Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Latest Accident Underlines Need for Fatigue Management Training

It's time for action, not words after the latest in a long series of accidents caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel and mounting the pavement. While it was only good fortune that meant nobody died in Sha Tin in the early hours of this morning, many pedestrians have already been killed in such incidents and it is time that the bus companies took action.

This crash comes less than two weeks after another KMB double-decker ploughed straight into a wall at a junction, with again no skid marks on the road surface a sure sign that the driver had fallen asleep. In both instances, the driver was coming to the end of his long shift - the time at which drivers are most susceptible to drowsiness.  

Two steps are needed. First, and most importantly, the bus companies need to recognise that their drivers are falling asleep at the wheel. No more hiding behind the formulations commonly used by the drivers and their unions: 'loss of consciousness' or, as in this case, 'mistaking the accelerator for the brake'. No, I'm not kidding; that's what the fellow said this morning when he woke up.  

Second, they need to introduce fatigue management training, as is carried out in other countries. Take a man or a woman who, despite possessing a driving license, has little experience of driving (very few bus drivers in Hong Kong earn enough to own a car) and ask him or her to drive a bus for eight to ten hours a day, and the alarm bells should be ringing.

Rather than pretend there is no problem, the answer is to set up training. The effects will be immediate. Sometimes all that human beings need in order to conduct themselves properly is a reminder of how things are and of the simple steps that can be taken to improve things. In terms of preventing falling asleep at the wheel, these steps include getting to bed by a specified hour and stopping the bus as soon as one feels drowsy.

Lives depend on this.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Former French Minister Confident of Success in Nadal Libel Case

I not only have a PhD in Pharmacy, but I am also a dab hand at divining what a Spaniard gets up to when he takes seven months off and then comes back and wins our championship

Monday, 25 April 2016

Is the Gilt Coming off Trump's Campaign?

                       Where's Goldfinger when you need him?

Friday, 22 April 2016

Game of Thrones?

On the day that Apple Daily wins the award for the least surprising news item by reporting that construction of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link is beset by a whole raft of problems, including water leaks and cracked components, the most intriguing story concerns a bus driver who needed to use the bathroom, as the Americans say.

Having arrived in Tuen Mun after his trip from Shenzhen Bay Port, the 57-year-old Citybus driver was in desperate need of a slash, as we say on the other side of the pond. And because his company does not provide a portable loo at the bus station (Tuen Mun Ferry Pier, for the record), the poor chap had to walk to a local shopping centre to find relief.    

Having got back to his vehicle, he was given GBH on the earhole by a particularly obnoxious individual, who started shouting at him from a distance of half a bus length away, armed with his camera phone. The gauntlet having been thrown down, the driver, like a knight of yore, advanced down the aisle to engage the obnoxious one in verbal combat, suitably armed with his own camera phone.    

Given the circumstances, he was remarkably restrained, using only a smattering of mild cuss words in the face of the obnoxious one’s sarcastic taunts. Despite all this, it was reported yesterday that he had been sacked (the incident happened back a couple of weeks ago). Which all seems a bit strange until you factor in that the driver, who had worked for Citybus for 16 years, had the misfortune to work on route B3.

I say “misfortune” because within the trade it is something of an open secret that the manager who looks after the cross-border routes is something of a martinet, with a track record of firing staff. (Citybus merely say that the driver had a poor performance record, which makes you wonder – if true – why he had not been given the old heave-ho earlier. After all, the incident in itself did not involve safety issues and is the sort of kerfuffle you see in Hong Kong every day, use of poncey mobile phones not excluded.)        

But the most interesting aspect of the whole business lies in the cooperation – or rather the lack of it – between Citybus and the other transport companies that operate out of Tuen Mun Ferry Pier, namely KMB and the MTR, both of which have toilet facilities on site. If you thought the sensible thing would be for the two transport giants to let their counterparts at Citybus use their facilities – eminently feasible, given that Citybus operate only one route out of the terminus – then think again.

This, after all, is Hong Kong – where a squabble a day keeps the doctor away.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Monday, 18 April 2016

Accountants Respond to Impeachment of Brazilian President for Manipulating Accounts

                       A little massage never did one's figure any harm

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Cameron Appeal to Chinese President in Full

Don’t forget Britain, Mr Xi

We have deep pockets, Cameron

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

China Reveals Plan to Win World Cup in 30 Years

If the venue vote can be rigged, the on-field stuff will be a piece of cake with Africa and South America in our pocket

Monday, 11 April 2016

The Wee Yin Pulling the Strings

I hereby declare this Discovery Bay golf buggy key party open 

He may be stand five foot nothing in his tartan socks, but Brian Stevenson has been a major player in the realm of highly liquid sport-related institutions in Hong Kong since the turn of the millennium.

