Monday, November 23, 2015

domestic animal

This weekend marked the final nail in the coffin of our slow march into domesticity. We sold our couch, a gorgeously simple chrome framed piece with fine, herringbone wool fabric in warm brown and grey tones, to make room for a boxy Ikea model with a chaise type end piece that is very popular these days. We did so because of the change of lifestyle that we have experienced since becoming dog owners, which is akin to becoming parents. Our previous living room setup was carefully chosen by me to be stylish yet functional. The main feature was a beautiful Kazak Rug. All of the other furniture was simply designed but with complex textures such as the herringbone couch in neutral shades and the modern end tables of glass, teak and chrome.  I also had plants overflowing from every corner of the room.

Then we got dogs.

Dogs are curious creatures, so the plants were relocated to higher ground.
Dogs track in dirt, no matter how thoroughly you wipe down their paws at the front door. I wasn’t interested in joining those weird neighbors whose dogs wear shoes outdoors, so I bought a nice (though not comparable to Kazak), washable rug to lay in the living room.
Dogs shed. I got a slipcover for the couch.
Dogs are fun to be around so we stopped going out so often. After months of weeknights on the couch with the dogs, I realized that our comfortable couch was kind of small when piled with two adults and two medium sized canines. It also wasn’t so comfortable when you sat there with a dog on your lap for several hours. In fact, my butt fell asleep on more than one occasion.

The couch was the last holdout. I loved that couch. But I love my dogs more, so I finally sucked it up and posted an ad online. I received several replies within the hour (it was a nice couch) and it was gone by the time that I arrived home from work the next day, carted off by a not-so-young hipster. Two days later, a beige, boxy sofa was delivered. The dogs love the couch. We all watched football together on it. SB is happy and none of my body parts fell asleep. I looked out over our sofa kingdom last night, taking in the sea of beige, from the beige and brown rug littered with various sized chew toys, to the striped beige and green dog bed in the corner, to SB drinking his coffee with a beige and black hound at his feet on the chaise portion, and I realized that I was happy, also. And oh so beige.

Friday, November 20, 2015

I dreamed a dream

My alarm woke me up from my dream at the most inconvenient time, as I was about to feast on a delicious prime rib dinner, having consumed a salad that was very similar to an actual side salad that I ate at Stones in Tai Hang. Shortly before being rudely awakened (or at least shortly if dream time is similar to real time) I had a moment of clarity in my dream where I recognized it for what it was and thought to myself, please let me not wake up until after I eat this prime rib. Sigh.

I tried to fall back asleep but instead of returning to my dinner, my dream took me in an absurd direction. I was back at the company headquarters but thankfully I did not spend my dream time doing work as I have regularly before. I wish there was some sort of a brain filter to remove work related events from dreams because nothing is more depressing than waking up after a long day of work, only to realize that you haven't actually been to work yet. It's like working twice as much with no reward.

Anyway, there I was in the office when a former colleague strolled in with the new iPad Pro, only the one in the dream was bigger than any of the office monitors. I have yet to see the iPad Pro, but in the dream it was fantastic and had all sorts of meaningful features, none of which I can remember at this time or otherwise I would create the apps and become fantastically wealthy, because they were just that good in the dream. After oohing and ahhing at the massive tablet, we all broke into song and dance.

I have never seen an episode of Glee, but I don't live under a rock so I have heard of it. Two weeks ago SB and I attended a trivia night and ran into some friends with the Welsh Male Voice Choir, who had booked the venue after us. No one broke into song there, either. But in the dream, there was a lot of singing, and for once I was in tune. So it clearly was a dream.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

on or walk

In our walk we ran into three hikers who seemed vaguely eastern European and clearly not enamored with our dogs. While passing their disgruntled selves, Will and I had a debate over whether they were Russian and grumpy because of 'roid rage. Who wouldn't love such adorable creatures?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

are you speaking my language?

