How old trees are preserved in Japan

These days I was in Kyushu Japan. As the place did not bear the brunt of typhoon Jebi, I could tour around a bit.

I was in Dazaifu where I came across this more than 1,500 years old tree. It was a stunning scene to spot. And if we think about the tree in terms of human life, it was awe-inspiring. If a man has an average life of 80 years, this tree then has been living almost 20 lives. If 30 years is a generation (when people give birth to their children), this tree has witnessed 50 generations of human evolution.

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But what amazed me most was not having a tree this old, but how it was conserved. If you looked carefully at the branches at the top, you could see they were all mounted with some sort of protection. I was uplifted by the efforts the Japanese government made in conserving old trees. By protecting valuable trees, natural, historic and cultural treasures can be conserved. Cities with oldest trees should aspire for better preservation.


日本的古樹保育

最近去了日本九州,該地並未受到颱風飛燕強烈影響,讓我可遊玩一番。

我在太宰府時遇到這棵逾一千五百年歷史的古樹,實在蔚為奇觀。假設一個人能活到八十歲,這棵古樹已活了差不多二十個人的一生了,若三十年是一代的話(假設人們大概在這年紀生下下一代),這棵古樹已見證了五十代人的進步了,想想實在讓人嘖嘖稱奇。

但最讓我留下深刻印象的,並非一棵樹木能活上這個年紀,而是它的保育工作。如果你仔細看,會發現古樹頂部的樹枝護着保護物料,日本政府的樹木保育工作實在值得學習。透過保育珍貴的樹木,我們同時保護了大自然、歷史和文化瑰寶。需要進行古樹保育工作的城市應當仿效。

From the gas price in Chicago to real estate investment

This week I was in Chicago. It had been 24 years since the last time I visited the city in 1994. How time passed by! While the city may have gone through some changes, what drew my attention was the gas price.

The current gas price in Chicago was $3.37 per gallon. If compared to Hong Kong, it was not that bad. However when compared to my last visit here in 1994, it was high. In 1994, the gas price was about $1.11 per gallon. So it was like a 3 times increase! And I talked to a driver of Lyft, who was an immigrant from Brazil.  She said the current minimum wage in Chicago was $12 per hour. And the minimum wage in 1994 was $4.25. So it was almost a 3 times increase as well. Talk about inflation!

And I started thinking whether investing in real estate was a good hedge against inflation. According to the United States Census Bureau, the median and average sales prices of new homes sold in the United States in July this year are $328,700 and $394,300 respectively. During the same period in 1994, the median and average sales prices were $124,400 and $144,400. The increases are 2.64 times for the median sales price and 2.73 times for the average one. It seems like the housing has been catching up with inflation. Maybe investing in real estate is a safe choice to safeguard one against inflation.

References:

  1. Chicago gas price 1994:
  2. Chicago minimum wage: 1994 and 2018
  3. Median and Average Sales Prices of New Homes Sold in United States (historical data)

從芝加哥的汽油價格到房地產投資

時光飛逝,上一次到芝加哥已是一九九四年,時隔二十四年再訪,城市亦經歷了一些變遷,但讓我特別留意的卻是這裏的汽油價格。

芝加哥現時的汽油價格是每加侖3.37美元,如果和香港相比並不算昂貴,但相較一九九四年的1.11美元則上升三倍。我和一個來福車(Lyft)司機傾天,她是來自巴西的新移民,她告訴我現時芝加哥的最低工資是每小時12美元,而一九九四年的最低工資是4.25美元,同樣是接近三倍的升幅,通脹實在驚人。

這讓我想到投資房地產的抗通脹作用。根據美國人口普查局的統計,今年七月美國的新房銷售中位數價格和平均銷售價格分別為328,700美元和394,300美元,而一九九四年同時段的新房銷售中位數價格和平均銷售價格則為124,400美元和144,400美元,分別上漲2.64倍和2.73倍,近貼通脹數字。看來投資房地產可以是抗通脹的一個不錯的選擇。

 

Naomi Osaka won the 2018 US Open Tennis Championships

The last time I watched a tournament live was almost 2 years ago with my best friend Andrew. Time flew and the US Open Tennis champion of this year was born this past week when a 20-year old Naomi Osaka beat the the six-time US Open champion Serena Williams in a controversial final.