Since retiring from his day job as a partner at accounting giant Ernst and Young in 1999, the Wee Yin has kept himself busy with his presidency of the Hong Kong Rugby Union (formerly Hong Kong Rugby Football Union: are they finally trying to distance themselves from the yobbos' game?) - where he celebrates 15 years at the helm this year. 

More or less concurrently, he put in a decade and a half on the Board of the gambling monopoly cum tail-that-wags-the-government-dog that calls itself the Hong Kong Jockey Club, rounding that stint off with a four-year term as chairman, taking over the reins from the equally diminutive John Chan Cho Chak.

The Little Yin's replacement as Chairman is Simon Ip Sik On, who was from 1996 until 2004 senior partner of combative legal outfit Johnson Stokes & Master - former stomping ground of Ken Lim and his protegé Mary Jean Reimer.

Given the urbane solicitor's finely-honed networking skills and powerful blend of patriotism and pragmatism, we await developments in respect of the Jockey Club's joint venture on the Mainland with bated breath. The giant equine complex (boasting a racecourse and massive stabling facilities) located north of Guangzhou is till awaiting the green light two years after its scheduled opening, as the PRC Government ums and ahs over just what slice of the gambling pie it will take.

In the meantime, the scourge of organisations with light-aversion disorders, David Webb, has some interesting things to say about both outfits, one article hot off the press in the wake of the alcohol-fuelled Hong Kong Sevens, and the other of more relevance than ever with the value of Jockey Club membership increasing exponentially each year with the steady influx of moneyed Mainlanders and set to go through the roof with the imminent opening of the Conghua centre. Well worth a read.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Friday, 8 April 2016

BBQ It and They Will Come

On the day that yet another survey came to the conclusion that Hong Kong people are among the most miserable in the world, as fate would have it, I managed to try a restaurant which seemed determined to prove the point.

I got to the Gyu Kaku  in Telford Plaza 3 early as I had seen the queues on an earlier visit to the mall, and it was just as well, since by the time my friend joined me 20 minutes later, I had only just been seated.

Fans of sushi and sashimi can give this place a miss, since it doesn’t serve them at all. What it specialises in is barbecued meat, fish and seafood, which they cunningly get you to cook yourself, so that they don’t have to employ any chefs. Well, I think anyone can turn a rice-cooker on and off, and throw a bit of seaweed in water and call it soup.

They give you an iPad thing to order with, but what these things don’t let you do is specify how you want things served (like for example an iced coffee, where the proportion of ice to coffee comes at a level that suits the taste buds of the imbiber rather than the pockets of the owner), so we left that on one side and ordered from the printed menus.    

When the coffee arrived, it was accompanied by two tiny capsules containing UHT milk, so I asked for two more. The waitress frowned at me – not because she didn’t understand (she must get the request a lot) but because she felt more comfortable that way.

When it came time to get the bill, the burly fellow who I managed to hail walked away without acknowledging the request, so we went up to the cash-desk only to be told by Surly Waitress that the bill would be brought to our table.

We didn’t leave much of a tip, but then if we had perhaps they’d have felt the need to smile. Then again, probably not.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Joshua Wong Launches New Party

Before we have the referendum on One Country, Two Systems, we plan to have one on our silly name and his silly glasses 

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Kwok Brothers in Hot Water over Australian Refugee Camps

                             I told you we should stick to car parks

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Sun Hung Kai Eyes Opportunity in Central Business District

                  KMB's former depot in Kwun Tong

The Chinese press reports that those Young Earth Creationists at Sun Hung Kai Properties have been busy increasing their stake in Transport International Holdings. Now TIH is the fancy name for local bus company KMB plus a few odds and ends – some, like the abominable Roadshow, very odd indeed, and, judging from the ever decreasing number of buses carrying their execrable television noise, one that may not be around to irritate us for much longer.

Anyway, back to SHKP, and the Brothers Kwok (sadly still separated in the body, though undoubtedly one in the spirit) celebrated Easter in time-honoured fiscal fashion by upping their shareholding to 35.02% – the figure stood at 33% just a year ago – thereby reaching the threshold for what the Takeovers Code calls a “mandatory offer obligation”.

Well, it would be a threshold, if it weren’t for a little thing called a 2% creeper (how those chaps at Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearings must be congratulated for coming up with a name so apposite to financial dealings in the territory), which means they can continue to acquire shares up to 50% without making that mandatory offer so long as the acquisitions are spaced out so as to amount to no more than 2% in any 12-month period.

In the meantime, over in the benighted area of the Dark Side which has been attempting to rebrand itself as Hong Kong’s new Central Business District under the “Energizing Kowloon East” initiative (I’m not making this up, it even has its own website – now you know where all your tax dollars are going), a new car park concept has been born.

It is now six years since SHKP’s de facto subsidiary (and, who knows, very shortly its de jure wholly-owned subsidiary) KMB turfed the double-deckers out of its depot in Kwun Tong, since when the sprawling building has been lying idle right there in the Central Business District (oops – Energized East Kowloon, aka EEK!)  

