Friday, August 21, 2015

stop it

I found something to jolt me out of my happiness bubble: a ludicrous Hong Kong consultancy report and planning application to remove the tram service from Admiralty to Central.

(source: Hong Kong Hustle)

While one of my degrees is in planning, you don't have to be a planner to pick out the faults in the breathtaking tunnel vision displayed by the study. To sum it up, the cure to the congestion that is plaguing Central is to remove the tram lane since it takes up 30% of the roadway.

It makes sense. If you removed the tram, it would clear up an extra lane in Central for private cars to circle endlessly while waiting for VIP businessmen to emerge from buildings, as one lane is not enough to accommodate all of the high flyers who work in the area. In Admiralty, the extra lane could be converted to another waiting area for the logjam of vehicles trying to enter the Hung Hom tunnel. Yes, the proposal to clear away the tram would be very beneficial to the congestion problem created by private cars.

Aside from the historical value, trams are part of the public transportation network that connects from micro scale to macro scale with buses, taxis and MTR connecting at larger scale and trams, mini buses and trams at a more local level. This system is affordable and equitable for all people. It is alarming that a consultancy group has failed to understand the positive aspects of transportation planning that includes affordable tram service for those who cannot walk intermediate distances such as senior citizens who are frequent tram users. Trams provide service by connecting distances that may not be walkable for some people.

Addressing the congestion issue, while tram lines do occupy 30% of roadways in areas that are reserved for tram usage, I would suggest sending this planning consultancy (who obviously have nothing to gain from their findings, which is why they made an immediate planning application on behalf of nobody to remove the trams without undergoing previous public consultation) back to conduct a field study to analyze the traffic impact when lanes are blocked by private cars waiting illegally as well as circling slowly. There is no tram involved in the traffic backup through the Hung Hom tunnel all the way to Aberdeen.

It would be a better solution to introduce congestion fees for private cars entering Admiralty through Central, to curb the amount of private car users who prefer to drive into Central rather than use public transportation.

The deadline to comment on the tram land removal proposal is 4 September. It only takes a few minutes to register your comment.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

no news is good news

My posts to the blog have dropped in the past year and I apologize to my readers but there isn't much that I can do about it. It's not like anything catastrophic has happened--just the opposite, in fact. Being too darn happy is the problem.

Yes, happy.

I mean, my job still has its ups and downs (we made the news last month when everyone had their salary slashed 5-20%) but the rest of my life is coming up roses and it is affecting my blog posts. Frankly, I could still post regularly but who wants to read about how gosh darned happy I am all of the time? It would be nauseating to read, and probably nauseating to write.

The great uplift happened when we got our dogs in February of last year. The furbabies have changed my life and made me a happier, more annoying person. Now instead of staying out all night, I prefer to come home and cuddle the dogs. I corner colleagues in the printer room to discuss how cute my dog was when she did something banal. My desktop is littered with images of the dogs. In many of the pictures, they aren't even conscious, because sleeping dogs are sooo adorable!

So yes, I have become lame and am trying no to subject you guys to the extent of my lameness. If you don't hear from me, don't assume the worst, although for some people, my sudden personality change isn't well received. I used to be deliciously acerbic, but now I'm a sugary mess.

Monday, August 17, 2015

you can thank her never

My friend A's ex is getting married. She has complicated feelings about this guy because she has good memories of their time together but their breakup was a messy affair. Despite moving on with someone else before breaking things off with her, he--like any good Catholic--had to make himself out to be a victim. I've known this guy through several girlfriends and know him to always talk about being treated poorly by his girlfriends so I wasn't surprised. Even now, he's said enough about his fiance that people who don't know him well are expressing worry about the upcoming marriage due to his fiance's horrible temper. Par for the course.

Amazingly, A's current boyfriend has been asked to serve as best man. The ex befriended him a couple of years ago, strangely enough, due to their mutual fondness for weightlifting. A's boyfriend was thrown at the request and tried to steer the ex toward asking someone who he's known for longer, but the ex seems out of groomsmen. After ignoring the weirdness for as long as she could, A finally asked her boyfriend about his travel plans (the wedding is in the United States). Was he going to host the stag do here or in the US? The boyfriend was unaware that he was hosting a stag do so A explained to him that as the best man, he likely was expected to throw a party for the groom.

