Monday, December 08, 2014

The King o' Drinks

The king o' drinks, as I conceive it,
Talisker, Isla, or Glenlivet!
Robert Louis Stevenson - The Scotsman's Return From Abroad

Monday, November 24, 2014

On Traveling

If I’d learnt one thing from traveling, it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. Don’t talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens.
from Alex Garland's The Beach

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Poem of the Day

"Stufen" von Hermann Hesse

Wie jede Blüte welkt und jede Jugend
Dem Alter weicht, blüht jede Lebensstufe,
Blüht jede Weisheit auch und jede Tugend
Zu ihrer Zeit und darf nicht ewig dauern.
Es muß das Herz bei jedem Lebensrufe
Bereit zum Abschied sein und Neubeginne,
Um sich in Tapferkeit und ohne Trauern
In andre, neue Bindungen zu geben.
Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne,
Der uns beschützt und der uns hilft, zu leben.

Wir sollen heiter Raum um Raum durchschreiten,
An keinem wie an einer Heimat hängen,
Der Welgeist will nicht fesseln uns und engen,
Er will uns Stuf’ um Stufe heben, weiten.
Kaum sind wir heimisch einem Lebenskreise
Und traulich eingewohnt, so droht Erschlaffen,
Nur wer bereit zu Aufbruch ist und Reise,
Mag lähmender Gewöhnung sich entraffen.

Es wird vielleicht auch noch die Todesstunde
Uns neuen Räumen jung entgegen senden,
Des Lebens Ruf an uns wird niemals enden…
Wohlan denn, Herz, nimm Abschied und gesunde!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Plaster Cast of a Living Human Being

So suppose someone has, in the strict sense, learned a system of philosophy—for example, that of Wolff. They would have in their head all the axioms, explanations, and proofs, together with the structure of the whole system, and they would be able to count everything off on their fingers. However, all they would have would be a complete historical knowledge of Wolff's philosophy. They know and judge only as much as has been given to them. If you criticise one of his definitions, they won't know how to come up with an alternative one. They have taught themselves on the basis of someone else's reason—but the capacity to imitate is not the capacity to be creative. In other words, the knowledge did not arise in them from reason. Although, objectively, the knowledge is certainly an instance of rational knowledge, in the learner as subject it is merely historical. They have understood and remembered, that is, they have learned well; but they are no more than a plaster cast of a living human being. Knowledge that is objectively rational can only originally have sprung from the reason peculiar to humans. So knowledge in the subject can also be called rational only if it is drawn from the universal sources of reason. And the same sources, namely principles, give rise to criticism and even rejection of what has been learned.
Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, B865

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Positive Difference through Public Service

I have plenty of regrets about my time in public service, starting with all the pain I caused my family, through my absences as well as my public notoriety.

[...]I loved my work in government, and I’m proud of what I did in public life, but I couldn’t do it forever.

[...]I also hope this crisis encourages Americans to reconsider the value of strong public institutions and capable public servants. When we were successful in limiting the damage, it was with the force available only to governments and central banks. And there is no viable strategy for reducing the damage of future crises that does not depend on strong government rules and oversight, and the ability to attract talented people to oversee the system. The success of our financial rescue did not solve the many problems we still face as a nation, from high levels of poverty to global warming to appalling inequality in access to quality education and health care. These challenges will require better government—not necessarily more government, but smarter policies, designed on the merits, less distorted by politics and money. It would be good for the country if we could bring a similar level of creativity and ambition and force to these challenges, along with the quintessentially American pragmatism that helped keep us out of the financial abyss.

There are lessons for the world in our mistakes as well as our successes. My hope is that they won’t have to be rediscovered in the fires of the next crisis.

[...]Public service is filled with opportunities to make a positive difference, but it comes with challenges. I did it for twenty-five years because I believed in the cause and loved the craft of economic policy. But that would not have been true without the people around me who chose to devote some or all of their careers to serving their country.
from Timothy F. Geithner, Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises

Addendum: Geithner’s private farewell to Obama and Treasury staff

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Sentence of the Day

"Амьдралын урт харгуй урдамнай гэрэлтэнэ..."
- С. Эрдэнэ, "Халхын заяат харгуй минь," Улаанбаатар 2002, 32-р тал

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Горовиц в Москве, 1986 год

One piece of music that I keep revisiting:


During the latter part of the concert, watching this 82-year-old genius play, I found mist forming in my eyes for some mysterious reason I could not explain. I was not sad. I was exultant. It had something to do with my pride, at that very moment, in being part of the same civilisation that this great and endearing man playing the piano was part of.

