Sunday, 26 August 2007

The Wood Hunt

Sound planning is the key to good project management. As the old saying goes, "A good start means half way to success."

Everything goes smoothly as planned since the keys were passed into my hands in early June. Although it took quite a few weeks to discuss, revise and finalise the renovation plan, the time and effort has now paid off. No major problem has occurred and even the typhoon two weeks ago didn't have any impact on the progress of renovation. Additional items and budgets were discussed and finalised through emails, which is extremely convenient and efficient.

Of course, having someone whom you trust and is reliable to manage the project is another key success factor. Thanks Raymond and Xavier!

Perhaps it was somewhat surprising for both gentlemen to see me select materials such as tiles and taps and so on in an hour or so. Personally I didn't come to realise until then that there seems to be a really clear picture of what I want and what not. There was no difficulty at all in selecting the materials, taking into account the key factors of budget, colour, material, texture and personal preference.

As the completion of the renovation works is approaching, I have moved on to the next steps - the selection of furniture and electrical appliances. Essentially I have already drawn up with a list of electrical appliances and have checked out the prices from an old vendor that always offers a better deal. It's just a matter of placing the order some time later and awaiting the delivery.

As for furniture, the situation seems more complicated. Again, there is no difficulty in defining what I want. The only problem is to strike a balance between my preference and the budget for optimal results.

Having been shopping around for several weeks, the best vendor has yet to appear. Ready-made furniture vendor IKEA is certainly going to be one of the major sources to buy from, but there is still a big question mark over the durability and feasibility of its offerings of the key item of primary concern, bookshelves made of wood (or of materials comparable to wood in durability and outlook).

I have been told too many times about how vulnerable IKEA bookshelves can be (notably the BILLY series, to be precise), but the significantly lower price tags also seem irresistible. Friends and family are telling me that I should spend as little as possible on furniture until everything is settled and I'm sure I'm happy with my new haven. However, I'm the kind of person who hates to start things all over again unless absolutely necessary. Replacing furniture in a few years' time, in my opinion, is just a waste of time, money and detrimental to the environment. I simply want to get things right from the start. That's all.

Another major consideration would be how the products would fit in the layout of my study, which has a 90-degree angle that, ideally, should be made good use of in view of my sizeable collection. This is certainly not easy at all with ready-made furniture. At the same time, the flexibility of having extra shelves other than the default ones is also important. For some reason IKEA has stopped offering loose shelves as an option in recent years. This is really disappointing. But tailor-made furniture is understandably much more expensive. The capability and flexibility to fit in any layout simply requires a premium. That's why I still haven't made up my mind on this important decision - whether or not to opt for a once-and-for-all solution, or an interim offer?

And the fundamental question is - What is more important, budget or style?

Saturday, 25 August 2007

















Friday, 24 August 2007

Retrospect of a Decade (Final)

These last few words in my retrospect are inspired by the overwhelming account of the history of Hong Kong not just over the past decade, but also since it was made into a British colony, beyond which there seemed no history at all.

From a utilitarian perspective, there is no doubt that the history of Hong Kong before British colonisation has little relevance for Hong Kong today. However, from the perspective of the French Annales School of historiography, which combines geography, history and sociology in its approach of historical studies, it is somewhat pre-determined that Hong Kong is to become what it was, is and will be.

In my opinion, the utilitarian perspective no longer serves us any good. A broader and more open approach that takes into account a wide spectrum of factors on equal footing, without prejudice, would be the only solution to enable Hong Kong to sustain in the long term.

Bar none.

Nothing intrigues me more than the propagandist cliché of how Hong Kong transformed itself from a fishing village into the world city of Asia. This interpretation of history simply underlines an ecstasy of our capabilities that makes impossible is nothing, among other things. Be it the support of China, regardless of the ruling party. Be it the good governance of the British colonisers. Be it the endeavours of the silent majority in the population. Be it, even though many of us are reluctant to admit, pure luck.

Obviously each kind of discourse or interpretation is built upon some sort of assumptions or is designed to achieve certain purposes, whatever they may be. I have no problem being exposed to different views and perspectives, as long as they are substantiated and reasonably argued. What I find it more unbearable is the overwhelming unanimity in the perspective of public discourse of the history of Hong Kong.

This is what I see as another vivid example of how adamantly dominant the baby-boomers are. They are not satisfied with their firm grip of the political, economic and social aspects of Hong Kong. They also seek to define how the history of Hong Kong is written and, more importantly, how most of us think. I still remember when I was only a child, how the fallacy that Hong Kong people made possible all the changes of Hong Kong was hammered into my head. The same key messages were imposed on me by whatever I read, whoever I listened to.

