Saturday, June 24, 2006

Li Chuan Yun plays Tchaikovsky 李傳韻演奏柴可夫斯基

香港管弦樂團的2005-06樂季已接近尾聲;莫札特誕生 250年的慶祝音樂會系列亦已完結;但港樂仍有精彩的節目,接著來一連三個星期都是演奏全場柴可夫斯基的作品。今晚(6月23日)的曲目有柴可夫斯基 Tchaikovsky 的選自尤金奧涅金的波蘭舞曲 Eugene Onegin: Polonaise、小提琴協奏曲 Violin Concerto 和第五交響曲 Symphony No. 5。

小提琴獨奏是年青小提琴家李傳韻。他被全世界公認為神童,是現今世上最出色的小提琴家之一。他現在已二十多歲,不再是神童,但仍在美國進修。各界對他的評價全都是好好好。小提琴大師 Ricci 說:中國已經出了一位偉大的小提琴家;New York Times 評論他的演出,說只聽他的一曲,已經不枉這個晚上。

所有人都跟著說李傳韻的演奏是非常好,但究竟是怎樣好呢?首先,你們可能看過國產片和你在一起,故事描述一位對小提琴有天份的劉小春的經歷,主要是說他和父親的感情。片中主角的小提琴演奏是由李傳韻幕後代拉。李傳韻也有在片中演出一個小提琴家,還被教授責罵。片中的高潮是劉小春參加小提琴比賽,李傳韻就是代他奏出今晚的節目:柴可夫斯基的小提琴協奏曲其中一段。這首樂曲技巧要求十分高。聽說柴可夫斯基在此曲首演時曾先後邀請兩位小提琴家獨奏,但都因技巧要求太高而被婉拒,直至第三位才敢接受挑戰。

這首曲我在音樂會聽過很多次,每一位獨奏者都身懷絕技,可以應付艱辛的樂段。但聽李傳韻演奏此曲就完全不是這一回事,他表達每一個高度技巧的片段都非常從容,除了準確地表演小提琴技巧,他還可以深入地表達他自己對樂段的感覺。聽他的演奏,我發覺這首小提琴協奏曲可像脫胎換骨,感覺非常新鮮。他演奏的華彩樂段,是我聽過的最出色的一次。中間有幾個樂句,是一段非常複雜的琶音然後以一個高兩個八度的泛音作結。這個泛音非常之難處理,首先要準確做好音準,然後要使它和整個樂句混為一體。我聽過的所有演奏,在此都是小心翼翼地處理,我聽來都抹一把汗。但李傳韻拉起來信心十足,如履平地,我還覺得他簡直信心爆棚,因為他還可以在其中加插自己的手法,還悠然自得。曾有教授勸他不要用太多即興手法,以尊重原作者,但華彩樂段就是原作者給協奏曲獨奏家即興表演的地方,有些作曲家索性將華彩樂段留空好讓獨奏者自由發揮呢。

李傳韻encore演奏 Paganini 的 Caprice No. 24。這又是所有小提琴家必修的艱深樂曲,中間有一整段變奏都是以泛音拉出。在我聽過此曲的現場演出中,起碼有兩三成在此不合格。李傳韻的技巧高超,當然不是問題。他演奏的改編版本,比原作要求更高,但加入了少許現代爵士樂的風味,聽來減輕了原作小提琴經典習作的嚴肅感覺,音樂感因而較重。

今晚下半場是柴可夫斯基的第五交響曲,是他的交響曲最雄偉的一首,亦名為命運。我常將它和貝多芬的命運交響曲相比,因為很多樂思都有點相似。貝多芬的音樂結構工整慎密,而柴可夫斯基的感情較為豐富,兩者都是極品。

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The World is Flat 2

This is part 2 of the notes on The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman.

Some of the ten flatteners noted by Friedman have been around for many years. However, Globalization 3.0 as Friedman proposed did not occur until 2000, the reason being that the flatteners have to collaborate with each other and synergize before their effect can be felt. Friedman noticed that the flatteners converged in around 2000. There is actually a triple convergence at that time.

The Triple Convergence

Convergence No. 1 - The ten flatteners emerged in the 1990s. For them to work together in a complementary, mutually enhancing fashion, they needed time to converge. The tipping point arrived around 2000. The net result was the creation of a global, web-enabled playing field that allows for multiple forms of collaboration in the sharing of knowledge and work in real time, without regard to geography and distance.