With my English friends in the US, I never noticed a class structure in our interactions, only that we occasionally had differences in custom and manner. In Hong Kong, it took me a few years but I eventually became aware of a completely different social construct. When sitting in the pub, watching rugby or football with fellow British, New Zealander, and Australian sports fans, we are all equals in looking down our noses at American football and rugby players. I notice, however, that when Englishmen get together, things get weird. D supports Liverpool while P supports Tottenham, S supports Arsenal, and E is Manchester United all the way. Each speaks with the dialect of where they are from. However, when P and S talk amongst themselves, they take on different accents and mannerisms than when they chat with everyone else. When I pointed it out, D explained to me that P and S went to public school (the English definition, not the American one) and apparently there is a public school way of elocution that they turn on and off depending on who they are with. I guess it is their way of recognizing each other above the flock.

I hear P and S's dialect in meetings when several British educated people are in the room. Like P and S, a few of my company directors speak this language in formal meetings. No one seems to hold it against me that I can't turn up my posh, but all the same, it sometimes feels like I'm sitting in the midst of another civilization. I wonder if this is how people with autism feel. I can understand the words and see the gestures but I know that I am missing comprehension. I can practically, physically feel the social cues flying past me, too quick to grasp. My boss will say one thing and everyone will agree, but I have have heard that tone enough to now realize that he meant opposite of what he said and nobody is in agreement, and it fact, they are all fighting with smiles on their faces. Maybe Khrushchev had the right idea, because sometimes I want to bang the table and demand that we cut through all of the posturing and actually say what we mean.

My former boss told me that as he grew older, he came to appreciate the American way, which was direct instead of polite. I can't recall how he said it because it was rather indirect and circuitous, but I took it as how I think that he meant it despite the condescension in the message's delivery. I'm not sure if it is an American way of thinking, or if it is just me, but I don't mince around. In the construction industry, every minute spent making nice nonense is a million dollars of delay costs. I understand  though, that the correct answer is not always the right answer. It's more of that autism feeling. I can give a correct answer and it is still wrong. Maybe I need to reply in crisper vowels and everything will be okay.

Friday, October 30, 2015

of birds and bird brains

After only a month on site, I have taken up the vocabulary of a contractor. No matter where in the world I have been, contractors universally are known for their colorful expressions. I find myself using swear words in lieu of punctuation. Thanks to the previous puk gai surveyor, our stairs end 400mm above the ground level *#@! Diu!

My uncle had an apron that read “Chef F*ck”. It was very appropriate; every time he was in the kitchen, you could hear him cursing up a storm as a series of unfortunate events befell him. While my work is rewarding 80% of the time, every day I encounter a mind boggling example of bureaucratic incompetence. Today’s was just so amazing that I had to share it: 

Last week I submitted a drawing package for general building plan revisions to the lead consultant. One of the flock of civil engineers contacted me this afternoon to note that two areas of the E&M mezzanine level had been revised and requested the drawing files from me. It was mind boggling because (1) the changes had been driven by the engineering team and given to me to update the architectural layout so why the flock was she asking me for the drawing for her updating, and (2) in order to review the drawings and note the revision, one would have to OPEN THE CADD FILE to print out the drawings. This would be the CADD file that she was now requesting from me. I may have opened and closed my mouth like a goldfish while reading and re-reading the email. Then I deleted it without replying because, really.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Soko Islands: the last frontier

Of my checklist of must-visit outlying islands, only one item remained. It had been over five years ago that I checked off my second to last item, the Ninepin Islands, but for an array of different reasons, the Soko Islands eluded me.

There were so many activities every weekend, as is the busy-bee way of life here, and eventually I all but gave up. Our hiking buddy, cousin Shoils, began a family, then we got two dogs, and our island adventures came to a halt.

Last week Shoils suddenly messaged us to let us know that someone had posted on a geocaching group that she belongs to, and the organizer wanted to venture to the Soko Islands. Yesterday we joined three other people for a wonderful exploration.