Apparently the economic rise in 1970s and 1980s has bequeathed us a prolonged ecstasy of confidence in our own capabilities that impossible is nothing. Anything that attempts to challenge this fundamental belief is doomed to be discredited and rejected. Most of the historical review of Hong Kong seen in the local media simply reinforced my observation.

For some, the success of Hong Kong is attributed to the support of China or, more precisely, the political upheavals in China that enabled Hong Kong to emerge as the haven for dissents and refugees. For some other, it is the benevolent governance and sensible policies of the British colonisers that matters. For most of us, who would by all means avoid muddling in the dirty water of politics, it is the most politically correct option to attribute every success to ourselves. This is the safest interpretation that gets nobody into trouble. That's all.

Perhaps this is why history, which values strong and sound reasoning based on facts but anything, has never been a popular subject in Hong Kong. Probably attributed to the traditional perspective of historical discourse, history is always an account of the rise of the winners and the fall of the losers in the political arena. Things are either too remote or too scary to be relevant to people on the street.

Paradoxically, our conventional wisdom of ignoring history has now struck back by exposing us to an unprecedented identity crisis. This is because we used think that we are on top of the world, among others, but actually we never came even close. We never realise that we are just a piece of chess in the game between two or more really great powers that neither of them really treat us well. The benefits or benevolence that we enjoy cannot be taken for granted. We could be deprived of any of these privileges overnight. What is good and makes sense for us could be nothing but a happy coincidence.

Without understanding the context of how Hong Kong actually came to exist as it is now, and how the dynamics of the game work out, we are stuck in the middle of nowhere, not knowing what to do and where to go. Helplessly.

Monday, 20 August 2007
















Sunday, 12 August 2007









Friday, 10 August 2007

Snapshot - Tyranny of a Typhoon

Who was that idiot who said that Hong Kong's population should become 10 million? Who was that again?

Come and engage the public as you said, shithead. Just do it.

Just do it when the typhoon signal number eight is hoisted. Stick yourself in the crowd sweating like a pig and you'll know how terribly wrong you are.

We simply have too many rather than too few people.

Retrospect of a Decade (Part 6)

Another change over the past decade that has often been overlooked is the weather. Agree with me or not, the weather of Hong Kong has become drier both in terms of humidity and the volume of rainfall. I remember when I was a child the summer was characterised by heavy downpours and strong typhoons from time to time and an unbearable level of dampness as if you could clasp your hands and squeeze some water out of the air you breathe. That's why some scientists have warned that Hong Kong and the southern province of Guangdong will become a desert by the next century if no effective measure is taken to prevent the extreme but extraordinary weather.

While I love the dry winds and clear blue sky as much as anyone else does, just like what I experienced last May on a breakaway on Lamma Island, I feel sad that summer is losing its colour to look no different from winter. Don't you remember how outrageously warm it was last winter? I didn't even bother to put on anything made of wool. Not even a sweater. Just by putting on a long-sleeve T-shirt would make me sweat like a pig. I was really upset about this, not because I didn't have to put my winter clothes on, but because I have lost the comfort under the sunshine and cold winds in winter. The chill from the north reminds me of warm memories of the laughter at reunions, the comfort of wrapping myself in a thick quilt, as well as the extraordinary enjoyment of hot food and drinks. A chill-less winter without any wool garments is just too appalling.

No doubt that a complicated combination of factors that has come into existence for decades contributes to the climate change. Yet I wonder what we have done to realise how serious the problem has become, let alone fix it. That's why air-conditioners of all brands have been sold out this summer due to the record-high sizzling heat. We are too used to find the handiest solutions to our immediate comfort without even thinking for a second about the root cause of the problem and how to address it.

That's simply not the way forward, if we are going to make Hong Kong a better home not for us, but for our younger generations.

I really wonder why the green groups spend all their time and effort criticising the power companies of polluting the air of Hong Kong. Don't you think the some 600,000 motor vehicles running on the streets of Hong Kong every day bear some sort of responsibility? Are unleaded auto fuels and liquefied petroleum gas the only thing we can do? How about emissions trading with Guangdong province when most of us blame the manufacturing plants there for the poor air quality? What have the Government and green groups and all other parties concerned have done to encourage the use of public transport and avoid driving unless absolutely necessary? What about those guys who like driving more as a means of showing-off than a transport requirement?

Show me the facts and figures and tell me that I'm terribly wrong here.