Thursday, May 05, 2016

Preëmptive Comment on the Pleasures of Competition

I have played sports (tennis, cricket), I have done a lot of cycling, but in all of this my aspiration has simply been to do as well as I can. Winning or losing—who cares? How I judge whether or not I have done well is a private matter, between myself and what I suppose I would call my conscience.

I don’t like forms of sport that model themselves too closely on warfare, in which all that matters is winning and winning becomes a matter of life and death—sports that lack grace, as war lacks grace. At the back of my mind is some ideal—and perhaps concocted—vision of Japan, in which one refrains from inflicting defeat on an opponent because there is something shameful in defeat and therefore something shameful in imposing defeat.

All the best,

The Better Player by Paul Auster and J. M. Coetzee

Klavierkonzert No.5

Glenn Gould's brilliant rendition of Beethoven's Klavierkonzert No.5 (my personal favorite is the second movement; watch from 19:20)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

On this day 26 years ago

Найруулагч Ж.Солонгын "Найм хагас" баримтат кино. Өдгөөгөөс яг 26 жилийн өмнөх тэр өдөр яалт ч үгүй Монгол түмний заяа түшиж саруул ухаанаар асуудлаа шийдэцгээсэн юм аа.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Delivering Steadily on Our Promise for a Long Time

We must remember that our international reputation is of a country with great promise, which has under-delivered in the past. This is why we are still the poorest country on a per capita basis among the BRICS. We need to change perceptions by delivering steadily on our promise for a long time – by implementing, implementing, and implementing. We cannot get carried away by our current superiority in growth, for as soon as we believe in our own superiority and start distributing future wealth as if we already have it, we stop doing all that is required to continue growing. This movie has played too many times in India’s past for us to not know how it ends.
"Words Matter but so Does Intent" address by Dr. Raghuram Rajan, Governor of Reserve Bank of India on April 20, 2016 at the 12th NIBM Convocation, Pune

Monday, April 18, 2016

Something to be Said for Proximity

Historians have been overconfident about the wisdom to be gained by distance, believing it somehow confers objectivity, one of those unattainable values in which they have placed so much faith. Perhaps there is something to be said for proximity. Lord Acton, who delivered the first, famous lectures on the French Revolution at Cambridge in the 1870s, was still able to hear firsthand, from a member of the Orleans dynasty, the man's recollection of "Dumouriez gibbering on the streets of London when hearing the news of Waterloo."

Suspicion that blind partisanship fatally damaged the great Romantic narratives of the first half of the nineteenth century dominated scholarly reaction during the second half. As historians institutionalized themselves into an academic profession, they came to believe conscientious research in the archives could confer dispassion: the prerequisite for winkling out the mysterious truths of cause and effect. The desired effect was to be scientific rather than poetic, impersonal rather than impassioned. And while, for some time, historical narratives remained preoccupied by the life cycle of the European nation-states—wars, treaties and dethronements—the magnetic pull of social science was such that "structures," both social and political, seemed to become the principal objects of inquiry.

[...] the Revolution seem any longer to conform to a grand historical design, preordained by inexorable forces of social change. Instead it seems a thing of contingencies and unforeseen consequences (not least the summoning of the Estates-General itself). An abundance of fine provincial studies has shown that instead of a single Revolution imposed by Paris on the rest of a homogeneous France, it was as often determined by local passions and interests. Along with the revival of place as a conditioner have come people. For as the imperatives of "structure" have weakened, those of individual agency, and especially of revolutionary utterance, have become correspondingly more important
from Simon Schama's Citizens

Cf. this statement + an attempt to counter this "overconfidence" about the wisdom to be gained by distance

Friday, April 15, 2016

Даaнкэ шөн! Зээр гут!

С.Баярын редакторлосон "Ууган" номонд Б.Бадрууган агсан "Улаанбаатарын үдэш" дууг Германд дуулсан хувилбарыг хамгийн сайн нь гэж дурдсан байсантай яах аргагүй санал нийлнэ. Хэдэн онд дуулсан, тэрхүү орчуулга хийж чадалгүй будилсан нөхөр хэн байсан гээд ухвал зөндөө сонирхолтой зүйл гарч ирэх нь дамжиггүй.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

On Structural Reforms

I think one has to be very clear that structural reforms are not a miracle cure. They are hard to get through; the effects are very often uncertain. But given the future that I have described, it is very important to try. Some structural reforms can clearly make a difference, maybe not to the growth rate permanently but at least to the level of output, which means that for some time there will be higher growth. I think given the short-term political costs associated with structural reforms, which is the main reason why you do not see them happening very quickly, I think the challenge is to choose them very carefully rather than have a long list and deliver on none of them.
Olivier Blanchard in April 2015

This is ultimately the problem raised by the idea of structural reform. Because it is a novel idea, and also a novel political practice, we should not be too surprised that our political institutions still seem unprepared to explore all the possibilities it offers. For the present, it is still unclear in what direction we should be moving, even if the need to follow the idea of fundamental economic reform with new mechanisms and structures of political decision-making is now being felt more than ever.
Bruno Macaes - "What are structural reforms?"

