Friday, May 30, 2014

deep undercover

I had some pictures of one of my job sites that I wanted to share but I have been asked not to by the client so I will save them for some time in the future. You will just have to take my word that some construction sites can be fun to tour. It was an arduous, three hour long visit in the middle of the afternoon, but very much worth it. I always feel pleasure to see my designs being built, even though everything is in early stages. Perhaps it is the early stage that makes it so exciting because there is just enough fleshed out to imagine how it will look when completed.

There is another site that I haven't even been allowed to enter. There is a situation that is apparently deemed newsworthy and the client has pretty much locked down the site for fear of someone passing pictures to the media. I'm not sure how often architects get banned from visiting their own designs while they are still trying to administer construction. I did a few projects for the Air Force back in the day and was allowed much more access, though in that case they probably should have been more circumspect since I remember viewing unpublished photos of the capture of Saddam Hussein, among other things, just lying on a meeting table.

When all of the excitement dies down (and it will because while the situation is interesting, it is not that interesting) I think that I can do a before and after comparison to show you how fun it is (for me) to watch a building transform.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

right round

My pups, who usually fall into a frenzy of delight when I take them on walks, managed 200 meters before changing direction and pulling me right back home. Then they threw themselves on the tile floor and panted. And so it begins, I thought to myself. At least we made it until almost June before the weather became unbearable. Now we have three and a half more months of skulking in the shadows and after dark exercise.

We had just started going on hikes with the pups but those plans will have to be put to a rest because the last thing I want to do is overexert the little fur balls. We may manage a few short forays into the hills but the long awaited trip from Parkview to Stanley will have to wait some more.

I see that the touch rugby league is starting up soon. I think that those players are nuts. You couldn't pay me to run around in the middle of the day on a smoking hot, artificial turf. I played at a lacrosse tournament last July and my feet got burned through my cleats. Then the cleats delaminated and the bottoms fell off. Because of scheduling issues due to the hockey pitch at King's Park being refurbished and Happy Valley being pushed to capacity, the lacrosse league is still dragging in well past when it should have ended. At least those matches are at night. Aside from water sports, you won't be finding me outdoors until late August. That's how it is in Hong Kong.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

in hiding

After a long, often sleep deprived week, I embarked on a poorly planned out weekend of too much activity, sunlight, antibiotics and alcohol. I made an ass of myself at some point and am now lying low and hoping that the acute embarrassment wanes. SB had to make the shameful trip to pick up my phone from where a friend had picked it up as I was feeling too pitiful to go myself. He also made sure to take lots of pictures of my disgraceful behavior rather than stepping in to take me away and put me out of my misery. In his defense, I was doing my best to be an immovable object. However, this isn't the first time that he's chosen to document my idiocy rather than step in to put a kibosh on it. I should know better. He thinks the entire situation is hysterical while I am not so amused. My only saving grace is just like the last time this happened in 2010, there were other members of the party who deflected some of the attention to themselves.

Hopefully I will recover from the shame in time for next weekend.

Friday, May 23, 2014

where you go when rowing with one oar

A few months ago my office recreational committee decided to participate in one of the many dragon boat races that have been going on for the past few months. The man in charge of such office endeavors sent out a notice and there were several dozen interested parties, including myself. I was on site at the time of the inaugural meeting so I did not attend, but plans were finalized to create our office's first dragon boat team.

A few days later I was approached by a friend/colleague and asked to speak with the team captain because apparently everyone in the team aside from myself had never done any dragon boat paddling. No worries, I said, a lot of newcomers join every year. I met with the captain and gave him my advice on the basics of paddling as well as administrative considerations. He emailed the man in charge, let's call him Mr. Plan, and copied me on the conversation. Mr. Plan emailed back and explained that he had considered what I said and then....basically, he did almost the opposite of my advice. I suggested that because of how busy architects tend to be he might consider booking one hour practice sessions so Mr. Plan booked for two hour blocks. Since our team had limited funding I suggested not getting certain race packages that included extraneous items so he booked the package that came with t-shirts and bags.

Only five people showed up for the first session. By session four, we had a regular crowd of ten. Once we arranged for our boat to go for an hour and then return to shore to pick up latecomers or drop off people who couldn't stay for the entire two hour session, the number of participants grew to 20 on average. I have yet to see anyone wear the special t-shirts.

Having blown most of the budget on the fancy race package that I recommended against, Mr. Plan was faced with having only HK$5000 left for required, matching race tops. I gave him a list of suppliers and pricing as well as suggested a deadline for ordering the tops. Mr. Plan responded that he had already taken care of the ordering. Five weeks before race day we received an email giving us four choices of some extremely hideous looking, two toned shirts. The only customization option was to add text to the shirts. Whatever. We voted for the white top with pink sleeves and weird striping down the side.

Two weeks before the race, Mr. Plan sent us an email stating that the shirts could not be made in such short notice (it was our fault, apparently, for taking two days to vote on the color and text) so he was sending his assistant out to purchase fabric paint, which we would use to paint the dragon boat team lettering onto some extra company t-shirts. This was not an acceptable option and I quickly phoned my list of suppliers and found two who would rush our order for under $5000. The team rejoiced and we told Mr. Plan of our plan. But Mr. Plan had already committed to buying the paint, or something like that, and therefore we were locked in to his plan. Because cotton t-shirts are the way to go when you are planning to get soaked competing in a boat race. And nothing says world class design firm like hand painted lettering on the back of your droopy, soaking t-shirt.

And being the aforementioned very busy designers, none of us had any damn time to paint the shirts during office hours so Mr. Plan and his minion assistant had to do all twenty of them, which they complained about mightily.

So the moral of the story is why bother with advice and suggestions from those with experience when you can re-invent the wheel all by yourself.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Our dogs know SB's footsteps and will run for the door seconds after he steps out of the lift. They don't know mine so well, probably because I don't stomp like Godzilla, and so while he gets twin pups seated in front of him with swaying tails and happy faces, I open the door to the occasional alarmed bark, quickly followed by a frenzy of running in circles and flinging bodies. No matter that I ignore them when they are trying to jump on me, they don't actually require any participation from me and will ricochet off me as I attempt to wade past them into the living room.

While I was away, SB was apparently working on changing how the dogs greeted him. When he came home, I was busy in the kitchen and didn't go out to greet him until I heard, "Where's my tribute?" in a rather imperious voice. I walked out to find the dogs frantically rushing about the flat before hurrying back to SB with the nearest toys that they could find in their mouths. "Show me tribute," he said, as they stood in front of him, wiggling happily with toys in their mouths. Then he reached down and removed the toys before praising them lavishly and petting them.

"What are you doing," I demanded to know. He then proceeded to explain to me that as their overlord, he required that his subjects pay him tribute with their most prized possessions. He repeated this demand for tribute after returning from running an errand with similar results (he eventually gave back the toys). Great, I thought; Mr. Egomaniac has taught the dogs to worship him while they still don't know half of the most basic commands. But who needs a dog that can lay down on command when you can get it to fall prostrate as you enter the abode.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


A friend of mine somehow felt that it was appropriate to post some 9/11 conspiracy theories, in the line of "there were no planes that hit the buildings because it was an evil US conspiracy to demolish a structurally failing building instead", on the date when the memorial museum was opened. I thought about explaining how the space frame structure of WTC was actually well thought out and structurally sound until it was deformed by a catastrophic event of being exposed to tons of burning jet fuel, but frankly I doubt her ability to understand all of this considering that her puny brain thinks that the US government was in collusion with the WTC developers to destroy the building and blame terrorists. Because killing thousands of people, many of whom happened to be in a premier building in Manhattan due to their elite status and movers and shakers of finance and industry, makes so much more sense.

I instead used restraint and simply asked her why she was posting such a thing and informed her that I considered even bringing this up to be disrespectful. She kept the post up and didn't reply back. So I decided not to spend the afternoon cheering her on as she played for Hong Kong in the rugby four nations, because I couldn't stomach the thought of seeing her. Another friend who read the post and my comment, tried to explain that she probably wasn't being malicious but that she was just an idiot who couldn't comprehend the gravity of the situation because she was 12 or something when this happened. Well, I wasn't even born during the Holocaust but somehow I understand that it was a terrible thing and have managed to resist the urge to share Holocaust denial theories every time I hear that there will be a gathering to mourn the dead.

I can accept that maybe she isn't malicious but she is a troll. And while I'm giving myself time to relax and rethink, she may very likely not be a friend of mine after this. Aside from being callous, disrespectful and unaware, she is also an idiot and I don't have stupid friends.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


On Friday I noticed that I had a bit of vertigo. Stange, I thought, because usually I would get it immediately after flying, not days later. At the rugby union dinner I was starting to feel dizzy but I was also enjoying the fermented grape juice. By Saturday morning I was flat on my back with a sore throat and chills. By Saturday evening SB woke me up because I was burning up and he was concerned. I ended up in the emergency room by Sunday morning. I promised to stay in bed and take my antibiotics if the doctor would please not admit me so by Sunday afternoon I was lolling in bed while my two bored dogs ran in circles around the bedroom and whimpered in confusion as to why I wasn't playing with them. SB had other commitments and he's such a wretched nursemaid that it was a relief to be alone. During my last big illness his attempts to be helpful while trying to pick up groceries and pharmacy goods led to incessant phone calls while I was trying to sleep.

My staying in bed all day experience led me to realize why that freaking dog next door is so awful. Well, actually I had my suspicions so this was more like confirmation. During 48 hours of my strep throat infection I was so weak, feverish and miserable that I could do no more than take the dogs out to do their business and go right back in. On Monday when I was feeling marginally better, I could only manage one nice walk because they were not interested in walking in the evening when it was pouring down rain. As a result, the monsters were bored, bored, bored. This led them to bark at random crap such as the wind blowing. No, really; they barked when a gust of wind blew past. They stalked me and whimpered for me to wake up and play every half hour or so. I felt like the biggest toad for not being able to play. Then Elsie chewed a hole in her dog bed while I was unconscious and scattered the stuffing all over the living room.

Gosh, I thought, other than the first weeks when we trained them to know which things they could chew, this had never happened before. Then a light bulb went on. Our furbabies usually get a lot more exercise than they had in the past few days. Apparently sitting around a home all day and doing nothing causes boredom in animals. Apparently bored animals will find ways to entertain themselves that do necessarily meet the approval of human adults. So then, as I was re-stuffing and patching the pillows, I thought about that horrible neighbor dog and how I have never seen it and how all it does is bark all day and sometimes all night too, and...wait a minute! If I have not seen hide nor hair of this dog, that probably means that it never leaves its home. If it barks all night, the owners are probably not home that night. So basically, dogs that are left home all day (and night) are bored and miserable and will act up. How interesting.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

fruitful visit

I went to Sonoma to support my sister as she had her first child but the baby hadn't arrived by the time that I left. I was okay with that. The lack of baby meant that I was able to enjoy the sights and sounds of the town. I listened to live music, attended a couple of farmer's markets, sampled multiple beers and wines, ate delicious, local fare, spent time with friends, visited a sculpture garden, and went on several hikes. Sonoma is a wonderful place and strangely similar to Ithaca, though Sonoma is wealthier and more firmly into organic living. While I (and my pocketbook) support my sister's organic only philosophy, I wasn't thrilled to be on the receiving end of moral lectures regarding my enjoyment of junk food. I stopped going to mass to avoid the judgement so I certainly didn't need the eco-warrior version of holier than thou.

I also learned a lot more about pregnant women and hormones than I ever wanted to know. My sister could only speak to her boyfriend by whining at him and he confessed to me that she had been like this the entire nine months. She was amusingly forgetful and distracted. She was not amusingly rude to her boyfriend and cranky. I reminded myself that her hormones were out of control and she was very uncomfortable carrying around a fully developed baby. But at one point I had to take her aside and speak with her about how awful she was being to the father, who was doing nothing but serve her. She whined about all of the things that he wasn't doing for her and never thanked him for the many things that he did for her. I have come to the conclusion that pregnancy escalated all of her bad qualities and unfortunately removed almost everything that made her lovable.

The distance both geographically and emotionally that has existed between us caused me to forget a few things. Distance, making the heart grow fonder, also made me forget what a princess she used to be when we were growing up so I was abruptly reintroduced to the tantrum throwing, whiny, demanding virago of our childhood, but magnified into a largely pregnant harpy. Yeah, it was not fun.

I managed to keep the smile firmly pasted on my face for the entire two weeks, doting on her and reminding her of all of her blessings. I even managed to look disappointed that I would not be extending my visit.

Overall, it was a good visit. We got along, I saw friends, I saw the best of Sonoma, and I was reminded of why I am so very lucky to be me. I have my wonderful SB, two fur babies that are everything I ever wanted, and affirmation that I was not meant to reproduce. I love children and thoroughly enjoy my role as a coach and auntie, but childbirth and all of the related et cetera are not for me. Oh boy are they not for me.