Convergence No. 2 - The convergence of the ten flatteners is not enough to make the world flat. The business world has to adapt itself to the new tools. It has to be comfortable with, and develop the sorts of horizontal collaboration and value-creation processes and habits that could take advantage of this new and flatter playing field. The convergence of the flatteners begot the convergence of a set of business practices and skills that would get the most out of the flat world. And then the two began to reinforce each other.

Convergence No. 3 - The third convergence is the new players entering the new playing field. While western countries were the first to adapt to the new game, three billion players from the developing countries suddenly found themselves being able to compete in the flattened world. The access of so many people to the tools of collaboration and the unlimited pages of information gave rise to a global community that is able to participate in all sorts of discovery and innovation.

The flattened world poses many challenges to individuals, companies and countries. The viewpoints of Friedman are mainly IT-based, a world connected by networks of information, networks of communication, networks connecting production and services, and also a network of global transportation and logistics. The main point is: anything that can be done in the next room can be done anywhere else in the world. With call centres connected by high speed fiber optics between continents, many services, including customer hotlines, help desks, promotional calls, tax returns, diagnosis of X-ray images, remote surgery, data entry, can be done in other parts of the world for you in real time. The worldwide production and movement of goods have also developed to an extent that even many local industries with deep ethnic roots are facing worldwide competition.

How can companies cope?

While the individuals could make use of the new tools to explore the flat world, it is the companies which are really facing critical competition. Friedman highlighted some rules and strategies for companies to compete in the flattened world.

Rule No. 1 - When the world goes flat, and you are feeling flattened, reach for a shovel and dig inside yourself. Don't try to build walls.

Rule No. 2 - And the small shall act big... One way small companies flourish in the flat world is by learning to act big. And the key to being small and acting big is being quick to take advantage of all the new tools for collaboration in reaching farther, faster, wider and deeper.

Rule No. 3 - And the big shall act small... One way that big companies learn to flourish in the flat world is by learning how to act really small by enabling their customers to act really big.

Rule No. 4 - The best companies are the best collaborators. In the flat world, more and more business will be done through collaborations within and between companies, for a very simple reason: The next layer of value creation, whether in technology, marketing, biomedicine, or manufacturing, are becoming so complex that no single firm or department is going to be able to master them alone.

Rule No. 5 - In a flat world, the best companies stay healthy by getting regular chest X-rays and then selling the results to their clients.

Rule No. 6 - The best companies outsource to win, not to shrink. They outsource to innovate faster and more cheaply in order to grow larger, gain market share, and hire more and different specialists, not to save money by firing more people.

Rule No. 7 - Outsourcing isn't just for large companies. It is also for idealists and the social entrepreneurs.

Reform wholesale and reform retail

For countries facing the challenge of the flat world, Friedman noted that many developing countries were trying to copy the model of success of others but some were unable to get it right. He examined the process of development and defined the reform needed.

Reform wholesale comes from the centre, and was commonplace during the era of broad macroeconomic reform in many developing countries like China, Russia, Mexico, Brazil and India. These group of reformers often relied on the leverage of authoritarian political system to unleash the market forces. They pushed their countries into more export-oriented and free market strategies based on:
- privatization of state companies,
- deregulation of financial markets,
- currency adjustment,
- foreign direct investment,
- shrinking subsidies.
- lowering of protectionist tariff barriers, and
- introduction of more flexible labour laws.

These leaders knew that more open and competitive markets are the only sustainable vehicle for growing a nation out of poverty, because they are the only guarantee that new ideas, technologies, and best practices are easily flowing into the countries and that private enterprises, and even government, have the competitive incentive and flexibility to adopt those new ideas and turn them into jobs and products.

However, the problem for any globalizing countries lies in thinking they can stop with reform wholesale. In a flattened world, reform wholesale is no longer sufficient to keep countries on a sustainable growth path. Reform retail is necessary. Following reform wholesale, a country has to look at four key aspects of the society:
- infrastructure,
- regulatory institutions,
- education and
- culture.

The idea of reform retail is to enable the greatest number of people to have the best legal and institutional framework within which to innovate, start companies, and become attractive partners for those who want to collaborate with them from elsewhere in the world.

