Friday, January 30, 2009

Problems in Russia

The Russian solution to the Chechen problem seems to have left a long shadow over the country. Read this for a perspective on the post war developments.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On courtesy

After my tongue-in-cheek suggestion for a CFA amongst the Kottu bloggers, I wondered if perhaps I should draft an agreement and put it up for signature. That however lead me to ponder on the root of the problem, courtesy.

Pissu Perera has blogged on the goodwill that common courtesy can generate, while some other, less fortunate bloggers have been a bit pit out by the lack of it.

According tho this "the essence of good manners is consideration for other people, a concern for the comfort and convenience of others. This, though, implies a diminution of the importance of self. This is the principal reason good manners are important; not only do we all benefit from other people's good manners, our lives are enhanced by the necessary reduction in self-importance that our consideration for other people inevitably entails. To observe bad manners in someone is, unfailingly, to see the very essence of them. The same is true of good manners."

So perhaps instead of formal CFA or even a code of ethics what is needed is a return to old fashioned courtesy. We may disagree with people, that is what debate and democracy are about, but let us not be disagreeable when going about it.

Polarisation II

I have blogged about this before, but I think another post is due, only because the problem seems to be growing.

Nothing illustrates this better than the local Blogosphere. Look at some of the older posts from 2005. Is it even possible to imagine Indi and Sittingnut having an intelligent conversation?

Well, in 2005 it seemed possible. Just look at these posts and the comments below:

Why I support Ranil

United Lanka, United Party

LTTE Disenfranchises Tamils

I miss the old days, I really do.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama's inauguration

Some people seem to have been quite excited by this and even spent some time watching it on television. The appeal was a bit of a mystery to me, until my mother spoke to me about it this morning.

It was very impressive she said. Just like a coronation.

Was that what it really was, or at least the closest thing possible in a republic?

Either way I thought it rather funny.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dead men writing editorials

I have been getting into a bit of an argument with a couple of friends. They seem to think that the editorial in the Sunday Leader was brilliant and prophetic.

I, ever the skeptic, beg to differ.

To me, the editorial seems to be written well after the event, which means Lasantha Wickramatunga could not possibly have written it.

The passages that look inconsistent are:

"For this I - and my family - have now paid the price that I have long known I will one day have to pay. I am - and have always been - ready for that. I have done nothing to prevent this outcome: no security, no precautions. I want my murderer to know that I am not a coward like he is, hiding behind human shields while condemning thousands of innocents to death. What am I among so many? It has long been written that my life would be taken, and by whom. All that remains to be written is when."

I am of course, open to correction - will someone in the know clarify the position? If indeed he wrote it, it would be truly prophetic and a fitting tribute to the man, otherwise it looks like a piece creative writing, a piece of theatre, something that defined that newspaper.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Odds and ends

I have been gathering my scattered thoughts and catching up with a little bit of reading over the holidays.

I had begun to regard global warming as a problem - but one that will make its effects felt in the very long term, maybe 30 to 50 years at least. What I did not realise was the extent of the impact of global warming on the sea. This article made me sit up and take notice.

Did you know that a meltwater lake on the Greenland ice sheet covering six square kilometres drained away in 24 hours in 2006? That sound pretty dangerous to me.

The most serious impact, the higher levels of carbon dioxide affect the salinity of the seas surface making life difficult, if not impossible, for marine organisms with calcium-carbonate shells or skeletons. This means that larger fish, which feed on these smaller organisms may in turn cease to exist in a fairly short period, which means no seafood for you and me.

There is a lot more, so read and heed.

Moving onto something else, got a new phone which has a music player installed. Have copied some playlists onto it so hopefully will have something to soothe my nerves in the office. I have not listened to much music over the last three years or so, chiefly because I had no access to it, except on the computer and that too at home because the office ones don't have speakers.

This brings me to the lesser known works of popular composers, Bruch for instance. He has written a rather nice piano trio (op.5) which is (as it so happens) coupled with equally rare and quite delightful trio music by Widor (he of the Organ Symphonies) and Hiller. This is the recording that I pinched, recommended to anyone looking for unfamiliar music in that genre.

Continuing on the subject of Bruch's other works (he is known mainly for the G Minor violin concerto and the Scotch Fantasy), the second and third violin concerti are well worth a hearing, I've heard this recording, which is good.

The real gem in Bruch's oeuvre is the double piano concerto. It is even more immediately attractive than the first violin concerto but is unfortunately a real rarity. It had a strange history, the original score did not come to light until quite recently, which is one reason why it remains largely unknown.

There is a recording by the Labèque sisters, which is not supposed to be very good (I never cared much for their playing anyway) and there are some other unknowns also listed on Amazon. The world premier recording by Martin Berkofsky & David Hagen with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lutz Herbig is the one I've heard and it is quite outstanding (just found it on Amazon look here). It was on recorded in the 1980's on the Turnabout label (the former Vox Turnabout) which I think is now defunct. It was remastered on CD in the 1990's, in a terrible transfer that robbed the sound of its bloom, the CD version sounds thin and narrow, like an old mono recording. If you can find the original recording somewhere, give it a go, otherwise try one of the others. There was a lousy recording on Youtube so leave that well alone.

There is also a fairly nice concerto for Clarinet and Viola by Bruch as well and some interesting prices for basset Horn and Clarinet by Mendelssohn. Have a look here.

As I said before, I have also been trying to catch up on some reading and about 300 ages into the book, Nehru has at last started to say something of interest in his autobiography. It is not that the man cannot write, he has an elegant turn of phrase, but it is that he very little to say. For the most part of the first 300 pages he comes across as idealistic and out of touch. This is a lot better than Gandhi, who looks to me like an out and out nutcase - sleeping naked with teenage girls must count for rather odd behaviour especially by a supposed living saint.

The only reason I got the book (I did not buy it but I did hint to someone that I was interested in it and I received it as a present) was because Lee Kuan Yew mentioned in his autobiography that Nehru was the man they looked to for ideas and intellectual leadership. This was not apparent in the first half of the book and I would have been very disappointed had I actually paid money for it, but it seems to have picked up a bit now. Need to look around for some of his later writing. I was an ardent fan of Lee Kuan Yew, ever since I read his well written Story of Singapore. I noticed when glancing through some of the chapters in volume 2 (From the Third World to the First) that my views on the press differ from his more markedly now. Perhaps it is the experience of living under tight censorship that makes me appreciate the need for a freer press but I think I need to revisit that book again.

In the meantime just started the Undercover Economist by Tim Harford which (halfway through the first chapter) looks very exciting. This shall be my bedtime reading for a while, shall return to the re-reading of Sophie's World when I finish (that, to my small mind is a rather profound book), need to take it in little bits to digest it properly.

Anyway, having fun playing around with odd ideas, mental masturbation if you like, good night out there, whatever you are.