Until, that is, just last month, when the building suddenly started operating as a car park. And, let’s face it, which owner of a clunky purple S500 Mercedes Benz or a black Alphard with curtains and PRC license plates is going to pass up the chance to park his behemoth in a bus bay when the pokey Wilson Car Park around the corners come equipped with more pillars than a Greek ruin?         

When approached by the Fourth Estate for a comment on the sudden development, the Lands Department responded that a letter was in the post to the owners (subsidiaries of SHKP and TIH in equal shares) reminding them that the car park gambit is in breach of the land lease.

In terms of that land lease, while the usage assigned by the government for the lot when it fell into disuse in 2010 was “Industrial”, an application to have it modified to “Non-residential (excluding hotel)” (“office use” to you and me) was submitted as soon as the last whiff of diesel fumes had drifted off into the EEK air.  

But…as Adele might put it, rumour has it that SHKP’s real aim, gorged as they were on the HK$5 billion windfall that was Manhattan Hill (a luxury development built on the site of a former bus depot in Mei Foo) and greedy for more, is set on persuading the government to modify the land lease to “Residential”, a word guaranteed to get the carpets awash with saliva at SHKP HQ in Wan Chai.

If the sole remaining Kwok brother, his mum, Raphael Hui’s replacement as their eyes and ears in the government et al can pull this one off, it will surely rank as the biggest shock since those dinosaurs were roaming the earth with mankind 5,000 years ago.

Friday, 1 April 2016

CY Leung Resigns

In a move that had been predicted by no one, Hong Kong's Chief Executive has resigned with immediate effect, his deputy Carrie Lam taking over until fresh elections are held.

In a speech that lasted for 40 minutes, broadcast direct from Government House, Leung stunned his audience when he pointed out that Chinese civilisation was 5,000 years old, but "look, where has it got us?" 

He went on to talk about a number of areas in which he felt he, as well as the local and Mainland governments, had "lost our way", while praising certain aspects of local culture, such as concern for the elderly and a hard-working ethic.

Corruption was top of the list of shortcomings Leung had identified in what he called "the Chinese ethos" during several sleepless nights of reflection, prompted by a chance comment he had overheard while being shepherded by security staff out of the Central Government Offices before the start of the Easter break.

Although Leung did not say exactly what the comment had been, he said that even as police officers moved to detain the woman, he began to reflect on his own role in what he called "Hong Kong's sad demise". "I couldn't pretend any longer that I was a part of the solution to the many and deep-rooted problems we are facing", and the upshot was that he had to "front up and go".

Although Leung gave few details, he said that the relationship between the governments (he was thought to be referring to the PRC as well as Hong Kong be means of the plural) and what he called "business conglomerations" was too close and that paying lip-service to notions like corporate governance and accountability only compounded the problem rather than helping to fix it.

"How can you talk of 'easing' a cancer patient's suffering, when the only cure is to cut the disease out?" he asked, his voice quivering and tears coming to his eyes.  

The next few days will, one feels, be pivotal for Hong Kong and the Greater China region. 

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Diary of a Young Lady?

Fancy a read? Want to know what England was like when Oscar Wilde was mincing about and strewing his green carnations everywhere? Then try reading these two books back to back: The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James and The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith (the latter sounding as if he's just tripped out of a Wilde play). 

Written at either end of the 1880s, the books - both serialisations as so much Victorian stuff was - couldn't give a different picture of life in the south of England if they tried. James's novel gives us British toffs and American would-be toffs, who scarper off to warmer climes for the winter and talk a lot. This is early James, so he only disappears up his own sentences - leaving the reader twiddling his thumbs back on Planet Earth - on mercifully few occasions. 

Each time he returns, it is to develop his presentation of Isabel Archer, a heroine very much in the mould of Richardson's Clarissa - without the rape but with similar insights into the psyche of the Intelligent Attractive Female with a penchant for redeeming a bit of rough. And does the quest for the redemption of the other include a desire for self-flagellation bordering on the death wish? Read it and find out. 

These are questions that are unlikely to arise from reading Mr Pooter's diary, the work of brothers whose primary occupation was treading the boards as comic actors. The early chapters of the book have enough extremely bad puns to put off all but the hardiest reader (or, indeed, lover of puns), but one of the strengths of this short work is that it gets better as it goes along. Think of it as a kind of cross between The Castle and Catch-22. Only, not as powerful as Kafka and funnier than Heller. But, then again, what isn't?

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Lee Bo to Star in Remake of The Prisoner for CCTV

                             I am not a free man - I am a number

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Serena Williams Adamant Women Should be Paid Same as Men

Who wants to watch two super-fit ultra-talented male athletes compete when they could watch us instead?

Monday, 21 March 2016

Hillary Rubs Hands in Glee as Republican Elite Line up Alternative to Trump

Never mind the party name, we Washington types should stick together