Friedman also attempted to delve into the present world conflict by expressing how the Muslim world and terrorism were creating barriers to unflatten the world. I find part of arguments very biased on the American angle. Surely terrorism is something that everyone should condemn. But terrorists are also taking advantage of the flat world to advance their cause. It may not be a desirable outcome, but is an unavoidable by-product of globalization. In the Muslim world, there is a different set of belief and value. Although their development is at present not in step with the western world, time will tell what role they will play in globalization.

The book contains a lot of examples and arguments which are all quite interesting. I can only capture those which struck me most. I recommend you to read this book which is a joy to read just for the language.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The World is Flat

The World Is Flat - A brief history of the globalized world in the 21st century by Thomas Friedman



In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain to India, taking a westerly route across the Atlantic, thinking it would be easier to go round the back of the world to reach India instead of going pass the dangerous Cape of Good Hope. He only reached West Indies but proved that the world is round. In 2005, Thomas Friedman took a plane from America and headed east to India, trying to figure out that the world is flat, globalized and without barriers.

There was a time when the world was round and far away places beyond the horizon could not be seen, and then it was globalized and flattened. It was a long process relative to modernization. Thomas Friedman perceived three versions of globalization starting from the exploration of Christopher Columbus. From 1492 to about 1800, it was Globalization 1.0. It was about countries and muscles, and about countries exploring the new world. Countries were forcing their way to trade with the new world and colonization. The primary question was about how did a country fit into the global competition and opportunities. Globalization 1.0 shrank the world from a size large to a size medium.

The second era, Globalization 2.0, lasted from 1800 to 2000. It shrank the world from medium size to small. The key agent of change, and the dynamic force driving global integration was multinational companies, driven by first the falling transportation costs, and then by the falling telecommunication costs. It was the birth and then the maturation of global economy with sufficient movement of goods and information between continents, thus creating a global market.

Globalized 3.0 took off around 2000 and shrank the world from small to tiny, and flattening the playing field at the same time. With the movement of information improved so drastically that it empowered the individuals to participate in the globalization. While the dynamic force in Globalization 1.0 was countries competing, and that in Globalization 2.0 was companies competing, we find in Globalization 3.0 the power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally. Thomas Friedman saw ten forces that flattened the world and led to Globalization 3.0.

Flattener No. 1 - The 9th November 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down. This event was not just about the wall, but the collapse of the Soviet Union. The result was the end of the cold war and the opening up of the entire Soviet Bloc. In a sense, the world view was expanded and the two worlds became one.

Flattener No. 2 - 9th August 1995, when Netscape went public. Netscape was a symbol for web browsers, among many competitors. The success of Netscape in 1995 marked an important phase in computing that the PC-based computing platform was changed to an Internet-based platform. Millions of computers then integrated on the Internet and were working under global networks.

Flattener No. 3 - Work Flow software. With the Internet connecting people to people, and people to their own applications, there came the proliferation of work flow software which directly connected applications to applications. Such software enables applications in different locations of the world to work together as one.

Flattener No. 4 - Open-sourcing, the self-organizing collaborative communities. They are more than Linux, Apache and OpenOffice, but include many freeware and user-based projects. It is an important flattener because it makes available many free tools, from software to encyclopedias, to millions of people around the world. The open-source approach challenges hierarchical structure with a horizontal model of innovation.

Flattener No. 5 - Outsourcing, starting from Y2K. The chain of events leading to the present state of outsourcing to India is interesting. It started in 1951 when India under Nahru established seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) for educating elites in sciences, engineering and medicine. IIT were very successful in producing large number of talents. However, India did not have sufficient jobs for them. Came Y2K, there was a crisis on software maintenance and USA was much in need of knowledgeable hands for the job. Many talented Indian engineers were recruited by American consulting firms to handle the work. When the Y2K crisis was over, many Indian engineers returned home, but contacts had been established. In parallel, the IT boom created a large demand in telecommunication and many companies invested heavily in laying cross-continent optical fiber connections. The IT bubble then burst, and the costs of using the now over-supplied high speed connections fell drastically, making broadband connection between India and USA exceptionally cheap. When IT demand picked up again, Indian engineers, many worked in USA on Y2K work, were again in demand. With convenient telecommunication and work flow software, they found it easy to work remotely in India serving American firms, earning a good salary which was very cheap at the American level, while living at home Indian style. Thus began the vast out-sourcing centres in India, and also in many other developing countries.

