Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Love Song

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit

T.S. Eliot - The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Friday, July 24, 2009

Epiphany

Giotto's Crucifix (1290) in Basilica Santa Maria Novella, Firenze.
Nuutsaar avsan bolhoor jaahan muu garchihaj. Endees tomoor ni uzeerey.


This following passage was the first thing came to my mind when I was gazing at this beautiful work of art:

[T]he Jew forthwith replied:--"I think God owes them all an evil recompense: I tell thee, so far as I was able to carry my investigations, holiness, devotion, good works or exemplary living in any kind was nowhere to be found in any clerk; but only lewdness, avarice, gluttony, and the like, and worse, if worse may be, appeared to be held in such honour of all, that (to my thinking) the place is a centre of diabolical rather than of divine activities. To the best of my judgment, your Pastor, and by consequence all that are about him devote all their zeal and ingenuity and subtlety to devise how best and most speedily they may bring the Christian religion to nought and banish it from the world. And because I see that what they so zealously endeavour does not come to pass, but that on the contrary your religion continually grows, and shines more and more clear, therein I seem to discern a very evident token that it, rather than any other, as being more true and holy than any other, has the Holy Spirit for its foundation and support. For which cause, whereas I met your exhortations in a harsh and obdurate temper, and would not become a Christian, now I frankly tell you that I would on no account omit to become such. Go we then to the church, and there according to the traditional rite of your holy faith let me receive baptism."
Boccaccio's The Decameron: First Day, Second Novel

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

This and That

Video of the day (for one very special person):



Hard ideas define a culture — that of serious reading, an institution vital to democracy itself. In a recent article, Stephen L. Carter, Yale law professor and novelist, underscores "the importance of reading books that are difficult. Long books. Hard books. Books with which we have to struggle. The hard work of serious reading mirrors the hard work of serious governing — and, in a democracy, governing is a responsibility all citizens share." The challenge for university presses is to better turn our penchant for hard ideas to greater purpose.
A Manifesto for Scholarly Publishing

In its crudest form—the idea that economics as a whole is discredited—the current backlash has gone far too far. If ignorance allowed investors and politicians to exaggerate the virtues of economics, it now blinds them to its benefits. Economics is less a slavish creed than a prism through which to understand the world. It is a broad canon, stretching from theories to explain how prices are determined to how economies grow. Much of that body of knowledge has no link to the financial crisis and remains as useful as ever.

And if economics as a broad discipline deserves a robust defence, so does the free-market paradigm. Too many people, especially in Europe, equate mistakes made by economists with a failure of economic liberalism. Their logic seems to be that if economists got things wrong, then politicians will do better. That is a false—and dangerous—conclusion.
What went wrong with economics

Design touches all sectors of our daily life, and increasing awareness of that reality can result in tremendous benefit for all. Is design about aesthetics? Of course it is, but that’s just one of its many facets. Design can save time, money and one’s sanity. It can simplify use, enhance enjoyment, and keep us safe and well.
Designs on Policy + Currency Exchange (the world’s best and worst banknote designs) + uul ni mungutey baisan bol Tufte-giin course-d suuh l bailaa :(

Q. What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?

A.[..]I think two leadership lessons really stand out for me. He forced me to think about doing things that I did not think were possible. Challenging individuals by setting goals and then letting them use their ingenuity to accomplish them is something that I hope I can pass on as part of my leadership style. If you set a common vision and then get really scary-smart people, they do things that amaze you.

The other aspect of being a good manager has always been getting gratification from what others do, because the higher you get in management, frankly, the less you do yourself.
Shantanu Narayen: Connecting the Dots Isn’t Enough + "Corner Office" column: "talks with top executives about the challenges of leading and managing"

Skidelsky's interview on Keynes
Seven hours of Feynman lectures online (props to Bill Gates)

Recommended books:

