Monday, June 04, 2012

64.89

Had a lasting headache from a long conference until I read this: Shanghai Index dropped by 64.89 points today (on the 23rd anniversary of the June 4 Massacre in 1989). My hat off to the players in the stock market.

See you at Victoria Park!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Dark Sunglasses - Chen Guangcheng

Will wear dark sunglasses tomorrow irrespective of the weather.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-17920910

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Getting Old?

Have already agreed to take two summer interns and got another request just now which I cannot turn down. Seriously, my friends' kids are ready for college? Getting internship requests must be a good sign of getting old.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Viola da Spalla

Not knowing whether J.S Bach actually saw a viola da spalla in his life though, I do find this rendering of the Cello Suites interesting.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wash and Wax

I know a clean car is a sign of a sick mind.  But the work pressure and muscle pain from the last run was gone after 2 hours of labour.


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Trinity

An atheist though, I am obsessed with the relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son of God, and the meaning of Trinity.  Is the Son of God begotten or unbegotten?  How can the Son be coeternal and uncreated if his being is from the Father?  How can Jesus be equal with the Father if he specifically announced that the Father was greater than he?  What is Holy Spirit?  How does it relate to the God?  These questions were once the focus of the lively debate between Arius and Athanasius.  The Gospels seemed to be on the side of Arius.  However, since Constantine for political reasons proclaimed at Nicaea that Athanasius was right and his descendant, Theodosius, in 381CE, issued a decree which made it unlawful for everyone to question the state-preferred Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit formula, the debate was brought to an abrupt end.  Still, what does Homoousion in the Decree of Nicaea mean?  Trinity?  How can there be three be one?  If there is only one God, how could the Logos also be divine?  The questions remained.  At one point, Gregory of Nyssai felt compelled to announce that "Every concept of God is a mere simulacrum, a false likeness, an idol: it could not reveal God himself.  The true vision and the knowledge of what we seek consists precisely in not seeing, in an awareness that our goal transcends all knowledge and is everywhere cut off from us by the darkness of incomprehensibility."  When I am almost ready to accept that the Christian God is after all completely unspeakable, unnameable and unknowable (the Fathers of Cappadocia who tried to justify the Christian faith said it, not me), an equation that appeared in a recent article in the Hong Kong Economic Journal (which has nothing to do with religions) somehow revives my interest in the matter: + + = .

+ + = ∞.  Doesn't it explain the nature of Trinity?  The problem is, of course, if we take out an from the left side of the equation the end product will remain the same.  It also doesn't matter if we add another to the equation.  But, is God the same God if we take the Son or the Holy Spirit out of the equation?  Does God remain the same if we add say a Holy Daughter to the equation?  Why not?  After all, + + + = .

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Old Idea" - Leonard Cohen

The long wait is finally over.  Leonard Cohen new album is about to hit the street.  You can listen to it online, courtesy of NPR.  The streaming is available for a limited time.  So grab a single malt, dry martini, espresso, whatever, dim the light and enjoy.

You can pre-order the album here.  You can also read the poetic lines of the first track "Going Home" In New Yorker's Poetry page.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Comments Moderation

A fellow blogger has been receiving comments from those who don't know the difference between the right to speak and the right to bully.  As I'll hate to see this little personal blog turn into a mud wrestling field, I do moderate comments.  Luckily I seldom get nasty comments from my readers and I have deleted comments from no more than 2 individuals.  The first of whom was too keen to find out who I am, comments deleted; the other had the tendency to post some nasty remarks about another reader of mine, comments deleted.  When I delete a comment, I ignore it completely.  No rebuttal; no reply.  It always works.  People disappear after being ignored a few times.  It's probably not very polite of me to completely ignore a comment but, hey, not all comments deserve a reply, do they?  And, more importantly, I consider it rude and unfair to the one whose comment gets deleted if I comment on his/her comment after exercising my right to delete it.  So, as a rule, I don't mention deleted comments.  They just silently disappear.

