Hong Kong’s Last Female Mahjong Tile Carver


Ho Sau-Mei, a slight, spry 62-year-old, is the only female mahjong tile carver left in Hong Kong — that she knows of.

Her shop, Kam Fat Mahjong, is a tiny alcove squeezed beneath a staircase, about 6 feet wide and twice as deep. It’s partially enclosed by a glass-topped counter that displays tiles engraved with various suits: bamboo sticks, wheels, and Chinese characters. A dust-caked glass case lining one wall contains stacks and stacks of others, leaving just enough space for a yellowing photo of Ho at age 13, when she first learned how to carve from a sifu, or mahjong master. The shop was her family’s home when they first settled in Hung Hom, on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong, in the early 1960s.

Fluorescent lights and natural sunlight keep the place lit, but Ho’s eyes aren’t as good as they used to be. She relies on a small wooden box with an affixed bulb that emits a glow directly over her workspace, which also serves to warm up tiles and make them more pliable to carve.

“That way, I don’t need to use as much strength,” says Ho.

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The Architect Teaching Dogs to Surf

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Dog surfing tends to draw a crowd, Noll says.

“The salt water of the ocean is my therapy, my church,” Peter Noll says.

A decade ago, Noll may have scoffed at the idea of his dog accompanying him to that church-slash-therapy, but not anymore. Along with a group of other volunteers, he teaches dog surfing clinics over the summer, but hems and haws at that term: dog surfing. “It’s a misnomer,” he explains. “We teach humans how to surf with their dogs. Owners put their dogs on the board, paddle them out, ease them into a wave, and then grab them afterward.”

Noll, who started the group SoCal Surf Dogs, volunteers with the Helen Woodward Animal Center in California to help raise money and awareness by teaching people how to surf with their dogs. His Bernese mountain dog, Nani, is almost 12, and Noll says surfing has helped extend her life. But his other dog, 10-year-old Kiki, wants nothing to do with the water.

Nani’s kind of a big deal. She’s a world champion and a Surf Dog Hall-of-Famer (yes, that’s a thing) who started surfing nine years ago, but Noll has since retired her. Back in her heydey, she appeared in the movie Marmaduke as one of the dogs in the background; she made more money that week than “any of us did,” Noll laughs.

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The Real-Life Willy Wonka Behind Those Classic Candy Hearts

geoff-bloomThe magic happens in a room with a giant tub that looks like Play-Doh, in a 810,000-square-foot factory, in a small city named after Paul Revere.

The New England Candy Company, better known as Necco, produces 100,000 pounds of Sweethearts — those colorful conversation hearts you got from everyone in your third-grade class on Valentine’s Day — each day for nearly the entire year, even though they’re only sold for several weeks in January and February. They’ve been around for decades — 150 years, to be exact — but Geoff Bloom, the creative director at Necco, is tasked with finding ways to keep them fresh. (“On Fleek” is one of the phrases you’ll find on the hearts this year.)

Valentine’s Day, a one-day holiday to you but a six-week one to Necco, is the company’s biggest moneymaker; about 2 billion Sweethearts are eaten each year. But none of that would be possible without Bloom’s careful touch.

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The Greeting Card Writer

Some companies that Louden works with send her copies of her published product. "I’m like a kid at Christmas," she says.
Some companies that Miller-Louden works with send her copies of her published product. “I’m like a kid at Christmas,” she says.

Greeting cards have a funny way of making the impersonal feel personal. Someone, somewhere, writes verses for a card without you in mind. Then, by chance, you select that card from a shelf of others — presumably one of thousands just like it — and those words become your own.

For 28 years, Sandra Miller-Louden has been the voice of those looking for words of humor, wryness, or sympathy. She has trained her brain to pick up on sound bytes in everyday life for fodder, just like a journalist or TV producer might do during an interview. There’s no room to mince words.

Now, in addition to writing verses for companies like American Greetings and Hallmark, Miller-Louden teaches greeting card writing courses, speaks at conferences, and has published a book on the subject. And despite the rise of birthday wishes in the form of e-cards and Facebook posts, there’s still a hungry, if niche, market for greeting card writers. After all, you can’t prop up an e-card atop your fireplace.

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