Flattener No. 6 - Offshoring. On 11th December 2001, China formally joined WTO. It meant China was agreeing in principle to make its own competitive playing field as level as the rest of the world. Offshoring of manufacturing to China, Russia and some developing countries became commonplace. Friedman quoted an African proverb on the competition: a gazelle must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed; a lion must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death; it doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle, you'd better start running. The movement of goods around the globe is so convenient and without barrier that it makes offshoring a flattening tool. There was a group of American CEO discussing the production of their companies. All but one had already set up production plants in China. Everyone agreed that this lone company would be the first to go bankrupt.

Flattener No. 7 - Supply-chaining. Large companies are now able to commandeer their suppliers around the world for just-in-time supplies to stock store shelves and to meet production needs. Walmart has a worldwide system connecting its suppliers and a hub in Arkansas to receive supplies and despatch goods to its outlets. Friedman also quoted an example based on his experience of ordering a notebook computer. His telephone order was taken by a call centre in India and was relaid to a production plant in Malaysia. The parts for building the computer were automatically ordered from more than 30 suppliers in many different countries which automatically adjusted their stocks and delivered the required parts to the plant at the exact time. A Malaysian technician assembled the computer, tested it, and despatched it through UPS across the Pacific to Friedman's home. These were all done within a few days.

Flattener No. 8 - Insourcing. You may think that the flattened world allows a company to outsource some of its backroom functions, offshore its production, and better collaborate with its suppliers, but the bottom line is that the company still has to maintain a shop front and client relations. Come insourcing, and this may have changed. Friedman quoted the example of UPS which has transformed itself from delivery service to a client network for other companies. With teams of UPS staff regularly contacting citizens physically on a daily basis, UPS expanded its services to cover the delivery of goods for companies to their clients, and at the same time handled the billing and collection of payment of cash or credit cards. A company can focus on its core business and leave all the peripheral functions to other contractors around the world.

Flattener No. 9 - Informing. Think Google, Yahoo, MSN. In a flat world, information is just a few keystrokes away. Besides knowledge you would like to seek, there are many other information about almost everything and everyone if you care to search. In the age of superpower search, everyone is a celebrity. There is no class boundaries or education boundaries.

Flattener No. 10 - The steroids. The steroids that empower the individuals to take advantage of the availability of information and immediate communication in the flat world are the modern age equipment which is digital, mobile, personal and virtual. These include mobile phone, notebook computer and PDA. The up-to-date models of these digital equipment are wireless and can communicate with the world instantaneously. Their personal and mobile nature enables individuals to collaborate and compete in the flat world with their virtual presence anywhere anytime.

I find the above observations of Thomas Friedman quite narrow for the topic of globalization. It is heavily IT-based and American-based. The book mentions some modern factors concerning globalization which affect the American way, but leaves out the grave impact of the global finance and politics. However, the ten flatteners only occupy one-third of the book and are merely an introduction. I shall record his other views in the next round of notes.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The last three symphonies 終極莫札特

因為今晚(6月16日)聽港樂的音樂會,錯過了世界杯阿根廷對塞黑大半場賽事、回家時阿根廷領先三比零;還有二十分鐘,但竟然還可以看到三個入球;阿根廷結果勝六比零。今晚是魚與熊掌兼得。

莫扎特出生二百五十年紀念音樂會系列到達了高潮。今晚港樂演奏莫扎特最後的三首交響曲:第三十九、四十及四十一。這三首作品是莫扎特最佳的管弦樂作品,技巧成熟,感情豐富。以這三首作品為莫扎特的音樂作一總結,真是恰當不過。

第四十號交響曲第一樂章的第一主題非常為人熟悉,相信不少朋友都聽過;就算沒有聽過這首交響曲,都可能聽過 Hook on Classic 這首流行曲古典音樂版本,或者在地下鐵聽過這個旋律的電話鈴聲。這首交響曲非常優雅,用不上定音鼓。另一首第四十一號交響曲就完全不同,別名雷神,莫札特在此用了大量的定音鼓伴奏,此曲氣勢雄壯,但又不失莫札特的風格,非常難得。我認為這三首交響曲的神韻在於它們的第二樂章,都是慢版。第三十九號交響曲的慢版非常有味道,以成熟的手法,迷人的旋律,創造感人的氣氛。第四十號交響曲的慢版是我三首之中最喜愛的,舒緩的旋律,慢慢發展至一個一個的高潮,越聽越覺得好聽。第四十一號交響曲有如歌的感覺,充分表現莫札特在聲樂方面的創作天才,反映在管弦樂上。不過慢版的音樂需要時間去咀嚼,不似激情音樂那麼搶耳。