I have heard that you may book a sampan from Lantau but we booked from Cheng Chau. This is an all-day booking because the sampan operator will wait for you to take you home due to the travel time and distance.

It takes around eighty minutes to travel each way from Cheng Chau; we spent three hours exploring Tai A Chau (大鴉洲) that housed the Vietnamese detention centre and then another hour at a neighboring island, Siu A Chau (小鴉洲), that had a very lovely beach..and a radioactive waste facility.

As a grateful tag-along to the geocaching group, as well as not knowing what to expect, I only packed my medium sized bag with water, food, one layer of extra clothing, and my first aid kit. I forgot my mosquito repellent, which was unfortunate since we spent a lot of time exploring forested pathways and ponds.

I already am formulating plans to return with my DLR camera, but the area was so picturesque that even my phone camera snaps were lovely and I had a hard time narrowing down my selection to share.

I had a personal reason for wanting to make the trip: during the two years of my childhood that my family lived in Hong Kong, my mother became involved with volunteering to assist with the refugees. We were able to organize occasional activities between Vietnamese girls and my girl scout troop. My mother sometimes went to the Soko Islands to work with the refugees but as a child, I was not permitted to go. I wondered about the detainment camp where the Vietnamese children lived. I still wonder what became of them, if they integrated into Hong Kong or if they were sent back.

While the camp was demolished, as an architect I was able to walk through the site and piece together the housing blocks, shower and kitchen facilities, and ancillary buildings. I imagined that the ground down steel tubes held up shading canopies between buildings.

Today, devoid of the thousands of refugees, the area is hauntingly beautiful. You can look across the expanse of foundation nestled in a valley, from seafront to seafront, and it is a commanding view. The paths and roads are overgrown in the best of ways with canopies of fragrantly blooming vines and greenery. It would be easy to forget the purpose of the site and imagine seafront holiday bungalows a la Santorini or Koh Samui. Or maybe a spectacle like Sea Ranch.

I am so glad that I finally made it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Too Much Obfuscation

With World Rugby's clarification of Joubert's mistake, and further clarification that there was no opportunity to resort to the TMO, it leaves Joubert with all of responsibility for the result. From the intent look on Joubert's face as he was watching the video replay when Foley was lining up the kick, I think that he understood the facts. He performed well for 78 of his 80 minutes, but one small and easy to understand mistake has transformed him into a villain. In a case of history rhyming, Joubert was also the referee who was judged to have incorrectly penalized Richie McCaw in the 2014 Super Rugby Final. In the 78th minute, Bernard Foley was able to kick for three points that secured the victory for the Waratahs.

I hope that aside from leaving Joubert to hang, World Rugby takes a proactive position and reviews the purview of the TMO. When the TMO was first introduced, he was recognized as performing a service to the game, assisting the referee at critical areas of the match such as when tries needed confirmation or when foul play needed review. Then, a few years ago, we started experiencing issues when referees became less assured of their competence and suddenly the TMO was involved in reviewing every painful second of every try. I don't think anyone wants to go back to those times.

If I ruled World Rugby, I would suggest taking a page from the NFL's challenge system. Each coach is given two challenges that may be used in a match. The challenges must occur during stoppage in play, and be thrown down before the other team restarts play, such as when Foley is lining up his kick, but not if he quickly taps the ball and plays the penalty. The challenges cannot be used if the referee has stopped play and engaged the TMO already, much like how the NFL will not allow the coach to contradict a decision that has already been further reviewed.

I think that if teams were allowed limited use of challenges to a referee's decision, it would not undermine the referee. There are many times during a match when the referee is not in the best position to observe the actions of thirty players in contact with each other, and I don't think that it's a bad thing if a coach asked for a TMO review, especially if the call is a critical one. I think that Joubert would not have minded if Scotland had been allowed to use the TMO. He is one of the best in the world and it's a shame how he is being blamed for a decision that he made to the best of his ability.