galaxy of top 10 characters.
Little calming found in Virgin balm
Next, a sachet of traditional Chinese nerve-calming powder arrived from Sir Richard Branson whose Virgin Airline is sponsoring a visit here of the terrifying production The Woman in Black from London's West End, starting on October 19.
Sorry, Sir Richard, your child's-strength (under the age of three) balm wasn't enough to calm these frayed nerves after writing so many terrifying corporate stories this year.
Eco-warrior snaps some snappers
Jean-Francois Tremblay, a chemical-industry writer who takes a special interest in covering the Yangtze River ecosystem, sent a picture of a crocodile theme park in Xuangcheng, Anhui, where thousands of the primitive snappers are raised and commercially exploited.
'They had a restaurant on site where they were serving the meat from the surplus animals. They also had administration offices where government workers were conducting studies on crocodiles,' Mr Tremblay wrote.
Perhaps the new crocodile soup served up at Li Ka-shing's Tin Shui Wai hotel for visitors keen to see the Wetlands Park's resident croc, Pui Pui, may not be all that original after all.
Leaving on a jet plane
Now what would outgoing Dragonair chief executive Stanley Hui Hon-chung say to this staff before taking off on August 29? We were privileged to get a copy of his farewell email:
Dear colleagues ...
I am writing to inform you that I will be leaving Dragonair ... The reason for this is to provide our new sole shareholder with a clean slate on which to build an even stronger airline going forward.
I have been CEO for almost 10 years, and during that time we have experienced all the ups and downs of the aviation industry.
There have been very tough times, such as those during SARS when in April and May 2003 we cut planned frequencies by 50 per cent and 64 per cent, respectively. But overall, the balance has very much tipped in favour of the good times ...
We wish Mr Hui a turbulence-free future.
Moving among good company
Not every member of Li Ka-shing's 150,000 staff will find this column a fun read but we have luckily caught the eye of some important honchos.
'Your column is improving,' said Hutchison group managing director Canning Fok Kin-ning on Thursday, 'Lai See is cyclical but you do it in good taste.' Kind thoughts that were echoed by finance director Frank Sixt.
It is always nice to have such readers who surely have few opportunities while decision-making to chuckle and relax.