Wolf Totem - Jiang Rong (reading at the moment - unuu Mongolchuudiin talaar bichsen geed baahan shuugian tariad baisan nom, so far so good)
Renegade: The Making of a President - Richard Wolffe (Obama's constant reinvention of himself à la Malcolm X! Endees Charlie Rose-tey hiisen yariltslagiig sonsooroy. Gesnees mani er Bush-iin ailchlaliig survaljlahaar Mongold irj baisan. Audiobook ni bur davguy.)
The Beach - Alex Garland (savaaguy, bas backpack hiih durtay humuus zaaval unshaaray)
The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga (Absolutely brilliant! Unuugiin Enethegiig oilgohod mash tus duhum bolno. Gants gem ni ADD-tey Baruunii audience-d zoriulj bichlegiin hevee tohiruulsan yum uu daa)
Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt (Haramsaltay medee: uchigdur Frank McCourt nas barjee. Hervee ene nomiig unshaaguy bol zaaval olj avaaray. Hamgiin haramsaltay ni ene nom deer durseldeg shig baga nas manaid haa saiguy baidag ni emgenel yum daa)

Recommended films:

Saint Ralph - cute movie, very Kierkegaardian (seriously, I bet the movie was partially inspired by Fear and Trembling)
Bottle Rocket - Wes Anderson's debut
Gallipoli - Australia's loss of innocence and the beginning of "manhood"! Bonus: Mel Gibson's Aussie accent :P
Little Fish - Oird iim mundag kino uzeeguy. Brilliant performance!
Shattered Glass - Journalism sonirhdog humuust highly recommended! (along with Good Night and Good Luck, and All The President's Men)
Entre Les Murs - Brilliant! Bagshiin deed tugsch baigaa hun bolgond ene kinog uzuuleh heregtey
The Hurt Locker - One of the best actions movies I've seen
Welcome to Sarajevo - Winterbottom rocks!
Rogue Trader - Recommended for finance majors
Whatever Works - Woody Allen's latest work. Most of the ideas are too familiar - or is it perhaps the culmination of all of his previous works?

Recommended albums:

Jorge Drexler - Eco (Motorcycle Diaries-d durtay humuus mani eriin duulsan soundtrack-iig andahguy baih aa)
Jacqueline du Pré - The Concerto Collection (as one "wise man" said: "du Pré shat on Rostropovich's head" :P Jacqueline du Pré is arguably the best cellist ever! Gesnees Bach-iin Cello Suites-iig toglosniig ni olj avah yumsan)
Julieta Venegas - MTV Unplugged (I wish I could understand what she's singing about)
Au Revoir Simone - The Bird of Music (David Lynch's favourite band! haha)
American Analog Set - Set Free (really nice melodies)

Notable and Quotable

By the late 1970s, I had concluded that, for all the good intentions and abilities of its staff, the [World] Bank was a fatally flawed institution. The most important source of its failures was its commitment to lending, almost regardless of what was happening in the country it was lending to. This was an inevitable flaw since the institution could hardly admit that what it could offer -- money -- would often make little difference. But this flaw was magnified by the personality of Robert McNamara, former US Defence Secretary, who was a dominating president from 1967 to 1981. McNamara was a man of ferocious will, personal commitment to alleviating poverty and frighteningly little common sense. By instinct, he was a planner and quantifier. . .

I had worked on India as senior divisional economist for three years. During that time, my chief function, so far as the Bank was concerned, was to justify the provision of significant quantities of aid, even though this money was helping the government of India avoid desperately needed policy changes. As it turned out, those changes were made in the midst of a deep foreign exchange crisis in 1991, almost two wasted decades later. The changes were made under the direction of Manmohan Singh, then finance minister, with the assistance of Montek Ahluwalia as economic secretary and later finance secretary. This experience confirmed three lessons: policy changes could make a huge difference to economic performance; such changes could be put into effect by relatively small teams of intelligent, motivated and well-disciplined individuals; and, most important of all, those changes could not be imposed from outside.

Unfortunately, lending too much was not the Bank's only fault. It also had to lend to governments. This had two undesirable consequences: it had to assume that the government represented the interests of the country; and it reinforced an unjustifiably collectivist view of that national interest. Bank lending made it easier for corrupt and occasionally vicious governments to ignore the interests and wishes of their peoples. By the end of my time at the Bank, I came to the conclusion that its borrowers fell into three categories -- those that did not need the help; those that would not use the help; and those that needed the help and would use it. The Bank was constitutionally incapable of concentrating its efforts on this third, often quite small group. As a result, its efforts were often either unnecessary or wasteful. I therefore came to agree with most of the criticisms of aid that had long been made by the late Peter (Lord) Bauer.

From Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf's 2004 book, "Why Globalization Works"

Monday, July 06, 2009

We'll Always Have Paris