今晚 Edo de Waart 將樂團位置重新編排,將第二小提琴和大提琴低音大提琴的位置互換。原本小提琴和大提琴各佔一方,高低音區明顯分開,身歷聲效果會較好,但大大的音樂廳不是每一個座位都是皇帝位。我曾經試過坐在很偏左的位置,低音幾乎完全沒有了。今晚的安排音響較為統一,不過如果如果座位非常不好,音響就不可能十分理想,惟一補救就是回家坐私家皇帝位用 Hi-fi 再聽一次;所以我下一樂季都是要早早訂購一級的門票。

Friday, June 9, 2006

Da Vinci Code 達文西密碼

剛看到消息,達文西密碼一片在內地提早落畫,官方說法是當局希望其他國產影片能有較多檔期,但有陰謀論者謂該片被禁影。這可有點奇怪,因為宣傳部在影片開畫前曾推介該片,中央電視台也曾推出特備節目介紹情節,但後來有內地天主教徒示威抗議該片,而當局態度有轉變,這算不算是宗教自由呢?該片上映至今全球票房已高達38億港元,成為06年全球票房冠軍;電影在港上映首天便收得282萬港元,而現時內地的票房更達1億4,000萬人民幣。

我上星期在數碼港看這片,觀眾不算多。這片在攝影和導演方面都有水準,但演員和編劇卻並不出色。我沒有看過原著,但我太太說很多引人入勝的情節都忽略了,例如 Silas 由孤兒變成殺手的經歷,和 Sophie Neveu 一家車禍的真相。我卻認為此片電影感不足,在兩小時內很匆忙地講一個複雜的故事,但最重要的情節卻只是由 Sir Leigh Teabing 口述。它的成功是原著的餘威和電影公司和反對者宣傳的效果。是否有朋友又看原著又看電影可以分享一點感想?

被一些教徒反對的情節其實一點都不新穎,有些說法流傳已久,我認為這次事件處理得不好。這使我想起1973年的 Jesus Christ Superstar。此片由著名舞台劇改編,我非常喜歡電影版本,有羅馬士兵手持自動步槍,戰鬥機作為天使,還有強勁的搖滾樂。開始時基督教團體都強烈反對,正如達文西密碼一樣,說它褻聖,曲解聖經,教壞教徒。但後來有高人發覺這非常受年青人歡迎的電影是不能禁,而它所講述的聖經故事正是傳道人想找人聽的。教會即時大變身,由基督教團體和教會學校組織教徒和學生去看這電影,一面看耶穌的故事一面學英文。

我看了 Jesus Christ Superstar 不知多少次:電影,舞台劇,VCD全都有;尤其喜歡其配樂,各首主題曲,和演 King Herod 的肥佬。影片的情節和我在學校接觸的聖經故事一樣,但演繹的手法極佳,發人深省。其中有三點我在1973年已注意到。第一點是猶大,他是該片主角,不是耶穌;該片主要是說猶大的心路,他被引導去出賣耶穌,而由始至終都預知結果,是耶穌最知心的門徒,事發後有戰鬥機天使多謝他;我們剛看到猶大福音被發現又被證實為真本的新聞,但這觀點很久之前大家已知道。第二點是 Mary Magdalene 在片中被描述為耶穌的情人,這和達文西密碼中的聖杯傳說是一樣,Jesus Christ Superstar 一片對此著墨很多,Mary Magdalene 緊隨耶穌進入耶路撒冷,在半夜深談,又在耶穌被釘十字架時陪伴在旁,在片中她並不是被耶穌救贖的壞女人 Magdalene,亦不是聖母瑪利亞,而是耶穌的伴侶。第三點是耶穌到達麻瘋病人的山洞,熱心為他們治病,病人越來越多,不斷包圍他,耶穌努力接觸每一個人,但終於被淹沒,然後大叫 heal yourselves.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Paradise Now 立見天國