The game was controversial and dramatic throughout. First, the young and fairly unknown Osaka beat the veteran and legendary Williams in straight-sets 6-2, 6-4. Second Williams was penalised twice and heavily fined for a coaching violation, slamming the racket and verbally abusing the umpire, with Williams accusing the umpire of sexist double standards. The game ended up bitter with the audience booing the awards ceremony.

Controversy aside, Osaka is a promising young athlete. She is the first player from Japan to win a Grand Slam singles tournament. And remarkably, she won straight sets except for the fourth match throughout the tournament. She will soon be coming to Hong Kong. I’m looking forward to seeing her live.


大坂娜奧米贏得2018年美國網球公開賽冠軍


上一次現場看網球比賽已是兩年前的香港網球公開賽,當時和好友Andrew一同觀賽。時間飛逝,今年的美國網球公開賽亦於上星期結束,年僅二十歲的大坂娜奧米(Naomi Osaka)擊敗六次奪得美網冠軍的沙蓮娜·威廉絲(Serena Williams),贏得大滿貫。

決賽結果充滿戲劇性,由年輕新星大坂以6-2,6-4擊敗戰績彪炳的名將威廉絲。比賽過程亦備受爭議,裁判指威廉絲違規接受教練場外指導,首次警告威廉絲,其後威廉絲因摔擲球拍被罰分,與裁判發生衝突,因侮辱裁判而被罰輸一局,威廉絲指責裁判性別歧視。比賽以威廉絲敗局結束,頒獎禮在全場觀眾噓聲中進行。事後威廉絲因三項違規而被罰款。

暫且不提比賽的爭議性,大坂的實力不容少覷,她是首個贏得大滿貫的日本球手,這次美網除了第四局外大坂都未輸一局完勝,表現精彩。大坂其後將到香港作賽,十分期待能現場觀賽。

Life in face of unpredictable climate events

Merely two months ago in July a catastrophic rainstorm broke out in Western Japan, causing many casualties, and I reflected on a city’s resilience against such extreme climate events. Last week Japan was again struck by two devastating hazards, the supertyphoon Jebi and the deadly earthquake in Hokkaido.

Jebi has been the worst typhoon striking Japan in 25 years, leaving so far 11 dead and causing imponderable economic damage, particularly to tourism. Osaka and neighbouring cities bore the brunt of the storm and the Kansai airport was closed indefinitely because of the flood. Just the same week Hokkaido experienced a 6.7-magnitude earthquake, which killed 44 and cut energy access to 5.3 million residents on the island.

The typhoon and earthquake struck Japan unpredictably, leaving residents suffering and tourists stranded in Osaka. Despite the innovative technologies we have at hand, we cannot predict all climate events and natural hazards. And when one breaks out, we are caught off guard, just like this time. And life is just as unpredictable. We never know what life has in store for us. So we should live in the moment, and enjoy.


天災難料 生命無常

今年七月,日本西部暴雨肆虐,造成大量傷亡,使我反思到城市建設在抵禦極端天氣上的重要性,不足兩個月,颱風「飛燕」襲日,北海道亦發生強烈地震,天災接二連三,帶來災難性傷亡。

「飛燕」是日本近二十五來最強勁的颱風,共造成十一人死亡。其中大阪和鄰近城市為重災區,關西機場亦因水浸不知何時重開,為日本經濟特別是旅遊業帶來難以估算的損失。同一星期,北海道經歷6.7級地震,共四十四人罹難,地震同時導致停電,受影響人數達五百三十萬。

颱風和地震毫無預警來襲,不僅使居民受苦,旅客亦滯留機場,受影響人不計其數。即使我們擁有多麼先進的科研和技術,亦不能準確預測自然災害,一旦災難性氣候事件爆發,我們又會像這次般被殺個措手不及,但後果可能更不堪想象。天災難料,生命無常,我們難以預計生命為我們準備了甚麼,因此此刻更應活在當下,享受生命。