Friday, March 25, 2016

Walking Fast and Thinking Slow

It is normally easy and actually quite pleasant to walk and think at the same time, but at the extremes these activities appear to compete for the limited resources of System 2. You can confirm this claim by a simple experiment. While walking comfortably with a friend, ask him to compute 23 x 78 in his head, and to do so immediately. He will almost certainly stop in his tracks. My experience is that I can think while strolling but cannot engage in mental work that imposes a heavy load on short-term memory. If I must construct an intricate argument under time pressure, I would rather be still, and I would prefer sitting to standing

Accelerating beyond my strolling speed completely changes the experience of walking, because the transition to a faster walk brings about a sharp deterioration in my ability to think coherently. As I speed up, my attention is drawn with increasing frequency to the experience of walking and to the deliberate maintenance of the faster pace. My ability to bring a train of thought to a conclusion is impaired accordingly. At the highest speed I can sustain on the hills, about 14 minutes for a mile, I do not try to even think of anything else. In addition to the physical effort of moving my body rapidly along the path, a mental effort of self-control is needed to resist the urge to slow down. Self-control and deliberate thought apparently draw on the same limited budget of effort.
Daniel Kahnemann - "Thinking, Fast and Slow"

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Wednesday Night Music: Julien Baker

Addendum: Krugman's Friday Night Music

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Сэхээтэн хэмээх нэгэн зvйлийн хөхтөн амьтан

Хоёроос гурван гадаад хэл мэддэг, гурваас дөрвөн сургууль төгсөж дамжаа дүүргэснээрээ сэхээтэн болдоггүй бололтой. Уул нь их сургуулийн боловсрол сэхээтэнг тодорхойлох зайлшгүй нөхцөл мөн боловч хангалттай биш юм. [...] Хүн бүгдийг мэдэх албагүй ч улам бүр нарийн төвөгтэй болж буй ертөнц, нийгэм, улс төрийн амьдралын юмс үзэгдлийн мөн чанарыг таних, эдгээрийн уялдаа холбоог хөгжил хөдөлгөөнд нь олж харах үүрэг сэхээтнүүдэд ногдож байна. Нийгмийн хувьсал хөгжлийг бүхэлд нь хуучин дасал болоогүй өөр өнцгөөс харах, учир начрыг нь бусдад тайлбарлаж таниулах, оюуны эрх чөлөөгөө ашиглаж чадахгүй, бас хүсэхгүй байгаа “сэхээтнүүд” дэндүү олон болжээ. Сэхээтнүүд улс нийгмийн оюун санааны хөтөч, хүн чанарын бэлгэдэл байх үндсэн үүргээ гүйцэтгэж чадахгүй болохоор нийгэм хөгжлийн чиг баримжаагаа алдаж, тэр хэмжээгээр нийгмийн үнэт зүйл хомсдож, нийгмийн эрүүл хөрс болсон ёс суртахууны шалгуурууд үгүйсгэгдэх хандлагатай болдог юм байна.
Р.Амаржаргал - "Сэхээтэн"

Monday, February 22, 2016

Delayed Gratification as a Modus Operandi

I eat only once a day. It is always dinner and it is always whatever I fancy. Until then, I consume nothing but water, Diet Coke or tea. As a weight-management strategy, it is some use, maybe. “Intermittent fasting” has its advocates but others insist the total number of calories you consume matters more than their distribution across the day.

Either way, losing weight is not the end I have in mind. The gains are all mental. I feel meerkat-alert throughout the day. Mid-afternoon pangs of hunger are no trouble to get through, and preferable to the languor I used to feel after lunch. On a full stomach, crafting a sentence or even testing an argument in my mind is like trying to do abdominal crunches five seconds after waking up. A kind of haze stops you.
"Eat, drink and be merry but only after work" - Am I the only Janan Ganesh fan out there?

You have to marvel at how Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, a former Special Operations commander and the newly appointed leader of American forces in Afghanistan, does it. Mastermind the hunt for Al Qaeda in Iraq and plot stealth raids on Taliban strongholds in the Hindu Kush while getting just a few hours of sleep a night, exercising enough to exhaust a gym rat and eating one meal a day to avoid sluggishness. One meal.
"No Food for Thought: The Way of the Warrior" + Tim Ferris Interview with McChrystal