Almost at the same time instant I felt the suggestion of tears in my eyes, the television camera left Horowitz’s fingers on the keyboard and dissolved to the face of a Soviet citizen in the audience. His eyes were closed, his head tilted slightly backward so that his face was up… and one lone teardrop ran down his cheek...

It was the same teardrop running down mine.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"Finding a new flavor that was ours"

“We had the idea: let’s use local products here,” [Rene Redzepi] told me the next morning. We were at a diner, making a caffeine stop on the way to a beach at Dragør—a town on the Øresund Sea, about twenty minutes from the outskirts of Copenhagen—where he likes to forage. “But I was very unhappy at first. Why? Because we were taking recipes from other cultures, serving essentially the same ‘Scandinavian French’ food, and just because you’re using local produce to make that food doesn’t mean you’re making a food of your own culture. I started asking myself, What is a region? What is the sum of the people we are, the culture we are? What does it taste like? What does it look like on a plate? It was a very complex thing for us—the idea of finding a new flavor that was ‘ours.’”
"The Food at Our Feet: Why is foraging all the rage?"

+ Anthony Bourdain: 'Let's have a bite of flowers...'

Ethics vs. Morality

Саяхан гарсан "100 чухал сэдэв: Ёс зүй" нэвтрүүлгийг тойрсон яриандаа манайхан ethics, morality хоёрын ялгааны талаар баахан элийрэв. Яг Монголоор энэ хоёр ухагдахууныг сүүлийн үед юу гэж тогтохоор болсон юм бол мэдэх юм алга (justice-ийг жишээ нь "зүй ёс" гэж орчуулдаг болсон байна лээ). Юутай ч Steven Lukes-ийн ойрмогхоны нэг номонд ethics, morality хоёрыг яаж ялгасныг нь энд ишлэе:

"The moral" can also be distinguished from "the ethical." This latter way (which descends from Hegel's distinction between Moralität and Sittlichkeit) involves postulating a different and narrower sense of "moral" that derives from Kant. In this view, morality denotes something that is both more severe and more abstract; and it is seen as applying anywhere and everywhere. It directs attention to the duties or obligations I have to other human beings viewed, from the standpoint of justice, as possessors of rights. The ethical, by contrast, refers to the values and ideals that inhere in one or another specific way of life--and these will, of course, be multiple and sometimes mutually incompatible. Ronald Dworkin, the legal theorist, captured the core of this distinction when he wrote that "ethics includes convictions about which kinds of lives are good or bad for a person to lead, and morality includes principles about how a person should treat other people."
Moral Relativism by Steven Lukes, p. 135

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Эрлийз Цариг Оршвой

By 1860, seven different gauges were in use in America. Just over half of the total mileage was of the 4’8½” standard. The next most popular was the 5-foot gauge concentrated in the South. As things turned out, having different gauges was advantageous to the South, since the North could not easily use railroad to move its troops to battle in southern territory during the Civil War. Noting this example, the Finns were careful to ensure that their railroads used a gauge different from the Russian railroads! The rest of Europe adopted a standard gauge, which made things easy for Hitler during World War II: a significant fraction of German troop movements in Europe were accomplished by rail.
"History in Motion - Railroad Gauges: A Standards Battle" by Carl Shapiro and Hal R. Varian (excerpt from Information Rules)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

"The core of it—the expression"


I was looking for the core of it—the expression. You would have no jazz without blues out of slavery—that most recent and particular version of slavery, not us poor Celts for example, under the Roman boot. They put those people through misery, not just in America. But there’s something produced by its survivors that is very elemental. It’s not something you take in in the head, it’s something you take in in the guts. It's beyond the matter of the musicality of it, which is very variable and flexible.
from Keith Richards, Life, p.84