有否看過立見天國 Paradise Now?此片現在百老匯電影中心放映,好評如潮。我上星期日(6月4日)看了,但似乎快要落畫,要看就要快快。巴勒斯坦的影片,講述人肉炸彈自殺式襲擊者的故事。它是金球獎最佳外語片,得獎無數,又獲提名奧斯卡最佳外語片,因為題材敏感,在美國引起爭論。

天國在那裡?是否在死後,還是在下一世?當人正活在地獄,有什麼方法可以立見天國呢?天國可能只是一個空泛的承諾,但在沒有希望的人心裡,這是否是惟一的希望?參加聖戰,殺死一些有關和無關的人,就可以立見天國了,在某些情況下有些人會相信這些。

這部電影沒有一點血腥的鏡頭,兩個自殺式襲擊者一天的遭遇,可能還會令你覺得可笑。烈士臨死前的誓師錄影,策劃者並不當什麼一回事;錄影帶變成商品,幾塊錢就可以出租。到最後,你可能會認為那個臨陣退縮的自殺式襲擊者其實是英雄,而另一個視死如歸,一心求死的,並實並不見到真主,他的英勇只不過是想和通敵的父親劃清界線。

好介紹;去看看吧。

Monday, June 5, 2006

Implanting RFID tags in human

I just read from LiveScience about a proposal to implant RFID tags in immigrants. This proposal was made by VeriChip, a company which supplies such equipment. The reason for such move was that USA would need to know who were in the country and why they were there. The CEO of the company proposed using VeriChip RFID implants to register workers at the border, and then verify their identities in the workplace.

You may have heard about RFID, sometimes from me, and its increasing use and its danger on privacy. You may think that such equipment would be under tight control, especially in USA who claims to be the defender of human right. The biggest push we heard so far was from Walmart which demanded most of its suppliers to adopt RFID technology on their logistics systems. We also know that federal approval has been given to implant RFID tags in cattle and pets.

Think twice. RFID tags are actually being used in human at present. FDA approval was given to Applied Digital Solutions to sell VeriChip RFID tags for implantation into patients in hospitals. The intent is to provide immediate positive identification of patients both in hospitals and in emergencies. This is a breakthrough in the use of RFID tags in human. Just think about that all hospitals and ambulances will have RFID readers ready and scan patients to see if medical information can be found in their arms. If this saves lives in emergencies, and quickly allows doctors to give accurate diagnosis, then sooner or later the use of RFID tags on medical grounds will be widespread. Medical insurance companies may even mandate it.

There are also reports that parents implant their kids with RFID tags for their safety. Kids of course are not happy with their whereabout known to their parents anytime. I think the present state of the case is that the consent of the persons, or their parents if they are minors, is required before a RFID tag can be implanted. But there are already over 1,000 people willingly have RFID tags implanted on them.

You may think that the proposal of VeriChip may be just wishful thinking. Tagging immigrants may be viewed as a blatant discrimination, which will not be accepted by the Americans, nor by the home countries of the immigrants. Think again. Politics work in unpredictable way. In another report, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe allegedly remarked to visiting USA senators that he would consider having Colombian workers have microchips implanted in their bodies before they are permitted to enter the US for seasonal work. Arlen Specter, Senator of Pennsylvania, told Congress on April 25 of this proposal.

With people's mind changing, and weighing the benefits of RFID against its infringement on privacy, the business sector, political sector, welfare sector may eventually converge on the adoption of such technology. In a practical and a globalized world, we may need to give up some of our privacy and freedom in order to integrate as a small screw in this big machine.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Symphonic Dances 熱舞交響曲

今晚港樂的音樂會名為熱舞交響曲,當知不是舞曲這麼簡單,應該有舞蹈助慶。其曲目是柴可夫斯基的天鵝湖組曲 Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake suite,愛德華斯的雙簧管協奏曲 Ross Edwards' Oboe Concerto,伯恩斯坦的夢斷城西交響舞曲 Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,和拉威爾的波萊羅舞曲 Ravel's Bolero。

你可能認為天鵝湖有芭蕾舞表演,或者夢斷城西適合現代舞,但出乎意料跳舞的是雙簧管獨奏家戴安娜黛熙蒂 Diana Doherty。此曲是 Edwards 為她而作,充分顯示雙簧管的技巧,不過新派音樂的旋律充滿神秘感,聽來有點吃力。雙簧管獨奏時配合舞蹈動作,遊走於樂團之間,其在樂團之中的發聲位置亦不停改變。這使我想起有人認為環迴立體聲不切實際,因為樂器不會經常轉換位置;不過今晚聽 Diana Doherty 演奏,效果正是如此。此曲應用環迴立體聲錄音,才可表達作曲家的心意。

