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.

Monday, October 19, 2015

lock down

Craig Joubert's Wikipedia page is locked for some reason.

Yes, the replays have allowed us to see that a mistake was made in that call. Yes, it was horrible. No, we have not found a way to eliminate that terrible homo sapien trait of imperfection that plagues us. Dammit, Joubert.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

back to the beginning

Autumn has brought a flurry of excitement as rugby season is now underway. For anyone wondering where I have been other than hiking with the furbabies, I have been busy with club administration. My club, SCAA Causeway Bay, took inventory of where we stood and have decided to continue on our pathway as a competitive, amateur club. Our several seasons in the Premiership left our club with deep wounds but we are now in a very good position, having rebuilt; and while always looking for opportunity, we are happy to be where we are now.

In some ways, our foray into premiership level rugby was successful. We were a club with a majority of local players and very few resources compared to the other premiership powerhouses, but when we exited the premiership, we were not in last place. We never broke into the top half, but we did manage to develop quite a number of young players into elite athletes who were quickly snatched up by the top teams. In one year alone, six of our players were lured away by high paying premiership clubs and while this was the final nail in our coffin, it showed that our talent development program was a success; just we didn't have the funds to retain the talent that we developed.

The big problem though, was that the time and effort and expense that were required to field a top level team was costly in terms of our core values. Many clubs import professional players, and we had to do the same, yet this went against our ethos as a local, inclusive team. Since exiting the premiership, we have worked hard to make amends and rebuild our base of supportive, team oriented players. We still develop top level local players who are still snatched up by paying clubs, but since we don't compete at the premiership level anymore, we can grudgingly let them go to seek higher level (and compensated) competition.

One day if the right offer comes along, we would consider throwing our hats in the ring and rejoining the premiership, but for now I think that we are where we need to be: at the top of the amateur league with a successful program that produces top level local players who sometimes go on to play at the top level of the sport in Hong Kong.

And while we can't claim too much credit for this player's development, we are the only club that can boast having a former player who is currently playing in the rugby world cup. Hint: he's also the heaviest player in the tournament.

Friday, October 2, 2015

bodies moving

The past few weeks have seen a steep increase in companionship on our hikes. As the weather gets less intense, we have gone from solitary hikes to rambles with friends and other dogs. Not that our hikes have ever been monotonous but it's been very enjoyable to have a change in the routine.

Yesterday, a last minute social media posting was quickly answered by a friend who I haven't seen since my days as a Sandy Bay coach. He's been busy in the past couple of years, having seriously taken up hiking. A former prop, he is still of a front row physique, which is misleading. He set a determined pace that had the dogs and me puffing along. If not for our breaks to hydrate and water down the dogs, we would have plowed our way through the usually 2 hour hike in half the time. Of course our usual hikes include stoppages to splash in streams but this man's pace was impressive.

He is going to attempt to complete the HK trailwalker after two failures. He suceeded the Japan trailwalker but this one has eluded him. During the first year he suffered a freak injury when quite suddenly, he was unable to place any weight on his left leg, which still baffles him as to what happened. The second attempt saw him teamed up with a man who was in his own program, insisting that he was going to do the trailwalker as he remembered it over a decade ago. The man left them to complete the "correct" course and the team eventually caught up with him as he was entering the shivery stage of heat stroke. His teammates did not return the favor and abandon him.

During our hike yesterday, we came across a dozen or so people who seemed to be part of the same group, only staggered along the twins by twenty minutes. The ones in front looked tired but the ones in the back were downright miserable. They were all impressively kitted out in ultra runner clothing, with high end shoes and running backpacks. I wondered what the story was. Office entry into the trailwalker perhaps?

SB wanted to do the trailwalker previously but several stints as support crew changed his mind. The glory of completing the course in his mind didn't take into account the pain. Watching your very fit friends vomiting and swaying about like zombies puts a damper on enthusiasm to partake. Now SB is happy to limit his participation to going on training hikes with people who are preparing for the hellish event. I never had such lofty ambitions and have always been happy to be the water girl. I'm a very good water girl.