Saturday, April 19, 2014

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Night Music

Gobbet of the Day

Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
T.S. Eliot - Four Quartets: East Coker

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Passage of the Day

Sometimes I go to sleep thinking of the next morning’s hot coffee in my customary white paper cup. The anticipation makes the sheets seem softer. In my life, I am between landmarks: after childhood, before a book, before marriage and children, all potential. I’ve heard the gambler’s rush isn’t in losing or winning, but the interval between playing and knowing. Coffee is my ritual, my interval, the luminous place between now and what’s next, more arc than landing. It is ubiquitous and legal, solitary and communal. In the morning, when I take a sip, space opens between the molecules; voices and clatter in the café separate into bright, tonal bands. My mind fans open. Fireflies blink in my torso. I take it to go, so I can drink and walk alone in the cool air under the trees on 12th street on my way to work. I savor each sip after the scorch has dissipated, before the cup is loose and lukewarm like a hand in mine.
Lisa Brennan-Jobs on her favorite moment of the day

Thursday, March 06, 2014

A Lesson to Learn from the Ukraine Crisis

The Ukraine crisis reminds us that small countries must defend themselves, and cannot rely solely on international treaties or the promises of others. That is why we must always maintain a strong [Singapore Armed Forces] and Home Team. We must also have a capable MFA to strengthen our ties with friends and allies. Only then can Singapore be safe and secure
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's statement on the crisis in Ukraine, which reminds me of my most favorite part in Thucydides' Peloponnesian War:
For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretenses—either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have done us—and make a long speech which would not be believed; and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Spartans, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.
Addendum: If you're too busy to read this passage (wink wink), I guess you could watch this video.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Line of the Day

But waste was of the essence of the scheme.

from Pod of the Milkweed by Robert Frost

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Nostalgia Shop

Once upon a time I was a student of art history...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Levels of Excellence

Sometimes, in your mathematics career, you find that your slow progress, and careful accumulation of tools and ideas, has suddenly allowed you to do a bunch of new things that you couldn’t possibly do before. Even though you were learning things that were useless by themselves, when they’ve all become second nature, a whole new world of possibility appears. You have “leveled up”, if you will. Something clicks, but now there are new challenges, and now, things you were barely able to think about before suddenly become critically important.

It’s usually obvious when you’re talking to somebody a level above you, because they see lots of things instantly when those things take considerable work for you to figure out. These are good people to learn from, because they remember what it’s like to struggle in the place where you’re struggling, but the things they do still make sense from your perspective (you just couldn’t do them yourself).
Levels of Excellence

Thursday, February 06, 2014

What kind of tree is that?

"Vladimir Nabokov, American novelist and literature professor, who once had something like the following conversation with a student at Cornell University: "Mr. Nabokov, I want to be a writer." Nabokov looks up from his reading he points to a tree outside his office window. "What kind of tree is that?" he asks the student. "What?" "What is the name of that tree?" asks Nabokov. "The one outside my window." "I don't know," says the student. "You'll never be a writer." says Nabokov.
VN COLLATION #1 by Suellen Stringer-Hye

Monday, February 03, 2014

Рэндом Нөvт

Аль ч хэл бусад гадаад хэлний нөлөөгөөр баяжин шууд ба дам утгаар гадаад үгийг зээлдэн өөриймшүүлдэг. Энэ нь хэл мөхөж буй хэрэг биш, баяжиж багаа нь тэр. [...] Хэл болгон тухайн үндэстний сэтгэлгээний өвөрмөцийг илэрхийлдэг. Европ зүгийн хэлэнд зүрх нь хайр энэрлийг илэрхийлдэг бол монголчууд элгээрээ хайралдаг. “Элэг бүтэн”, ”элэгтэй”. “Чулуун зүрхтэй” гэвэл оросоор энэрэх сэтгэлгүй гэсэн санаа агуулдаг бол монголоор энэ нь эр зоригтой, айхыг мэддэггүй гэсэн утгатай. Фин, баск, унгар, эстони хэлэнд энэтхэг европ хэлний нөлөө асар их учир үй түмэн үгийг нь зээлдэн хэрэглэдэг. Огтоос европ бус эдгээр хэл мянга мянган жил өөрийн хэлний логик, этнолингвистик чанараа хадгалж чадсан учраас л европ хэлтний дунд амьд хэлээ хадгалсаар өдий хүрчээ. Чухам үүнд л хэлний дархлаа, хэлний логик оршмой.
Баабар - Киноны хэл

Өөрөөр хэлбэл энд хоёр өөр хүчин зүйлийн харилцан үйлчлэл явагдаж байна. Энд нэг талаасаа Монгол хэлээ орчин үетэй хөл нийлүүлэн мөхөхөөс хамгаалахын тулд зайлшгүй гадны үгс заавал оруулж ирэх шаардлагатай болж байгаа юм. Харин нөгөө талаасаа Монголчуудын сэтгэлгээг нь чингэх явцдаа эвдэхгүй байх ёстой. Уг хоёр хүчин зүйл бие биеэ үгүйсгэх шаардлагагүй. Гэхдээ аль нэг тал руугаа хэлбийхэд маш амархан. Хэрвээ тэнцвэрийг нь олж чадахгүй бол нэг бол ариун дагшнаар нь хадгалж байна гээд орчин үеийн хүн хэрэглэх аргагүй хэл болгож орхино, аль эсвэл мань мэт шиг Монголоор бодсон санаснаа чөлөөтэй илэрхийлж чадахаа байна.

 

Addendum: Don't forget to check out the wonderful videos from Buryatia where the danger of losing the language is becoming much more imminent: Buuza, Говорим на буриатском - Уважение, - Образование, - Молодость, - Невестка ("А бабушка то нацистка" lol)

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Intellectuals vs. Statesmen

Intellectuals analyze the operations of international systems; statesmen build them. And there is a vast difference between the perspective of an analyst and that of a statesman. The analyst can choose which problem he wishes to study, whereas the statesman’s problems are imposed on him. The analyst can allot whatever time is necessary to come to a clear conclusion; the overwhelming challenge to the statesman is the pressure of time. The analyst runs no risk. If his conclusions prove wrong, he can write another treatise. The statesman is permitted only one guess; his mistakes are irretrievable. The analyst has available to him all the facts; he will be judged on his intellectual power. The statesman must act on assessments that cannot be proved at the time he is making them; he will be judged by history on the basis of how wisely he managed the inevitable change [...].
Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy, p. 27

It was easy for human rights crusaders and peace activists to insist on perfection in this world. But the policymaker who has to deal with reality learns to seek the best than can be achieved rather than the best that can be imagined. It would be wonderful to banish the role of military power from world affairs, but the world is not a perfect place, as he had learned as a child. Those with true responsibility for peace, unlike those on the sidelines, cannot afford pure idealism. They must have the courage to deal with ambiguities and accommodations, to realize that great goals can be achieved only in imperfect steps. No side has a monopoly on morality.
Walter Isaacson, Kissinger, p. 767