Generation 40s – 四十世代

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你「上海」了我,還一笑而過

Hong Kong Economic Journal
C05 | 城市智庫 | By Roy |
2013-01-12

轉過新一年的拐角,回顧自己在2012的兩大斬獲,一是跟前度求婚被拒深受傷害,二是被生活的這座城市深深「上海」。

從去年3月走下飛機的那一刻起,一段新生活開始計時。曾經聽說過上海的交通太痛苦,高架橋下的綠化帶只能被稱為「灰化帶」,這個城市裏的人太冷漠。但當磁懸浮列車如「創世記」開場般劃開夜幕,又從酒店頂層的落地窗前迎來滿目的流光溢彩時,我立刻明白,對於自己可能會不適應的擔心,純屬多餘。

生命是一場奇遇

從去年到今年,學會不管紅綠燈在車流間見縫插針過馬路,跟本地朋友們欣喜若狂饕餮各種不健康美味,笑覑聽剛從國外來的同事抱怨空氣中的異味,看鬼佬說覑比我還流利的國語問翻版碟小販有沒有「新片兒」,學唱本地樂團戲仿那英的歌《你上海了我,卻一笑而過》,和晨運完的阿婆以及要去上學的小朋友一同排隊等覑滋滋作響的生煎包出鍋,就這樣不知不覺地從一個異鄉人,慢慢練就自己的上海Style。

算起來生活超過半年以上的城市,除了香港,上海算是第一個。可現在的我每每回到香港,竟然覺得自己只是一個過客。記憶散落在奔跑的腳印上,成了碎片。只剩下那個名字,如同胸口溫暖的悲傷。

有人說「生命是一場奇遇」。起初覺得這種說法極矯情。但在上海日久,漸漸認同了這句話。偌大的世界,浩瀚的時空。從蒼穹俯瞰下來,上海或香港都是渺小至可忽略不計的幾個點。我的存在和行走,竟然曾和另一個人的軌舻有過刻骨銘心的交集,對這份幸運,真的應當感恩。

在上海的最大不便是境外網絡一概封鎖,以確保內地輿論純潔和諧。所以現在看微博的機會多過高登,國家大事瞭如指掌,大陸流行語掛在嘴邊,反倒慢慢疏失香港朋友們的近況。趁回港開會時上面書收料,想要惡補大家的新動向,不想卻看到Jan貼出在哈爾濱跨年倒數的照片。每張照片上都只是她一個人,帶覑bling bling的耳套,在冰燈前bling bling的微笑覑。可給她拍照的,又是誰?她去冰城前先來上海出差時還咳嗽得驚天動地,而鏡頭前的如花笑靨,又是在向誰綻放?

我知道所有的傷害最後都會消解。但是每場傷害的善後處理,都一定有人心存僥幸,希望峰迴路轉。對於我而言,2012 其實什麼都沒有發生,而我卻在回憶未發生的一切。有時我甚至會覺得,在現在這個時間空間之外,應該有無數個平行世界,那裏面有覑我們在這個時空裏錯過的前朝,前世,前度。在某一個平行世界裏的Jan,應該已經答應了我的求婚,和另一個我從此過覑快樂的生活。

現實讓我們漸漸褪去青澀和幻想。注定成為過客的人,本也沒必要感傷。在未來,不會再把與任何人的相遇看成奇遇,平淡轉身,回歸質樸,珍惜每一次的對飲與小酌。那麼即便有過傷害,也該在臨別時,道聲珍重,一笑而過。

Roy@6角都市

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半日遊玩小江戶

Hong Kong Economic Journal
C05 | 城市智庫 | 回眸英倫 | By 毛羨寧 |
2013-01-05

東京土生土長的朋友想盡地主之誼,要帶我到近郊度周末,似乎已經下了決定:「去鐮倉好嗎?」「我想到川越小江戶(Kawagoe)。」向堅持己見的日本朋友表達意見,需要一點勇氣和重複說三五遍的毅力。可是,她自己也沒有去過。我看看她穿的高跟鞋,慫慂說川越距離東京市不到一小時,不喜歡的話下午便離開。幸好天公造美,原本連續一周的下雨天,郊遊當天竟然風和日麗。