另一首有舞蹈配合的居然是 Bolero。雖然此曲起源自芭蕾舞劇,但我從未看過。Bolero 的節奏單調,全曲重複一個節奏。另外它只有兩個旋律,不斷重複演奏,不作任何發展。它的音樂在於每一段使用不同的配器,由輕聲漸漸發展到整個樂團的巨大聲響,差不多各種樂器的組合都出現過,所以它是學習配器法經典之作。今晚的舞蹈請來梅卓燕編舞,她是港產國際級舞蹈家,而由演藝學院舞蹈系演出。編舞很別出心裁,因為在一個已被樂團佔去大部分地方的舞台上,舞者要使用座位之間很少的空間,用不太大的動作來做出戲劇性的效果,果然令我耳目一新。

Friday, June 2, 2006

IPCC incident 3

EGRIN IT Focus Group is holding an IT security seminar next week. I hope everyone has enrolled. One recent example of this important topic is the IPCC incident. Members interested may wish to take a look at this LegCo webpage on the meeting of the LegCo Panel on Security held last month. It contains the IPCC report on the incident, plus papers from the Administration on information security guidelines and information security update.

The IPCC report is a plain report. It does not have any element of investigation, nor judgment. It is about what we read in the newspaper, plus some empty promises that they will be more careful next time. There are also some basic human reactions like locking up the data disc and the computers, and any access to the data to be authorized. Come to think of that, isn't almost everyone in IPCC has to access the data on a daily basis as their daily job?

From the facts of the report, the problem boiled down to two elements. One was the IPCC officer giving out the data, and the second was the contractor putting the data to the Internet. Both sides were arguing that the other side was at fault. I think both of them are.

The personal data in the complaint file are sensitive data. This is a well known fact. No matter what the contractor asked, it is obvious that the data should not be left in the hand of a third party, for testing or live run. This basic security consciousness does not have anything to do with IT knowledge. Similarly, we would not let an insecure third party take our confidential files away. The argument was on whether the contractor asked for test data or real data, but I think this is not the issue. We could not blame the contractor on this point. Even the contractor did not specifically ask for dummy data, IPCC should not let the sensitive data leave its door. I browsed the IT security guidelines and they do not specify this clearly. It may leave an impression that if we correctly engaged a contractor, with confidentiality clauses or not, then we could entrust them with the data of the system no matter what. We paid them for the job, didn't we? The main point is that the contractor is only responsible for the system development and maintenance. The IT manager is responsible for the data integrity and the satisfactory acceptance of system performance.

What the contractor did in this case was a breach of professional competence. It was like a whiz kid making use the Internet for his convenience. The contractor argued that the data were not put to the Internet as alleged, because the website which linked to the data was not intended for IPCC test data. This is a misrepresentation which could fool the ignorant LegCo members. If the data were not on the Internet, how could they be accessed on the Internet. The fact was that the contractor used the service of China2easy, a public Internet service provider, and relied only on the password protection mechanism, which I think was used to control the activities of paid customers. The data were not encrypted nor were they protected from authorized and unauthorized access. We all know that the Internet is a jungle. The contractor, who is a professional technologist, should know best. Even if he thought the data were dummy, they should not be stored that way because test data still contained the database structure of the IPCC system.

But please do not misunderstand me on the faith on security. Actually OCGIO have created much rules and guidelines on IT security. We hate them because of their bureaucracy nature which created much barriers, but they are there for our protection, something which OCGIO does not do for us itself. The issue is how to get people to know and follow the guidelines. The seminar on IT security should give the guidelines some publicity. IT managers should all know them by heart.

Please also do not misunderstand me on the faith on the Internet. Properly used, it is actually a very secured place. Although we heard some horror stories now and then, we should consider that we now have eBanking, eGovernment and almost every kind of everyday activities on the Internet. All we need to do is to take reasonable precautions. For secured data like IPCC database, there are many methods of protection, ranging from data encryption, virtual private network and proper authentication, which you will hear about at the seminar.