Thursday, November 10, 2005

Wind turbine

Imagine standing in front of a building of 23 storeys high. It is not a building, but a tall tower with huge fan blades. The sight is impressive and intimidating. It is the new wind turbine of Hong Kong Electric at Lamma Island.

This is Hong Kong's first commercial-scale wind turbine. Construction work is also in progress to turn the site into an education corner for wind power and other forms of renewable energy. The 800-kW wind turbine can generate electricity when wind speeds are in the range of 3 to 25 meters per second. With commissioning scheduled for early 2006, the wind turbine is expected to produce 1GWh of electricity a year. The tower hub is 46m high and the rotor diameter is 50m; so the highest point of the tip of the blade is 71m above ground, slightly higher than a 23-storey building.

Wind power is environmental friendly as it does not consume hydrocarbon and does not emit waste. However, it is difficult for wind turbine to ensure a consistent supply as its operation depends on the strength of the wind. For the time being, it remains supplementary to fire power turbines.

The new plant will blend in with the local environment with light color scheme, while trees and scrubs will be planted in the site area to minimize landscape and visual impact. However, its size and shape are still great distraction to the natural scenery. I saw wind turbine farms outside Los Angeles and Copenhagen. They are all very ugly and dominate the skyline. Furthermore, there are environmentalists lobbying to stall the operation of wind turbine farms owing to their threat to birds. With a rotation speed of 15-24 rpm and a circumference of 157m, the speed of the tip of the blades is about 188 km/h. It is comparable to hurricane speed and is fatal to birds fly-by. Luckily birds can avoid the moving blades and the mortality rate is low, except when the wind turbine is too low as to affect birds preying near ground level, or when it is on bird migrating route where a large number of birds are travelling through.

The wind turbine is located on a small hill behind Yung Shue Wan. It will be turned into a tourist spot next year. I therefore suggest those interested to visit it as soon as possible to avoid the crowd. The hiking to the site is not strenuous and is suitable for the elderlies and children. A trip at leisure pace will take about one hour. For those who are more energetic, the trip can be extended to other parts of Lamma Island; for example, take another hour of hiking to Sok Kwu Wan for a seafood meal. Some tips for the photographers, the viewing point is on the east side of the wind turbine, so the sun will be in your eyes in the afternoon. It is better to visit early in the morning.

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Duel 雙提琴組合

可能你未聽過 Duel 雙提琴組合,不過這不出奇,因為他們第一隻唱片剛在去年推出。但他們人氣急升,在歐洲巡迴演出,大受歡迎。今晚(11月5日)他們和香港管弦樂團一同演出。這個音樂會不是管弦樂團的季票節目。我在數星期前才看到宣傳,因曲目很吸引,所以特別買票一聽。

我最想聽的是巴哈的D小調雙小提琴協奏曲 Bach's Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor。但這不是 Duel 的拿手好戲。他們的技巧不錯,中規中矩,但尚欠大師風範,演奏起來欠缺韻味。

下半場是 Duel 的成名作品。樂團配合爵士鼓和鋼琴,而兩把小提琴即加上微型米高風,音色自然是大大不同,音響效果甚佳,好似在聽 Hi-Fi。名曲有死神之舞 Danse Macabre,第五號匈牙利舞曲 Hungarian Dance No. 5,戰場上的快樂聖誕 Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence 和幾首探戈舞曲,都是重新編曲而為 Duel 度身訂造的小品,非常討好。Duel 有自己的網頁,有興趣可以登上去聽聰他們音樂的片段。

Duel 的成功,使我想起 Twins 成功的方程式。現今科技進步,大眾通訊發達,藝術推廣另有一番新景象。專業技巧不需要超凡入聖,及格就可以了;只要找到適當的契機,配合型象設計,包裝,宣傳和掌握偶像效應,就可製造出一個短暫的小旋風。我聽說 Duel 早前在 St Paul School 舉行 mini-concert,女孩子們都瘋狂了。今晚完場時年青人都蜂擁而出,去排隊取簽名。

我認為 Duel 的靈魂在其編曲,是湯馬素 Peter Tomasso 的作品。好幾首名曲的精華片段被仔細修改為流行音樂風格的小品,可說是古典音樂和流行音樂的 fusion。這種做法現今很普遍,成功的有 Richard Clayderman, Vanessa Mae, Bond 和 Maksim 等。究竟原裝正版的古典音樂作品和其流行音樂的化身何者更有價值呢?這個議題可能比政改方案更好辯論,亦可能有人正在為此撰寫博士論文。我想舉出一個例子,你想欣賞一園子的玫瑰或是一束玫瑰花呢?在求婚時,你會送九十九枝玫瑰或是會 promise a rose garden 呢?

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Whistle blower 吹雞人

吹雞,球賽中球證行使他的權力。吹雞,召集一班人來協助 完成任務。吹雞,告訴大家一些不公平的事。

三者之中,以最後一種 whistle blower 最為難。通常開始的時候吹雞人都是匿名的,當事情鬧大了很多吹雞人都要曝光。不公平的事大家都想糾正,何不堂堂正正提出來呢?原因多數是犯規者乃是當權者,或者事件本身對機構聲譽 有影響,以致犯規者及其上司都千方百計掩飾,吹雞人的處境可想而知。但當不公平的事被公開又被糾正後,大家都會拍手稱快,吹雞人被視為正義的朋友。其中表表者有 Cynthia Cooper,她揭露 Worldcom 的醜聞;Sherron Watkins 對 Enron 吹雞;而 Coleen Rowley 指出 FBI 的疏忽,以致不能防範 911 事件。這三位女仕因為做了吹雞人而被時代雜誌 Time Magazine 選為 2002 風雲人物。

不過可惜大部分吹雞人的下場都 不是這麼美好。過往的經驗是很多吹雞人曾受到機構不同程度的打壓,包括紀律處分、民事訴訟等。他們僅有的保障是僱員權利和資訊自由法。美國民間正推動成立 National Whistleblower Protection Act 國家吹雞人保護法案 (我譯) ,但前路茫茫,不知何時才有進展。

大部分的吹雞事件卻不是什麼嚴重案件。人力資源專業經理見得最多的其實是員工的投訴,包括程序不當、濫權、人事關係上的衝突、低效率和浪費,大部分都是出 於好意,只希望求個公道,或改善機構營運和工作環境。經理們理應千多萬謝和加以獎勵。但現實並不如此,投訴者和吹雞人的處境都差不多。機構的經理們多視投訴者和吹雞人為麻煩製造者,處理投訴為額外的工作量,而不是理所當然的使用 專業知識,把握改善機構和人事關係的黃金機會。

難怪很多吹雞事件都是匿名投訴。投訴者和吹雞人都有顧慮,雖然理直氣壯,但心理上覺得吹雞可能會對自己帶來不良後果。有些機構明文規定不會處理匿名投訴,一概認定匿名人都是不懷好意。不過你有張良計,我有過牆梯,我見過很多匿名投訴者將投訴信副本公開;如此一來,機構就會面對多方面的質詢。

處理匿名投訴,我相信最佳方法是平常心,和任何投訴一樣全力處理,而且要在保持應有機密原則下盡量公開。另有一派理論,認為應該小心處理對員工的投訴,因為一旦有不合理指控,對員工 關係會有不良影響,工會亦會出面干涉。不過我卻認為可從另一角度看員工關係,大部分員工其實對少數害群之馬非常不滿;如果匿名投訴得到重視,不公平的現象得以糾正,正是大快人心,對員工士氣 大有幫助;反之,機構管治會被視為軟弱,姑息害群之馬,對員工關係損害卻很大。