為什麼堅持到川越小江戶?因為這保留了昔日江戶風貌的建築,列為「都市景觀一百選」。川越城、江戶城及岩槻城是同在幕府時期建造的關東三城之一,曾經發展至十七萬人口的重要城鎮。川越在江戶時期更是河運中心,建築受江戶風格影響最深,例如用青磚瓦片製造的倉庫和古老住宅,與歷史悠久的百年老店和日式甜點商店等互相點綴着大街,因此命名為「小江戶」。東京經歷過1923 年關東大地震及第二次世界大戰浩劫,日本江戶時期遺留下來的城堡、住家等古代建築,幾乎已經毁壞殆盡。其實川越市除了「一番街」附近一帶,整個城市與別的日本都市無異,百貨公司林立,還有一家很歐化的王子酒店(Kawagoe Prince Hotel),吸引了許多居民遊客來吃英式下午茶。

我就是喜歡日本新舊對照、和洋兼容的景色。熱鬧的「一番街」是川越小江戶最具特色的地區,一整條街的老房子,有專門賣筷子和筷子座的店舖,還有只供鰻魚飯的料理店。我們兩個沒有兄弟姐妹的女子想看刀劍,便在賣刀劍的「宮岡刃物店」看老東主教學徒打磨各種鋒刃的利器。走到「一番街」旁的小巷裏,有川越最具代表性的「鐘樓」。雖然這座三層木製的鐘樓經歷過多次火災、四次重建,現在每天還是響起四次鐘聲。鐘樓旁邊的藥師神社,傳說對於眼睛的保健特別靈驗,這神社的「?馬」上,寫的就是「めめ」——日文眼睛的意思。

柔道精神修心為上

這裏老房子多,寺廟也多,寺廟裏面可能還有幼稚園。從前日本人習慣把小孩暫託到寺廟才上班,現在很多寺廟仍有託兒服務。記得幾天前到淺草神社,陪朋友一邊向日本本地神求福,另一邊求觀音保平安。日本人也可以在神社舉行成人禮、在教堂結婚、在佛寺舉行葬禮,好像毫無衝突。日本評論家鶴見俊輔曾在「非轉向形式」一文中說,日本人的宗教意識,也納進了佛教及神道教以外的各種宗教。寺廟神社也跟權貴有重要關係,好像慈覺大師在830 年所創建的喜多院,與江戶大將軍德川家光有深厚淵源。這裏有從江戶城移建來,以豪華的墨畫裝飾的德川家光誕生房間「客殿」,和他乳母春日局用過的化妝間「書院」。喜多院耗時約五十年(1782 至1825 年)所建的五百三十八尊羅漢像也很有名,各有喜怒哀樂的表情。我一心要來喜多院參觀,卻迷失了路,在杳無人煙的住宅區打轉,朋友只好硬着頭皮問四位穿着校服的中學男生怎樣走。他們每人拿出手提電話搜尋地址,然後把我們帶到喜多院門口。當我還在找零錢想答謝他們的時候,剃了短平裝的小夥子已經轉身走了。「你們為什麼周日還穿校服?」最矮小的回頭答道:「Judo!」

柔道精神以修心為目的,在耶誕新年期間的寺院門前展露出人性最基本可愛面孔,超越了宗教信仰,這是最完美的開始。

毛羨寧


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Rich grab more university places, study finds

South China Morning Post
News›Hong Kong
EDUCATION
2013-02-01

Joyce Man and Dennis Chong

Wealth gap in enrolment rates has ballooned to an unacceptable level in the past 20 years, says a researcher who urges help for the poor

A gap in university enrolment rates between rich and poor students widened to an “unacceptable” level over the past two decades, an Institute of Education professor has found in a study.