I love the delete key.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Romantic Story on Christmas Eve - A Real Story from a Book of History

(Portrait of Praskovya Ivanovna Zhemchugova-Sheremeteva by Nokolai Argunov, from Wiki File)



The musical life of eighteenth-century Russia was dominated by the court and private theatres such as the Sheremetev's, which was considered as good as the court's theatre in St. Petersburg.  Boris Sheremetev, the head of the Sheremetevs, was a long-standing ally of Peter the Great.  When Boris Sheremetev died in 1719, the Tsar told his widow that he would treat Boris' children as his own. Pyotr Sheremetev, his sole surviving son, was brought up in the court and became one of the few companions to the future Tsar (Peter II).  As a result of the close connections with the court, the Sheremetevs became unimaginably wealthy, so wealthy they owned 200,000 "census serfs" (which meant actually a million serfs).  Pyotr was survived by Count Nikolai Petrovich Sheremetev, who turned out to be an admirer of European cultures.  From the 200,000 census serfs, the Count would select a few hundred and train them as artists, singers, architects, painters, furniture makers, actors and sculptors.  The painting above was painted by Nikolai Argunov, Nikolai Petrovich's favourite serf painter.

The lady in the painting was Praskovya Sheremetev, one of the many Sheremetev's serfs.  In the painting Nikolai Petrovich was reduced to a miniature, suspended from Praskovya's neck.  Praskovya was born to a family of serfs on the Sheremetev estate.  Noted for her beauty and her voice, she was selected to be trained for the opera.  She also learnt Italian and French, both of which she spoke and wrote with fluency.   She made her first appearance on stage at eleven, in 1779, and within a year, she played the leading roles in major performances.  The Count, who frequented the theatres, was a fan of her.

One summer evening in 1784, Praskovya was driving her father's cows down to the stream when some dogs in the count's hunting group began to chase her.  Nikolai Petrovich called the dog away and walked to Praskovya.  When he knew that Praskovya's father was intending to marry her off to a local forester, the Count said that he would forbid any such marriage.  'You weren't not born for this!  Today you are a peasant but tomorrow you will be a lady!'

By the beginning of the 1790's Praskovya had become Sheremetev's de facto wife.  It was no longer just the pleasures of the flesh that attracted him to him but, as he said, the beauty of her mind and soul.  For a very long time the count would remain torn between his love for her and his own position in the society.  Marrying a serf girl was unthinkable.  It was not even clear, if he married Praskovya, whether he would have a legitimate heir.  Somewhat he was forced to choose between his own romantic feelings and the customs of his class.  Praskovya's secret relationship with the count also placed her in an almost impossible situation.  When rumours went from one house to another, her fellow serfs became resentful of her privileged position and called her spiteful names.  She was also shunned by society.  People would come to snoop around her house and sometimes taunt the "peasant bride".  It was only through her strength of character that she managed to retain her dignity.

The Emperor Paul, an old friend of the count, assumed the throne in 1792.  Paul appointed Sheremetev Senior Chamberlain, the chief administrator of the royal court.  Sheremetev had little inclination towards court service but he had no choice.  It was at that time that the first signs of Praskovya's illness became clear.  The symptoms were unmistakable: it was tuberculosis.  Her singing career came to an end and she was confined to the Fountain House, the count private estate. 

Praskovya's confinement to the Fountain House was not just the result of her illness.  The snobbish prejudices of the noble class and the resentment of her fellow serfs had left little breathing space for her.  All she could do was to spend the days with the count, play the harpsichord or do needlework.  The vast reception rooms of the Fountain House were empty - and the only people who would ever visit were loyal childhood friends and artists who were above prejudices and resentment.  The Emperor Paul was in this category.  He always believed that the Sheremetev family was different from other aristocratic clans, a little bit above the social norm.   Several times he would arrive incognito at the back entrance of Fountain House.  Paul was enchanted by Praskovya and presented her with his personal diamond ring, which she wore for her portrait by Argunov.

