CARL Pensyl, swizzle stick collector, has been writing to the Mandarin Oriental, the Godown restaurant and other Hongkong eateries and drinkeries asking for swizzle sticks. As our favourite tipple usually comes equipped only with foam, it fell to the Godown's Claudia McGregor to tell us that a swizzle stick was the plastic doodah which carries a restaurant logo and which comes with a mixed drink. We had always thought this was provided so you could clean wax out of your ears, and apologise unreservedly to the many fellow drinkers we must have startled over the years. Mr Pensyl stores his no doubt remarkable collection in his home at 910 Washington Street, Reading, PA, 19601 USA, and says in his covering letter that he is retired and this is his only hobby. Ms McGregor brushed aside the suggestion that perhaps Mr Pensyl was trying to set up a restaurant on the cheap, and posted a few off. Another truly strange collector we have come across recently is an English teenager who collects air from famous places in firmly-stoppered glass bottles. Like Mr Pensyl, he attempted to recruit overseas correspondents to help him, but we are not aware of him trying to get Hongkong air, perhaps because of restrictions on the import of dangerous substances. Heavy reading IT'S the time of year when Hongkong Telecom builds a blue and yellow castle outside the post office in Central. Yes, it's time for everyone to pick up their 1993 directories - and take back their old ones for recycling. To measure the proportion of greenies in the population, we stood and calculated the ratio of books picked up to those put in the green bin for recycling. Despite watching 1,000 books being collected, we saw only one person put anything in the green bin. This was someone who felt the awesome weight of the bundle of books he had just been handed and decided it was too hot to bother carrying the new English-language ones home. He promptly put them in the bin. Peter principle PETER Fredenburg, one of the herd of journalists living on Lamma, listened to FM Select's 6.30 news headlines last night. He distinctly heard legislators being told that Governor Chris Patten should not pay tax on his monthly salary of $178 and commented: ''If that's all he makes, I agree.'' Line of defence THE winding-down of the British Garrison is bad news for all of us keen to see the comic sight of a military takeover of the tram system. It's no joke: in a time of emergency, the Governor in Council can order that ''for defensive or military purposes'' the tram system be handed over to the military, says Section 44 of the Tramway Ordinance. This would be very useful if British troops wanted to chase People's Liberation Army soldiers whose bicycle tyres had got stuck in the tram lines, although they would have to be careful or they could be given the slip at the Happy Valley turnoff. Strangely, if the troops want to take the Peak Tram in an emergency, they'll have to queue outside the racks of postcards with all the tourists, as our copy of the Peak Tram Ordinance has no similar provision. In 1997, it will be the PLA that will have the right to commandeer the tram system, which should be useful on race nights. Just a float A BIG disappointment - that's all that can be said about the Guangzhou Shipyard prospectus launched yesterday. It was a mere 1,040 grams. Pathetic beside the 1,200 grams of Shanghai Petrochemical. The cover is rather strange: it resembles the view one might get half-looking out of the port hole of a sinking ship, a pessimistic choice given the apparent mild enthusiasm for the shares among brokers. Seedy pleasure We have received the following letter: Dear Lai See, In McDonald's, the tray paper said that the Big Mac has about 178 seeds. I counted the seeds on the Big Mac and there are 373 seeds. It's twice as many seeds as the tray paper showed. I was surprised that the Big Mac has so many seeds! Adrian Wong, (Wong Yiu-sun) Age 9. Fare questions FROM seed-counting to bean-counting: that other Big Mac, Financial Secretary Hamish Macleod, came in for a gentle grilling from Peter Seidlitz, Hongkong-based correspondent of Handelsblatt, as reported on our Analysis page. Here is the part of the interview that you didn't know about: Question: As minister of finance in Hongkong and the person in charge to keep inflation down, do you know how high the taxi fare in Hongkong is for the first two kilometres and what the cheapest MTR ticket costs? Macleod: You think I never go on the taxi or Metro? I get on the MTR quite often but I have a stored valued ticket. Question: Which you get surely for free? Macleod: No. No. Question: How much is an MTR ticket and the cost of a taxi ride in Hongkong now? Do you know? Macleod: I don't use taxis. You think it's too expensive? And then the conversation moved on to other areas, the collapse of the Chinese economy, etc. The real question is: if Mr Macleod really knows the price of a taxi and the cheapest fare on the MTR, why didn't he just give the figures?