Chou Kee-lee, associate head of the institute’s department of Asian and policy studies, called for more initiatives to improve poor youngsters’ opportunities in education.

Chou faulted the government’s previous approach to tackling poverty.

“In the past, it was always thought that if you improved the economic situation overall, if you invested in economic development, everyone would benefit and there was no need to target the poor,” he said yesterday. “But this is not true.”

His study compared the enrolment rates of 19- and 20-year-olds from the wealthiest 10 per cent of families with those with household incomes less than half the median level.

It found that in 2011, the enrolment rate among the richer group was 3.7 times greater than that among the poor. In 1991, the difference was only 1.2 times.

The study was based on the government’s census figures from those years.

In 2011, 48.2 per cent of 19- and 20-year-olds from richer families were enrolled at universities, compared with 13 per cent from the lower income group, the study found.

That is a dramatic change from 1991, when the figures were 9.3 per cent and 8 per cent for rich and poor families, respectively.

While the number of university places had risen over the past 20 years, Chou said it had not eased the disparity. “Yes, you make the pie bigger, you increase the number of spaces, but it’s the wealthy who benefit more,” he said. “We need to help those in poverty so that their opportunities in education are not affected by their families’ financial situations.”

Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai, a public policy researcher with the University of Hong Kong, said better access to higher education in recent years had benefited society as a whole. Yet it was still easier for rich families to place their youngsters in university, via expensive international schools and other routes.

“The university penetration rate has increased overall,” Yip said. “The system favours [richer families] – but probably not at the expense of the less well-off, because all groups have benefited.”

Chou’s study also found that youngsters living below the poverty line were more likely to pursue non-degree tertiary education – 30 per cent of them in 2011, versus 23.6 per cent for wealthier students. This was another indication that the best educational opportunities were more accessible to the rich, he said.

Yip urged the government to strengthen support for students, either financially or by other means, to prevent them from “going into debt” after graduating from sub-degree programmes, which were often privately run.

Chou called for more initiatives targeting young people from poor families, including scholarships and workable schemes for reducing tuition fees.

He recommended that the government allocate more resources to schools attended by larger numbers of children from poor households.

Equal access to education was “the most important vehicle for social mobility”, but insufficient support for poor children might make it difficult to prevent intergenerational poverty, he said.

Efforts to define poverty should not only look at financial indicators, Chou said, but also at factors such as educational levels, so that support could be targeted at the needy. “This is to prevent people from losing out at the starting line,” he said.


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東亞風雲驟變中日博弈新局

Hong Kong Economic Journal
A02 | 要聞社評 | 社評 |
2013-01-26

日本公明黨黨魁山口那津男訪華行程的最大謎團終於解開,中共總書記習近平在山口「破冰之旅」的最後一刻和他見面,並親手接過日本首相安倍晉三的親筆信,使山口得以完成任務,體面地回國。

這一次會見,既體現中方與人為善的泱泱大度、顧念「老朋友」的有情有義,也避免予人咄咄逼人的強硬印象,更將日本政壇就釣島問題的分歧推上風口浪尖,把皮球送回安倍的腳下,堪稱一石三鳥。

然而,這一次會面,對於解決釣島紛爭,其實並無實質作用,因為此後會是中日關係改善,東海局勢緩和;還是兩國更趨劍拔弩張,甚至出現擦槍走火,導致軍事衝突,全取決於安倍政府的實際行動,以及美國在背後的取態。

迄目前為止,安倍依然擺出寸土不讓姿態,一方面聲稱重視與中國的關係,希望通過談判解決爭端,另一方面卻揚言釣島主權沒有交涉餘地,變相把對話的門口關上,這種「兩面三刀」的態度倘若持續,兩國僵局將無從打破,只會步向兵凶戰危。