This was how A ended up planning her ex's stag do. Because she is kind hearted and not the terrible shrew that she was made out to be, she actually helped her boyfriend plan something fun with suitable debauchery. Personally, I'm a more spiteful type and I would have booked him into a flower arranging course or something similarly painful.

Friday, August 14, 2015

where's waldon?

SB is on his annual month long stay in the woods. When we used to live in New York, he made the trip to the Adirondacks almost every weekend but now he is confined to twice per year, maximum. At least he gets a long spell of respite and recharge while I, yet again, have work commitments that keep me here in Hong Kong. While I was suffering through some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Hong Kong, he was taking in the pristine wilderness and silence of the lakefront camp that will be his home for most of August.

On Monday morning with temperatures already in the thirties, I trudged through a five hour long site inspection. At the same time in New York, SB was rowing home from visiting a friend's camp, guided only by memory and a bit of moonlight. He is living the Thoreau dream while not. And I am jealous. I want my bit of beauty and wonderment also.

It sounds like heaven: no phone, no internet, no interference from the outside world. Just slow, slow living. Emptiness and vastness all around.

Monday, August 3, 2015

girl fight

While having brunch on Sunday morning, I was distracted by loud cheering coming from the inside of the restaurant. I quickly located the source of the noise: a group of male Valley rugby players who were watching the television. I expected to see a rugby match going on but was surprised to see two women on screen. For the next few minutes I was treated to replays of Ronda Rousey knocking out Bethe Correia. Each time the knockout punch was shown from a different angle, the rugby players burst into thunderous hooting. 

I am not a fan of UFC. I engaged in my share of bare knuckle boxing when I moved to Florida and offended the locals with the horror of a mixed race spawn. With the exception of Sharon H, I 
gave back better than I got, but hitting someone with your fist hurts almost as much as getting hit. I didn't like all of that pain and this is coming from someone who loves playing rugby. Sharon H was the first person in my school to drop out, by the way. 

Despite my distaste for fighting, I was pleased to note that no one watching the fight seemed to be judging the fighters by their genders or making exceptions for them because they were women. What I heard was hearty appreciation for the prowess and power displayed by Ms. Rousey in dispatching her opponent in 34 seconds.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

taking on HSBC, part 3

Last year, after suffering through a slew of daily calls for several weeks straight, I brought an end to the HSBC marketing calls through a combination of well documented complaints and luck.  You can read the back story here. I am not convinced that Hong Kong's customer service department would have cared much considering that they had no system in place to successfully end their nuisance phone calls, but it was their bad luck and my good luck that the email address that a friend gave me to use was for VIP account holders in the UK and the gentleman who read my complaint not only directed me to the correct department in Hong Kong but cared enough to inform me of how to contact their global customer services department if my issue was not resolved. When it became clear that the non-contact form that the HK colleague sent to me useless and HSBC Hong Kong was apparently ignoring their own non-contact list when harassing their customers, I was able to escalate the issue. There was a major attitude shift and suddenly the problem that I had been fighting without results for a month became a pressing issue to the HK colleague to solve.

The problem was solved for almost a year but in the past few weeks the calls started up again. I received several phone calls per day, every day but Sunday. I emailed the HK colleague to express my disappointment but never received a response, so on Friday I resorted to the other email address. Today the HK colleague sent me a response, asking for time to resolve the problem (again). I assume that the global complaints department is breathing down her neck again.

I continue to be baffled at how it is okay for HSBC HK to incessantly phone their customers. I realise that the days are long gone when banks were simply happy to have your money deposited in their holdings and now you have to pay for the privilege of using their services if your account balance isn't adequate to their standards. I remember opening my first bank account as a child and proudly depositing my allowances from chores. Now I would be afraid that if a child were to open an account, he or she would be pressured by the account manager to sign up for all sorts of added fee devouring services. I can't make any changes to my account without being forced to sit through a pushy sales talk about how I should join some sort of investment scheme. I once made the mistake of asking for more information and not only was I subjected to a round of nonsense with pretty illustrations that left me no better informed, but the weasel filled in my application and tried to coax me to sign on the dotted line, having not read anything. Now they are ringing me several times every to sign me up for their additional services. As I said before, WTF HSBC?