In 1801, the count married her in a secret ceremony at a small village church on the outskirts of Moscow.  One year later Praskovya gave birth to a son, Dmitry.  She was weakened by the birth and died after three weeks of painful suffering.  At this moment, the most desperate time in his time, the count was abandoned by the whole of Petersburg society.  In preparation for the funeral he publicised the news of Praskovya's death.  Few people came - so few that the viewing of the coffin was reduced from the customary three days to five hours.  There was only a small group of mourners - close friends of Praskovya, a few serf performers, some domestic servants, and a few close friends of the count.  There was no one from the court (Paul was already dead); no one from the noble families; no one from the Sheremetev family.

Lost in grief, the count resigned from the court, turned his back on society, remained a widower and, retreating to the country, devoted his final years to religious study and charitable work in commemoration of his wife.  He spent vast sums on building village schools and hospitals, set up trusts for the care of orphans, endowed monasteries to give the peasants food when the harvests failed.  The most ambitious project was the alms house which he founded in Praskovya's memory on the outskirts of Moscow - the Strannoprimnyi Dom, which was by far the largest public hospital in Russia.  For years the grief-stricken count would leave the Fountain House and walk through the streets of Petersburg distributing money to the poor.  He died in 1809, the richest nobleman in the whole of Russia, and no doubt the loneliest as well.

Praskovya was buried at Alexander Nevsky Monastery, next to the grave of the count's father - a place that was reserved for the count himself.  She died a lonely woman, but she was later joined by the like of Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Dostoevsky, at the Monastery.

The painter of Praskovya's portrait, Nikolai Argunov, died as a serf.  But his children were among those liberated by Nikolai Petrovich.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bad Taste

I don't expect good taste from everyone, but find it hard to believe that so many people think it's fun and appropriate to dedicate that silly little song of Steve Martin to Christopher Hitchens upon his death.



Merry Christmas to everyone, atheists or theists.  (BTW, I do consider the current "Happy Holidays" v. "Merry Christmas" debate in the US utterly nonsensical.)

Friday, December 09, 2011

No No No

The Iron Lady does make other European leaders look completely stupid, doesn't she?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

I am a runner

I've been running since October.  Having great fun.  Feeling good to call myself a runner. 


Should I call myself a runner? How many kilometers must I have run to be a runner?


Some identifies can be had without practice or repetition.  One only needs to kill once to be a killer, cheat once to be a cheater, or buy the "right" lottery ticket to be a lottery winner.  To be a runner, singer or painter, however, one has to have committed to the activity and done a fair amount of running, singing or painting.  Some other identities, say, a parent or a good friend, take time and efforts to maintain.


It would appear that those identities that are hard to acquire or maintain are capable of delivering greater and more long-lasting happiness.  It may well explain why people are not necessarily happier as they become richer – they do not acquire any new identity as they move up the rich to richer to obscenely rich ladder.  Indeed, people report that they are happier if they kiss goodbye to some of their money.  They give, and they become philanthropists, educators, patrons of art and supporters of scientific discoveries.


There are people whose only sense of self-worth appears to derive from their status as one of the very rich.  They are glad that they are ten times richer than their peers but constantly fear that they may one day wake up form their sleep only to discover that they are nine, not ten times richer than their neighours and old friends.  My most humble advice to them – get a life, get a new identity, no matter what, or do some running.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Financial Updates

After a long day of work it's time for some truly entertaining financial updates.

Alarmed by the news that China's manufacturing activities have actually contracted, this bloke at the Hang Seng Bank is suggesting that the Chinese government should dump RMB10 trillion into the South China Sea.

And, following a mere 2.5% drop in the Centa-City Index (a real property index), Mr. See of Centraline Property is calling for a reduction in land sale, abolition of special stamp duty and, what, excuse me, a restriction of bank loans to overseas especially Chinese borrowers?

Something very wrong in the air today.
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