此外,安倍對外展開其「價值觀」外交,將「繁榮自由之弧」圍堵中國的策略舊調重彈;對內則藉釣島之爭要求修改防衞大綱,增加軍費,擴充軍備,更亟欲改變日本自衞隊的角色,恢復「集體自衞權」,企圖擺脫二戰後國際社會施諸日本軍國主義身上的「緊箍咒」,其野心昭然若揭,更恐成為北韓核試威脅以外,亞洲動盪的另一根源。

是故,習近平在會見山口時強調:「事實證明,兩國間四個政治文件是中日關係的壓艙石,應堅持遵守。」而全國政協主席賈慶林早前會見到訪的日本前首相鳩山由紀夫時也說,中方願意在中日四個政治文件確定的原則基礎上,本着以史為鑑、面向未來的精神,繼續推進中日兩國戰略互惠關係。

中日政治文件中,其中重要的一環,就是日本政府「堅持遵循波茨坦公告第八條的立場」,這「第八條」說的是:「重申開羅宣言中的諸內容應被履行,並且日本的主權必須被限制在本州、北海道、九州以及吾人所決定其他小島之內」。

換言之,中國領導人不僅以開羅宣言、波茨坦公告等闡明釣魚島主權誰屬的理據,更向國際社會發出警號:提防日本蓄意改變戰後國際秩序,擴軍以威脅東亞的安全。

日本近年右翼勢力抬頭,安倍作為著名鷹派人物,他上台前後的種種言論和舉措,顯示其不但沒有吸取歷史教訓,更有蠢蠢欲動要為侵略罪行開脫之嫌,看來除了北京警覺以外,美國政府也在關注。

對於安倍爭取恢復行使集體自衞權,作為執政聯盟一分子的公明黨表明反對,而山口那津男日前提議中日擱置釣島爭議,留待下一代人解決,以及中日軍機都不飛釣島,在日本國內惹來爭議,更受到自民黨官員的攻擊。北京一方面安排最高領導人會見山口,又繼日本前首相鳩山由紀夫訪華之後,再邀請另一日本前首相村山富市到北京訪問,擺明是要借助日本國內的溫和政治勢力,制肘安倍的極右政策。

另一方面,安倍目前當務之急,應為改善經濟,其大動作的「量寬」措施能否奏效,將決定其於稍後參議院選舉中的成敗,如果中日關係緊張加劇,兩國商貿雪上加霜,對其管治當為不利,相信這也是他需要考慮的因素。

至於美國,奧巴馬連任之後,已提出再平衡其重返亞太戰略,其中軍事力量的比重,將有所調節,加上北韓核問題令東亞風雲驟起,美國在伊朗和北韓兩大難題上,都不能忽略中國的作用,其與日本和中國的互動,相信也會因而有所調整。中日釣島博弈,因應國內和周邊形勢變化,正面臨新的局面,且看雙方下一着的進退了。


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An incinerator isn’t our only choice

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2013-01-31

Tom Yam

Tom Yam says while there’s no question that Hong Kong needs a waste treatment plant, an incinerator based on fading technology that’s also highly polluting isn’t our only choice

Most of us would agree that reducing waste at source, recycling and reuse is the best long-term approach to Hong Kong’s waste disposal. But let’s face it, given the 18,000 tonnes we generate daily, there’s no way that the “three Rs” can prevent our garbage from filling up all three landfills by 2019.

The landfills will have to be extended. And thermal decomposition technology will need to be employed as well. The critical questions are: what is the technology, and where should this technology be located?

It’s important to note that thermal decomposition technology is not limited to incineration. It encompasses newer, more advanced technologies that need a little more vision to consider. Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Department has only applied tunnel vision to the problem so far.

Since 2007, it has been fixated on building a colossal incinerator costing HK$15 billion that uses old technology to burn 3,000 tonnes of waste a day. Worse, the department proposes to build this bonfire in the pristine natural environment of Shek Kwu Chau, off south Lantau.

The way the department has been pushing this mega incinerator, you’d think there was no alternative. But there is. A more flexible and creative strategy is to build a small-scale, state-of-the-art plasma gasification plant that can be integrated with the existing waste-disposal facilities at one of the current landfill locations. If this plant proves successful, its capacity can be gradually expanded.

Phasing it in will minimise the risks of deploying this advanced technology: we can see whether it disposes of our waste efficiently. If the pilot plasma gasification plant performs well, build more at other landfill sites. Adopting cutting-edge technology while managing potential risks would be the approach of a “world city”, rather than putting all our eggs in one basket with a mass-burn incinerator based on sunset technology.

The core technology of the moving-grate incinerator beloved of the Environmental Protection Department has not changed in 50 years. It burns waste at 800 degrees Celsius, releasing combustion gases into the atmosphere. Almost a third of the waste remains hazardous ash that needs to be transported to landfills for disposal. Incremental improvements to this technology over the years have mainly involved pollution-control devices to manage – but not eliminate – toxic emissions.

In the United States, the number of incinerators using moving-grate technology has fallen from 186 in 1990 to 87 in 2010, due to their health risks and high costs, along with the increase in waste reduction and recycling. No new incinerators have been built in the US since 2010. Last year, the New York City government specifically excluded moving-grate technology in its request for bids to build a new waste-to-energy treatment plant.

In Japan, the number of moving-grate incinerators was cut by 25 per cent between 1998 and 2005, when it stood at 1,320. Plasma gasification technology has been introduced at two locations. In Europe, wide-ranging waste reduction and recycling have actually led to an over-supply of incinerator capacity.

It is only in developing countries like China that moving-grate incinerators are being constructed in significant numbers. Manufacturers using this technology recognise that it is coming to the end of its life cycle. They are pushing to squeeze profits from it before it becomes obsolete.

Although moving-grate technology incinerates waste into ash, the gasification process converts waste into synthesis gas and slag – a type of solid waste – with recovery of energy and valuable metals. Gasification is completely different from incineration; burning does not occur in a plasma gasification unit.

Plasma gasification employs extreme temperatures (4,000 to 8,000 degrees) in the absence or near-absence of oxygen, with organic and other materials broken up into chemical elements that are then either collected (in the case of valuable metals), vitrified to produce an inert glass-like slag, or reformed into synthesis gas that can be used as an industrial feedstock or converted to energy.

About 100 commercial plasma gasification waste-processing facilities have been constructed worldwide since 1994. Most of these plants are used to vitrify incinerator ash. Others are used to process medical waste, hazardous waste and other difficult types of waste. Two in Japan are treating municipal solid waste, with more being planned. One in Ottawa, Canada, is being built. British Airways recently reached a deal to build plasma gasification facilities that can convert waste into aviation fuel. Four in the US, two in Britain, four in Canada, one in India and one in China are reportedly being planned .

An examination of scientific and technical literature, media reports and other sources found no health or safety problems, and few environmental problems, with plasma arc disposal systems. Also, no environmental or health and safety problems have been reported among the eight plants treating materials including asbestos, tannery waste, aluminium dross, catalytic converters, medical waste and munitions.

If plasma gasification is the best solution, the obvious question is: Why aren’t there more waste-disposal plants using this technology? The answer is simple: The capital cost is still very high. However, as with any new technology, the cost will inevitably drop as it is used in more plants and adopted by more users.

The choice that Hong Kong faces is clear: will it use a sunset, pollutant- emitting technology for a plant built in a pristine environment, or will it judiciously integrate step by step an advanced technology in existing landfills that is being adopted worldwide with much less environmental and health impact?

Is the Environmental Protection Department smart enough to understand the difference?

Tom Yam is a Hong Kong-based management consultant. He holds a doctorate in electrical engineering and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania