Friday, December 31, 2010

Life after death

Life after death.  Not a delusion.  Not a narrative fallacy.  One can really exist after death.  One's whole life can live on forever as memory in someone else's mind.  Now one's whole life can live on physically everywhere with a presence to everyone.  BBC carried an article in December on this subject.  If you want to know the secret.  Try read this link.

It started with a box of photographs.  The author received it as a legacy from a dead member of the family.  By going through the photographs, the whole life of the dead came alive in vivid memory.   In the last ten years, photographs have completely gone digital.  Now, instead of photo albums, we have a collection of digital images.  Many advanced devices have emerged in the market for the entire collection of images of the life of a person to be archived and displayed in various ways.

We used to think of digital archives as something physical being stored in CD, DVD and harddisk.  Such physical limitation is fading away as people are more reliant on the cloud to store information.  The pace of the advance of such technology may be faster than you know.  Take Facebook for example.  Many people are uploading their daily activities with images and comments.  You may not be aware that such data will remain in the cloud forever.  In a few decades, when the present Facebook crowd die, their life will remain there for their friends to click on.

Many people are now gathering their life information digitally.  Besides all the email your wrote, messages answered, comments made on anything, like clicked on everything, people are collecting what they hear by recording everything and what see by video imaging everything.  All these actual construct of life are preserved in the cloud, backed up and duplicated many times over.  With intelligent software, a personal profile from any angle can be constructed through data mining.

With such immortal life, there comes an issue of personal data privacy.  Personal data privacy legislation at present does not cover dead persons.  Even national secrets are open to the public after several decades of cooling period.  So we can expect our life after death could be more transparent than our life while alive.  Just imagine your surviving family members inherited your entire life together with all the secrets you kept from them.  There are now talks on how to safeguard your data after death, which is an arrangement equally important to a will.  Instead of the distribution of estate, digital information may be shared by everyone.  So, if one wants to maintain a decent life after death, it may be necessary to start early and clean up your life record in the cloud.  It will not be a easy task, because in IT term, deleting just means hiding temporarily.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

高危的聖誕節

在網上讀到一篇龔教授的文章,提出一個很有趣的問題,就是政府為什麼要警告大家聖誕節很高危。大人們苦口婆心,勸告大家在聖誕假期飲酒後不要開車、少女要小心意外懷孕、不要試食毒品等等;但在其他假期,主要的宣傳集中對付酒後駕駛。聖誕節究竟有什麼魔力,可以使更多人墮落?如果你想聽宗教解釋,可以到龔教授的網誌看看,問題竟然追源到約翰一書的條文。

聖誕節現時已差不多是全球假期,不論是教徒或是非教徒都會慶祝。聖誕節的起源是宗教節日,但現時宗教意味已大大減弱。剛看到管業處搞慶祝聖誕的節目,由早到晚,有遊戲、表演、小食、抽獎、拍照,有人唱平安夜已是最宗教的一環。聖誕節的主角現在是聖誕老人,不是耶蘇。昨晚電臺節目問如何渡過 聖誕,有教徒聽眾說當然是子夜彌撒。主持卻問他是否有教徒朋友聖誕假期選擇出外旅遊,他支吾以對,又說長假期難得,教徒在遊山玩水時都可能會找個教堂做聖誕彌撒卦。

面對非教徒慶祝聖誕,究竟應採取什麼態度呢?以宗教角度來看,應該是求之不得。世人需要教贖,能請人入教就無限積福。第一步當然就是宣揚聖經故事,但在十字架受死的情節有點驚嚇,而可愛的小耶穌就容易令人接受,所以聖誕節應是吸收教友最佳時機。但現時有另一說法,就是聖誕節其實是一個陰謀,是異教徒處心積慮對付基督教的行動。龔教授指出約翰在生的時代,即約公元七十年,羅馬人以暴力鎮壓人們慶祝聖誕。這並不準確,因為當時仍未有 聖誕節,而基督教是非法組織,任何集會都被鎮壓。公元七十年,猶太教起義,羅馬人將猶太聖殿連同整個耶路撒冷摧毀。現時的聖誕節理論是又有一股勢力要鎮壓聖誕,方 法是使宗教節日變為消費節日,其副作用是使人墜落。

不論你是否堅持要做彌撒,或是要消費買禮物美食和朋友慶祝,但是聖誕節的高危卻是真實的。慶祝聖誕真是達到一個瘋狂的程度,所有酒店餐廳酒吧都爆滿,很多青年都在搞私人派對,而子夜彌撒就是夜歸最佳藉口。這些場所都不足以容納瘋狂的人群;蘭桂坊就有二萬人站在街頭等運到,維港兩岸有二十萬人在流連,而當晚並沒有煙花可欣賞。我在聖誕前夕有音樂會,散場出來整個尖沙嘴都是年青人,他們站在街上閒聊,幾個小時無所事事。我有一個印象是大家都在等待有些事情發生,是好事或壞事都不重要。如果說城市論壇是交友平臺,聖誕節就是超級交友平臺,不論是新舊朋友或是好壞朋友。

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

直資危機

直資事件,昨日PAC開到第四堂聆訊,議員們繼續胡言亂語,問到不知所謂,為求上鏡只是拉布。以另一個角度看,直資事件是一個危機,而危機處理是管理學一個非常重要的課題。

衡工量值核數報告對直資學校來說不是危機。其中一些違規指控只是會計和技術性問題,可以即改即無事。但在教育局來說這個事件卻是危機,起碼要面對PAC和媒體指責。孫明揚統領大軍應戰,他非常老練,避重就輕。我覺得這是一個危機處理經典個案。

事件一揭開序幕,傳媒就大肆報導直資學校是魔鬼,無惡不作。教育局評估損害時,卻認清問題之所在、優次和輕重。直資學校是其天使寵兒,跟隨輿論讓直資學校分擔壓力和責任並非上策。一來如果和直資學校鬧僵對推行教育政策並無好處;二來就算直資學校被批,亦無助減輕教育局的壓力,反而背面受敵,壓力會加倍。

就我看來,教育局早已決定策略部署,在執行上亦做出理想效果。第一個考慮是衡工量值核數報告已充分曝光,應有的應對在和核數署交手時已完全準備妥當。核數報告通常在社會都有很大迴響,任何爭辯只是火上添油。PAC充分倚賴核數報告來作質詢,但核數報告亦是其唯一彈藥。所以我們看到孫明揚在 PAC聆訊的應對,是對核數報告的批評全部接受,認錯又承諾改善;但對任何核數報告以外的問題,所有教育局官員口徑一致,就是不清楚或沒有資料。這一個策略將危機範圍收縮到最少。

第二個策略是棄局保校。當各議員磨拳擦掌,希望將直資學校碎屍萬段時,孫明揚不止一次提醒各人核數報告的重點是教育局監管不力,而不是直資學校個別違規事件。換而言之,箭靶是教育局,而學校違規只是表徵。他直是邀請議員們向其發箭,當然教育局是政府一部分,百毒不侵,PAC報告譴責到最後 都是不了了之。反之違規學校沒有受到太大衝擊卻要感謝孫明揚。教育局對直資學校無牙力,但經此一役牙力就增加了不少。

第三個策略是要保衛整個直資界的聲譽,亦即是直資教育政策的完整性。經傳媒誇大報導,直資這個名字初期令人震驚。雖然有金漆招牌令家長嚮往,而金錢亦不是問題,但如果涉及欺詐就聲譽受損。教育局的策略是要孤立違規事件。每一次孫明揚對違規行為作出應對時,都必會加一句溫馨提示:就是核數報告只提及六間學校違規,但直資學校超過七十間,所以大部份直資學校都信譽良好,教育水平高,提供優質教育供家長選擇。

PAC聆訊已告一段落,相信塵埃很快落定,教育局辛苦了幾天,汗水是值得的,亦給大家上了一課有效的危機管理。市民是善忘的,直資學校會如常運作,當官津校都要縮班時,相信直資學校學位卻仍會供不應求,使更多學生可以接受優質教育。直資學校會公佈一向都有的學費減免計劃,但以學校聲譽和 學位緊張的情況看來,學費減免數目仍會供過於求,除非如議員建議降低申請要求,家長月入十萬都可以申請。

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Cemetery Craze: A Christmas Carol

At this time of the cemetery craze, I re-visited Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and found a new version. Mr Scrooge was a wealthy man in the cemetery business. He was very mean in charging a high fee for a place in his cemetery. Poor dead people could not afford it and had to go to the sea. Rich dead people got to wait in long line, with their remains temporarily deposited in shelters. All these thanks to the ineffective city officials being unable to offer public cemetery. People everywhere objected to the land next to their home to be used as cemetery. In this small city, there was no land not next to anyone's home. Mr Scrooge was in good business with the limited and controlled tomb slots.

The night before Christmas, a spirit came to visit Mr Scrooge. He was the Ghost of the Christmas Past. It was never known whether this spirit was an angle or the devil, but he had miraculous power of time travel. He took Mr Scrooge back in time where the cemetery business was just a hole in the ground with or without a head stone. Dead people were buried and remembered for a while and were forgotten after a few generations. Cemetery places were reused over and over again, very ofter opened up for farming for food.
http://raympoon.playgroundhk.com/video/cemetery01.jpgIt was Mr Scrooge's great great great grandfather who started the cemetery business. Tombs were then decorated with fancy masonry work and expensive statues. If the families were rich and famous, the dead person could have a personal angel, or even a Saint as companion. Mr Scrooge wondered if the First Commandment forbade the worship of idols. The Ghost said the First Commandment was changed by the church. One needed to go to the original scripture to find out the real commandments. People now only read a simplified version of the Ten Commandments. Looking at the tombs of the past, Mr Scrooge now knew he was misled by his great-great, and that his cemetery business and the entire culture of burial was a reflection of manipulated religion.

The spirit changed face and became the Ghost of the Christmas Present. Mr Scrooge got to appreciate his successful business. Beautiful and expensive tombs were his most welcome product. However, this business was in a decline because cemetery land was getting scarce. Looking back, Mr Scrooge could not help stop admiring his own talent. Just like the expensive shop space, merchants were opening up smaller shops. Some professions had partners sharing one shop. The most clever merchants even demarcated their shops into several hundred boxes of show windows each selling different product. The ingenious Mr Scrooge did the same. He started the columbarium business where ashes of human remains were stored in small compartments. The business did not start lucrative as a small space could not sell much. But volume could compensate the small price. A small columbarium with a large number of spaces added up to good numbers. Then there was the columbarium implosion. No more land space was available for open burial, and also no more land space was available for columbarium. Mr Scrooge was on the good end of the implosion. His columbarium had suddenly become a monopoly. With elaborate decoration to suit all sorts of religions, an one square foot space could now sell for over one hundred thousand dollars.

http://raympoon.playgroundhk.com/video/cemetery02.jpgThe spirit took Mr Scrooge for a reality check. It was simple mathematics. People were dying everyday. Tomb space supply was cut almost completely. Public columbarium spaces were in short supply. Mr Scrooge's business could only serve a few rich dead people. So the big questions was, "Where have all the dead people gone?" Mr Scrooge went through the city to look for them. He saw hundreds and thousands of sacks of ashes of human remains lying on open-shelves of funeral parlors, shops, temples, quasi temples. He said to himself that this could be a gold mine for his business. But for the sheer number, it was actually an elephant that a small snake could never be able to swallow. He asked why people could not just take the ashes back home or just throw them to the sea. The spirit giggled. It was your faithful partners in the religion business who spread sacred and scary information that such things should never be done.

The spirit changed again into the Ghost of the Christmas Future. Mr Scrooge asked who were your actually. The spirit said had you not heard of the trinity. I was the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Future, three was one. It was the future of the cemetery business that Mr Scrooge should take notice. First a projection to the future. There was a cemetery or columbarium crisis already. Dead people were not buried. Some rich dead people were fighting for a small number of spaces. For the people alive, or not dead yet, there were seven million in the city. They would all be dead in a few decades. If the current practice of keeping dead people around was not changed, at least in the next two generations, there would be twenty one million dead people before the end of the century. We would need a lot more columbaria all over the city. The government was trying to find space in all eighteen districts. It was a very small effort which could not solve the problem in the long term. It was just a political move trying to defuse the pressure from the districts.

The sky turned dark and Mr Scrooge was shown the worst scenario. Districts could not come to an agreement and all refused to accept a columbarium in the neighbourhood. People were stacking the remains of their ancestors at any shop available. The situation was out of control. The government had to declare martial law and confiscate a building at every street corner to be converted into a columbarium. This was met with severe opposition. People took to the street and riots were everywhere. Mr Scrooge asked one angry demonstrator, did you have the remains of your ancestor unburied? He answered, yes, but never in my neighbourhood.

http://raympoon.playgroundhk.com/video/cemetery03.jpgThe spirit said to Mr Scrooge, this might not happen if I could give you a messiah and save you from this disaster. He was a powerful person and people would listen to him. It was easy to accommodate these dead people if they were all packed into columbaria. Instead of offending everybody in all districts. He could declare the entire West Kowloon Cultural District to be the columbarium district. It aptly fitted the meaning of culture and the place could be put to an appropriate use, stopping all the quarrels in the arts community. Thirty different columbaria would be built for every religion imaginable. There would be an international contest of columbarium design. The finest architects of the world would be invited. The location of the West Kowloon Cultural District could be a solution in itself to the traffic problem. It could be accessed by road system, public transport, mass transit system as well as ferries. A centralized burning area could help the treatment of smoke. The whole place can be rounded up as a columbarium park. A cultural tour could be arranged for tourists. The fees collected could help maintain the park. If all were done well, it would be qualified to be declared an UN Cultural Heritage site.

Just when Mr Scrooge was thinking who else could be better than him to be the Chairman managing this invaluable park, the face of the spirit turned blue and revealed the devilish side. Not so fast, he said. No one in Hong Kong would allow that to happen and no messiah could help in any way. The columbarium crisis would go on. Not just the number of dead people was piling up, the population of Hong Kong would also keep on growing in the next few decades; until one day a catastrophe triggered by a small event caused the population to collapse. Then, everyone would care for his own live and no one would take notice of the dead people anymore. This day would occur well before the last judgment.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

直資天使

直資這個兩面神,二位一體,左看是魔鬼,右看是天使。天才通常都有魔鬼性格,放任不覊,自把自為,不過天才有才華有貢獻,自然有人擁戴。天使因循守規矩,令人景仰,最符合官僚制度要求:開支合符守則,不濫收費用,尊敬監管行為,操行一百分。

直資是教育撥款制度,不是教育本體。直資學校是魔鬼還是天使,最終都是學生品質。家長以子女教育福祉為本,教育質素學業成績壓倒一切,學費不是問題,學校的名聲地位更重要,那怕政府額外的撥款管理如何,直資直情就是天使。

下面左丁山心水清,可以撥開傳媒嘩眾取寵的煙幕,直達直資和家長的核心價值。現實和真相說明一切。儘管議員們在鏡頭面前咬牙切齒,家長們對直資仍是趨之若鶩。要解決教育撥款的憂慮,學劵制可能又要翻出來再檢視。如果教育界的紳士都不能被信任,不如將錢交由學生發落,自由選擇學校以使用政府資助,學校們就只以辦學成績競爭,亦是一個教育新局面。

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家長愛直資
2010年12月09日
審計署痛批直資學校,令好多人認為直資學校管理一塌糊塗,浪費公帑,人人得以誅之。評論員盧子健嘅立場素來中間偏左,認為直資學校理念係右傾思想之延伸,應該重新檢視。傾左思想人物之所謂檢討、檢視,離不了加強監管又監管,盲目迷信政府監管能力,更誤以為得把口嘅議員可以指導教育運作。實則教育局官員已經有太多監管工作要做。例如管教改、管課程、管教師校長升遷、管學校維修、掌控課本審核大權,仲要管埋課本售價(表面不理,背後施壓),總之全港學校嘅事情,不分大小,教育局都有權管,就因為管得太多,如趙丹所言:「管得太死沒希望」,前教育局雙星李國章與羅范椒芬先至推行直資學校,希望為管得太死嘅社會主義辦學政策,稍為鬆綁,給香港教育帶來新希望。

審計署批評直資學校之要點,大都並非原則性,而是行政技術問題。除咗真道書院竟可委託校長買樓作教師宿舍,比較離譜之外,其他審計署眼中之缺失,係好容易改正嘅啫,如果因此而提到盧子健眼中之「右傾思想之延伸」,實在比較誇張,可能係左傾知識分子對直資學校之出現,心有不甘,想藉審計署之報告,乘機反撲。

盧子健認為應該加強監管,左丁山就認為應該更加放寬,為廣大學子着想,推行學券制,讓清貧學生憑學券叩門,進入直資學校。左傾精英每每以為思想高人一等,可以憑中央規劃、策劃就解決教育及貧富問題,實則市民集體智慧先至反映市場現實,譬如直資學校最近俾人鬧到一面屁,家長卻不以為然,直資學校仍然大受歡迎,懶理審計署講乜。黃竹坑嘅港大同學會書院在上星期六舉行中一收生簡介會,就有五百名家長出席,一位家長對記者講,「作為家長只看成績」,會考慮埋真道書院添!港大同學會書院校監李黃眉波話該校在2012年先至有第一屆畢業生,故此校董會內無校友代表,審計署點解唔知道,就批評呢?可算笑話一宗。孫明揚局長在立法會講,佢對直資學校冇牙力。真好彩,佢有牙力嘅話,直資學校與一般津貼學校有乜唔同? (左丁山)
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cutting classes in DSS schools

A very simple fact: There are not enough students to fill all Form One places. In a free market, it happens all the time. Demand and supply never exactly match. The free market mechanism will auto-adjust. Some schools will get enough students and some will not. Those do no will not survive and thus supply falls, leading to a temporary equilibrium.

Education is not a free market when government intervenes and provides free education. When supply exceeds demand as in the present situation, resources just go to waste. Some naive legislators said with an intention that excess supply will improve education as more teachers will be looking after fewer students. EO know best because we work with efficiency, effectiveness and economy in mind. There is an optimum manning scaling for a task. Understaffed team will not perform well. Overstaffed team will also not performed well with excess resources wasted.

The most famous case a few years ago is the Tai O Primary School which fought school closing by demonstration at EDB. It turned out that the entire student population of the school was only 40 with P2/P3 and P4/P5 sharing one class. A total of 25 school staff were caring for 40 students. The school was eventually closed with students sent to Tung Chung Primary School, about 40 minutes bus-ride away.

To kill or not to kill; that is the question. EDB prefers not to kill (schools) but to kill (classes). This may be a way out, but the pain is now felt by every school instead of a few bad schools.

How about the free market of the private schools? Business is as usual. Those good ones still get good students while the bad ones not getting enough.

Then we come back to DSS schools. Which market are they in? With promised freedom, they think they are private schools and can open classes as they wish as long as there are students. In any case, subsidy are received per student count. The truth is that DSS schools are on higher ground attracting rich students, who are in ample supply in Hong Kong. They are not worried a bit about not getting enough students. Thus this part of public fund on free education is not helping share the pain of decreasing student population.

On way EDB can do is to cap the direct subsidy to number of students. When a class is to be reduced, the cap can be correspondingly lowered by the same student numbers. I wonder if the EDB officials have ever considered this.

Friday, November 26, 2010

直資魔鬼

近期一份衡工量值核數報告,引起直資魔鬼論,轟動全城。細看報告內容,其中舉出不少違規例子,大多是會計問題,是核數師強項。但衡工量值核數超越會計範疇,直指公共政策,其政治用途比會計更廣。今次就是指責教育局管理不善,政治任命官員要負責。

所有報導都一面倒認定直接資助學校是魔鬼,斂財不用其極。但實情他們是教育政策的產物,還一道被捧上天堂,但這個政策並不是最好。以我看來,在思維上有不少矛盾。

知識無價,意思是其價值不可衡量。知識是人類文化的基礎,在不久之數世紀前,獲得知識要付出重大代價,知識由統治階層、貴族、宗教人士壟斷。民主時代來臨,知識要普及,受教育是人權,全世界都推行免費教育。香港亦有九年免費教育,現又推廣至十二年;政府自己設立不少學校,又有更多由政府津貼的學校,提供 免費教育。

雖然有免費教育,但香港仍然有不少私立學校。既然教育是免費,私立學校如何生存呢?私立學校的賣點主要是優質教育,雖然亦有一少部份以商業掛帥。有經濟能力的家長覺得其子女應該比平常人接受更佳的教育,而官校和津校的教育制度和水平是次等。這一個錯誤的觀念是由社會上較富有的階層的自我優越感而產生。事實上私校不受政府恩惠亦不受其管制,所以可以有自己的教學方法和課程。這是第一個矛盾。既然教育界和家長都認為有規模的私校提供的教育較佳,為何免費教育不採用這較好的方法。有說教育界管理層和官員亦有同樣想法,他們中有些人將子女送去私立學校受教育,而自己就繼續推行公家教育,但卻不願改革提升公家教育水 平還說社會上有各種教育型式可供家長選擇。

本來私校和公校各有市場,大家可以各取所需。但在一九九一年教育統籌委員會建議政府進行直資計劃,以在官津學校教育以外提供另類的優質學校,使家長為兒女選擇學校時有更多的選擇。做法是鼓勵那些已達到相當高教育水準的津貼學校加入直資計劃。這是第二個矛盾的想法,在私校和公校之間加入一個兩不像。其實我覺得這個計劃的背後有很多政治考慮。公校授課方法和課程不斷被批評,而私校就在此有很大自由度。亦有一些津校辦得有名氣,不少家長都希望送子女入讀,以至供不應求,是否免費已變得不重要。政府選擇這些津校轉為直接資助模式,好處是有自行釐訂課程的自由,可以在政府資助之外自行收取學費,還可以自訂入學要求, 收取理想的學生。其代價是要脫離政府全額資助學校一切開支,而只能按學生人數收每年定額成本資助,平均是大約每年每個學生四萬元。在此政府資助就有了上 限,比資助津校節省了不少。自由的代價就是政府資助減少了,但對有名氣的學校來說這不是問題,因為家長樂意支付私校式的學費。

計劃開始時有人指責這是津校私校化,與免費教育背道而馳。於是教局定下規則,要學校撥出經費以援助有需要的學生。核數報告其中一項就是有些直資學校在此做得不足夠。這是一個笑話,因為一間有名氣的學校可以自行選擇收生,其間的關係如世襲、宗教等已經決定了收取那些理想學生,需要援助的學生自然就較少了。

魔鬼終於出世了。第三個矛盾就是政府利誘津校轉直資,給予極大自由但又想以一紙簡單合約限制其自由。學校收取政府部份資助,卻又想以私校方式運作。公家資助與私募款項渾為一談,大家可以想像混亂的情況。在好的一方面看,其實直資學校都是非牟利機構,經營的產物都只是學生。若然硬要說他們變成獨立王國,所有私營機構都是獨立自主的,起碼直資學校比很多半公營的機構較有紀律。

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Walkman之死

Walkman對我來說是有史以來最偉大發明,匠心獨運,充分掌握時代轉變,亦將音樂欣賞和普及帶向新紀元。我在70年代當Walkman剛剛面世就和它形影不離。

在Walkman之前,聽音樂除了昂貴的音樂會外就是唱片錄音。但當時聽唱片都算奢侈,唱片保養甚花工夫,而且搞一套音響設備要費一番思量。卡式帶的發明方便了不少,但其音質稍次,在客廳欣賞比不上唱片。Walkman充分利用這個機遇;它使用極之方便,將音樂帶在身上,隨時可聽,因聆聽環境隨意,音質已足夠滿足要求。

因為有了Walkman,卡式帶錄音有了商業市場,除了第一年需要自己繞過版權自製卡式錄音之外,音樂卡式帶市場隨即爆發,圖書館有無數卡式帶音樂外借。我每天乘車途中都有音樂欣賞,幾乎整個圖書館收藏都聽過了。

Walkman的對手是CD,或是CD Walkman。雖然CD音質較佳,但在嘈吵的環境下就沒有優勢,而且CD Walkman體積較大,又容易受震盪影響,所以Walkman仍受熱愛一段很長的時間。

風光了30年,Walkman要被新科技和新的音樂欣賞形式取代。它現在要走《最後一程》。Sony停產有指標性,Walkman將會漸漸淡出各個市場。似乎當互聯網普及於一地方,該處就會有數碼音樂產品和隨手可得的音樂資源以取代Walkman。它如何能夠「超生死」呢?它和人的靈魂和一切生命終結一樣,繼續存在於我們的思想中。當集體記憶發揮作用,它又會再在紀念會,博物館,或在我的自我古董收藏中出現,直至永恆。

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數位當道 索尼停售卡帶隨身聽
(法新社)2010年10月26日 星期二 00:50
經過30年熱銷和銷售量超過2億2000萬台後,索尼公司(Sony)今天宣佈停止在日本銷售卡帶式隨身聽(Walkman),並承認這款機種已 趕不上數位時代。自1979年問世以來,深受慢跑者、學童以及音樂迷喜愛的Walkman,對人們聆聽音樂的方式帶來革命性改變,直到被另一項現 代標誌性產物iPod所取代。索尼女發言人中村紘子(Hiroko Nakamura)告訴法新社:「顧客聽音樂方式已紛紛轉向數位音訊。」她說:「由於卡帶式Walkman的需求已經減少,我們決定停止出貨。」在索尼日 本網站上的這款機型,都註明著「結束生產」。這家消費性電子產品巨擘表示,在中國產製的卡帶式Walkman仍將繼續出口到北美、歐洲和亞洲市場。

1979年7月1日上市的Walkman,幫助索尼轉型成為一家全球性電子產品大廠。在上市發售後的2個月內,共賣出3萬台Walkman,在 10年裡賣出5000萬台。但30年後,索尼發現它在蘋果(Apple)等對手競爭下苦苦掙扎。蘋果在販售iPod音樂播放器上獲致極大成功。

索尼共同創辦人井深大(Masaru Ibuka)是在一次海外旅行時,想到了研發Walkman的點子。當時他在旅途中聽音樂,是使用過於笨重而很難被稱為可攜式的卡帶錄音機。但市場對 Walkman的初期反應冷淡,許多零售商認為沒有錄音功能的卡帶播放機,成功的機會相當渺茫。但情勢獲得改觀,如今包括使用快閃記憶體的新款數 位機型,Walkman在全世界的總銷售量已達到3億8500萬台。
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Saturday, October 9, 2010

又是領洗入學

下面這一篇文章評論領洗入學事件,寫得有點刻薄。雖然父母被譏諷誤入歧途而墜入騙局,但總底是因為對子女之愛。正如筆者所言,那還忍心說風涼話。要找罪人,起源當是香港政府教育局教育制度小一入學收生機制,然後引申至各種商機。其實舉辦收費慕道班的並非教會團體,和教區的關係亦不明確,竟然上 當的家長應對基督教沒有認識。以傳道立場來看,他們正是需要被招收入教以救贖永生的一群。教會不把握小一入學宗教分的傳道機遇而拱手將其讓給商人,可算是失策甚至失職。以商人來說,生意就是生意,如果他們不是教徒,又何來賣主求榮。但如果是教徒,能請人入教就可以上天堂。

今天和中學同學午飯時談起這個問題,大家覺得有點可笑。母校是天主教學校,但從沒有這個問題。家長費盡心思其實只是因為有數間教會名校扭曲了市場。很多很好的教會學校入學都不太難。而且小學學位供應多而至有需要殺校,家長其實有充足選擇,只是自己要鑽牛角尖。

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孩子的神
2010年10月09日
慕道班要收錢,家長落疊,使幾千元就能 cut快線領洗,以教徒身份報考名校,計過條數,穩袋小一首輪派位「自行收生」這 5分,成本甚低,投資得過。

別挖苦家長,他們自覺針已經拮到肉眼。問問這幾個星期頻撲穿梭港九新界各區,扶老攜幼參加小一名校面試考核那些父母,點會有自唔在攞苦來辛?入名 校是好前途的保證按金,能交出按金者大把人,一年一遇搶位打崩頭。名校每月學費貴過打工仔一家五口一個月開支,照樣排長龍,考不上的,呼天搶地搭 關係搵後門再博一 鋪。假領洗,便宜啊,捨得不貪嗎?

七宗罪避無可避,但落地獄排頭位的應該是賣主的校長校監。假如當做風化案來審,校方顯然誘姦,家長是用家,也是苦主,過程中有無享受過,成為案中 關鍵。為了孩子美好的將來,家長連SM都肯制,但求神父開恩,把孩子一條龍保送青雲路。不是說知識改變命運嗎,從你拿到孩子出世紙後即刻留位報讀 北角半山一家開在商場、學費每年十六萬的貴族幼稚園(學校索性改名「富甲半山」!)起,你和孩子的命運已經不能 U-turn逆轉,注定要踩行油,不輸匹力,人見人過,車見車超。

因父之名,收錢領洗的地點在菲律賓,家長的康泰人質陰影跟望子成龍的憧憬拉鋸。父母最後買重危保,迎難而上,毅然成行。神啊,局外人還忍心說風涼 話?
(陳也)
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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Druidry

I visited the Stonehenge some years ago and was stunted by its uniqueness, grand construction and its mystical meaning more than ten thousand years ago.  Ten thousand years is a short time in Earth history but is long for human civilization.  The bible says the universe was created eight thousand years ago.  So the Stonehenge has existed before the Christian universe was even created, a laugh for the religion delusion.

Archeological findings suggested that the Stonehenge was probably erected by the Druids for religious purposes.  Druidry was an ancient religion popular in the Celtic but most religions in the western world were persecuted by Christians many centuries ago.  The news below shows that in a more democratic world nowadays, religions are free to go and old ones are coming back.

Druidry is now properly given the status of a religion for the purpose of the charity law.  That means it can now claim a tax-exemption status on grounds of the advancement of religion for public benefit and no other purpose.  Actually, there is no need to be religious to be charitable.  Charity comes from the heart and not from the instruction of god.  Nevertheless, being a charitable organization in the name of religion is a fast way to gain trust, with the law helping out the delusion.

Congratulation to the resurrection of a ten thousand years religion.  It could mean a peace of mind for many millions of Celtics.  I just hope they do not claim the Stonehenge as their cathedral so that it remains open to all to admire.

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October 2nd, 2010
03:47 PM ET
CNN's Belief Blog

Britain recognizes Druidry as religion for first time, gives it charitable status



Britain recognized Druidry, an ancient belief that worships deities that take different forms in nature, as a religion for the first time and gave it charitable status on Saturday.  "There is a sufficient belief in a supreme being or entity to constitute a religion for the purposes of charity law," declared the Charity Commission for England and Wales in response to the Druid Network's application.  The decision will give the neo-pagan religion, known for its cloaked worshippers at Stonehenge (above, in 1999) and other sites, tax advantages and is expected to lead to broader acceptance.

"This has been a long hard struggle taking over five years to complete," said the Druid Network, which is based in England, in a statement on its website.  In some ways, Druidry in Britain is catching up to Druids and other neo-pagans in the United States, which already provides tax-exempt status for religious groups, said Marty Laubach, Associate Professor of Sociology at Marshall University.

The British commission noted that Druidry "is animistic and based on a belief that everything has a spiritual dimension." It also said that the religion recognizes deities within nature and conducts worship ceremonies.  The Druid Network, which has about 350 members, sought charitable status for "the advancement of religion for public benefit and no other purpose," the commission said in its ruling.

Druidry has no asserted dogma, the network said in its application. It added that members associate their gods with the moon, fertility, rain, love and other forces.  Druids were members of the learned class among ancient Celts, acting as priests, judges and teachers. They performed human and animal sacrifices and worshiped in forests in western Europe, Britain and Ireland.
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Thursday, September 30, 2010

領洗入學

天主教近期壞消息不絕,皆因規條太多。多個世紀以來宗教歷史令人搖頭,主要是政教不分,神權當道,宗教就是統治者,權力使人腐化。雖然宗教的政治勢力因為近數世紀的民主運動而稍為減退,但其影響力仍存在於官僚管理架構。下面報導的情形存在已久,只因有投訴和經互聯網曝光和廣泛討論而受關注。

整件事情可以用管理角度來看。撇開宗教教義的考慮,事件起因是一個官僚式的教育制度,不是教育學生而是管理教育資源問題。小學學位是一個複雜問題,除了供求因素之外,家長愛護子女的心理衍生出選擇的重要。一方面有名校不能應付大量家長要求送子女入學,另一方面有小學因不能收足學生而倒閉。為了應付過量需求,管理的方法一是增加供應,二就是設立規條來壓縮需求。教育局在此有重大貢獻,為學校設立官僚機制挑選學生。小學入學並無學歷成績標準,所以挑選機制只有環境心理因素,如居住地點、世襲關係和宗教信仰。

人類的偉大在於我們應付問題的能力,適應力和想像力。家長的慾望和規條有衝突時就會用種種辦法繞過。我們不時聽到新聞有關學校或校長收受利益、家長借用他人地址或索性真或假的遷居;當然亦有真或假的信教。由這個例子看來,一切官僚行政手段都只是扭曲市場而並非針對問題。正如禁煙措施使吸煙者想盡辦法去找可吸煙的地方;膠袋稅使人想盡辦法取得免費膠袋。如果領洗可以入學,宗教在精神以外就有了額外用途。

另外一個看法是信仰問題。宗教要普渡眾生,惠澤全人類,幾千年來傳道都是使命:不斷教化,不擇手段,威迫利誘,只是要人入教。但現在大好機會在前,家長再加小孩要入教,不論任何出發點,結果是可能被救贖,怎麼會被人非議呢?潛在台辭是有人利用傳教斂財,但有人信了教又有人可讀名校,算是雙方都有收獲。我一向都不明白宗教信仰分數怎樣算。如何向學校證明信仰呢?基督教伊斯蘭教佛教是否有信徒會員制,有身份證明是教徒?天主教的制度是最繁複嚴謹的,領洗班要讀一段時間,又要有堂區神父認可才可入教,有點像入大學或入社團。回想數百年前,不入教是要被判死刑的。人類是萬物之靈,思維意識凌駕於其他生物。我們可以欣賞笑話和小說而知道它們是虛構的,入教亦不一定等於信教。不過一個無知的小學生被放進宗教學習環境,就是信教的好材料。家長是什麼動機就不重要了。

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約克被指收錢安排領洗
2010年09月30日
【本報訊】令家長趨之若鶩的九龍塘約克英文小學暨幼稚園,被指「聘請」神父到該校任教,協助學生領洗取得宗教分入讀天主教小學,每名家長連學生索 價逾 5,000元。自稱約克學生家長的網民周一在討論區留言,指校方上周舉行簡介會,為 K1學生及家長提供成人慕道班及兒童主日學課程,聘請了一名「駐香港教會的菲律賓籍神父」任教,為期一年半,有一定出席率和考試及格即可領洗;又指校長表 示要支付神父「薪金」及向教會奉獻,所以參加的家長和學生需付共五千多元費用,事件引發網上激烈討論。校方未有回應曾否舉辦簡介會提及課程,只表 示現時成人課程收費 1,890元,「扣去導師講授費用及行政開支後,餘款用於教會奉獻」,又否認課程可確保領洗的說法,指完成課程後「家長可自行到所屬教區進行評核,由教區 神父決定家長是否合格和適合接受領洗,因此校方不能參與或影響家長的領洗決定及安排」。

曾任天主教學校校長的蔡楷俊表示,過去亦曾「揭發」不合法領洗紙,呼籲教會學校收到有問題領洗紙時向教區查詢,若發現是偽造文書,應報警處理。本 身是天主教徒的執業大律師陸偉雄表示,若有機構或組織收費安排學生報讀慕道班,且對外保證可獲領洗機會,能正式成為天主教徒,若事後「貨不對 辦」,即觸犯欺詐及使用虛假文書罪行,一經定罪,各罪最高可判監 14年。陸偉雄指出,在本港範圍內,只有獲天主教香港教區認可的神父,及指定教堂方可替教徒領洗及頒發領洗證明書。若涉事機構不獲本港教區認可,但向外宣 稱領洗過程及頒發的領洗紙是獲本港認授,亦同屬欺詐罪,更涉嫌觸犯使用虛假文書罪行。若家長在知情下仍以未獲認可的領洗證明書替子女報讀小學,有 機會觸犯使用虛假文書罪行。陸強調,涉事機構是否觸犯欺詐罪,關鍵在於課程目的,若課程表明「有助領洗」,而非「保證領洗」,則不涉欺詐成份, 「等如入學面試班,幫你準備面試,而唔係保證你面試成功」。他不排除有機構或組織刻意「含糊其詞」,沒指明領洗的認受範圍,則毋須負上法律責任。

5分宗教分,到底有何重要?教育界人士指,根據小一自行分配學位計分準則,每名適齡兒童均有「底分」10分,兄姊在同一學校就讀的「世襲生」可加 20分,總分 30分,穩操入學券;其餘學童若父母或兄姊是校友,可加 10分,但 20總分不足以令他們得到學位,要突圍而出, 5分宗教分成為關鍵。現任多家學校校監的蔡楷俊表示, 5分宗教分對非世襲生來說有決定性影響,「有啲學校本身要留好多位畀嗰啲世襲生,如果無嗰啲,淨係靠家長係校友根本冇機會,如果加埋嗰 5分(與該校的辦學團體有相同宗教信仰),機會就大好多」。

本港數年前曾經一度興起「旅遊領洗團」,家長送子女到菲律賓或其他領洗制度較寬鬆的天主教國家「極速」領洗,甚至「派」菲傭回鄉,着她們「順道」 帶子女領洗;當年有本港神父得悉情況,曾向菲律賓教區通報。此外,也有父母在子女出生後不久即參加兩年制的慕道課程,以趕及自己可以在子女 3歲前領洗,「帶挈」子女一併領洗。
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Thursday, September 9, 2010

街頭藝術

我細細個就在街頭看表演,上環有、廟街有,之後又有不少藝術表演在公眾地方進行,填海空地,跑馬地草坪,連時代廣場公眾用地都有。但現時旺角行人區不可以,舊大丸門口都不可以。下面這個舊大丸門口案例就影響深遠,以後行人區會有合法魔術雜技表演、打band、唱粵曲、戲劇、寫書畫、book club,行人區於是只有觀眾,沒有行人,隔鄰商店更沒有顧客。

這是一個公共行政問題。以往做法由官僚程序主導,有官府批准就什麼都可以,沒有批准就打遊擊,未有干涉就做,有人趕就收工或轉移陣地,趕不走就檢控,罰款少少了事。這是一個微妙的平衡,大家各得其所,公眾地方有些少免費藝術表演的自由,行人秩序亦得以維持,各人的自由並不衝突。現今有案例,自由就失衡。所有藝術表演可以在合理權限下自由在公共空間進行,有基本法這頂帽子保護,政府不能干涉這種自由,雖然它會侵佔他人的自由。

行人區有可能變成無政府狀態,政府如何應對呢?其中一個可能性是上訴尋求法庭詮釋何為合理權限,或是要求立法會以法例說明合理權限,最後一著是為基本法第34條要求人大釋法,列明自由有限度。希望不用去到最後一步。

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街頭藝人涉阻街獲判無罪
(星島)2010年9月9日 星期四 10:57

街頭藝人蘇春就本年4月在銅鑼灣行人專用區表演雜技時遭票控阻街,法庭經審訊後,裁定他罪名不成立。裁判官判刑時表示,被告蘇春就在街頭表演,導致行人聚集,對街道確實是造成阻礙,但阻礙有限,而且《基本法》第34條定明港人有進行其他文化活動的自由,被告的表演正是屬於這類活動,在合理權限下進行表演,所以裁定他罪名不成立。

控罪指,50歲的被告蘇春就於今年4月6日傍晚約6時,在銅鑼灣紀利佐治街對開的行人專用區,表演拋保齡球樽、玩中國搖搖及向小朋友派發長形氣球,引來約 80人圍觀而造成阻街。警員接到投訴後到場,曾先後兩度勸喻答辯人離開,惟對方未幾又折返表演,於是決定票控他。
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Monday, September 6, 2010

Hawking's bomb

I think you may be aware of the recent discussion on the up-coming new book of Stephen Hawking.  Notwithstanding the argument whether there is a god or not, which is already going on for many centuries, his new book already dropped a bomb even before it is made public.  The report below from CNN told a good story of the pre-publish argument.  People are making judgment even before the book is read.

I must state on the outset that I do not agree with Stephen Hawking.  His conclusion of the explanation of spontaneous creation of something from nothing is probably derived from the Higgs-boson.  It is called the god particle because of its effect of turning energy into mass.  The theory says that after the Big Bang the universe was filled with pure energy, and the Higgs-boson particles were responsible for making something (matter) from nothing (pure energy).  As always, it just begs the question of what made the pure energy and who was behind the Big Bang.  God is much greater than we could imagine.  So don't let the human being make one for you.

A more interesting phenomenon of this saga is the unification of religions, or at least some of them, including Christians and Catholics, Rabbi and Imam.  They all worship the same god Jehovah which is the god of Abraham from the history of Israel.  Stephen Hawking must have hit the nail right on the head by proposing there is no role of god in the universe.

I envisage that a new round of argument on the book will continue for a long time.  Although some of Stephen Hawking's observations are well known, it may be interesting to read his book to see how he organized them.  It should be a good illustration of the frontier of science.

In the mean time, I am following the online readers' commentary at BBC on this topic.  Supporters of both sides vigorously wrote to BBC.  It is very easy to see the quality of the comments.  Many readers are not as thoughtful as the religious leaders.  If you want to gauge the damage of the religion delusion, the comments are very good reading material.

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Religious leaders hit back at Hawking
September 3, 2010 3:25 p.m. EDT London, England (CNN) --

Religious leaders in Britain on Friday hit back at claims by leading physicist Stephen Hawking that God had no role in the creation of the universe.  In his new book "The Grand Design," Britain's most famous scientist says that given the existence of gravity, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing," according to an excerpt published in The Times of London.   "Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," he wrote.  "It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going."



The head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams
-  "physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing.  Belief in God is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence." 

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
-  "Science is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation.. The Bible simply isn't interested in how the Universe came into being." 

The Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols
-  "I would totally endorse what the Chief Rabbi said so eloquently about the relationship between religion and science." 

Ibrahim Mogra, an imam and committee chairman at the Muslim Council of Britain
-  "If we look at the Universe and all that has been created, it indicates that somebody has been here to bring it into existence. That somebody is the almighty conqueror."

Denis Alexander, director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, University of Cambridge
-  "The 'god' that Stephen Hawking is trying to debunk is not the creator God of the Abrahamic faiths who really is the ultimate explanation for why there is something rather than nothing. Hawking's god is a god-of-the-gaps used to plug present gaps in our scientific knowledge.  Science provides us with a wonderful narrative as to how [existence] may happen, but theology addresses the meaning of the narrative."

Fraser Watts, an Anglican priest and Cambridge expert in the history of science
-  It's not the existence of the universe that proves the existence of God.  A creator God provides a reasonable and credible explanation of why there is a universe, and ... it is somewhat more likely that there is a God than that there is not. That view is not undermined by what Hawking has said."
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Information R/Evolution

I found this interesting video below on the Internet. It is about the latest development of information management, and terms it Information R/Evolution. The video is actually a condensed version of a lecture by Michael Wesch of Kansas State University. The tempo of the video is very fast, presenting a two-hour lecture into five minutes. I may as well take notes of the gist of the lecture to help catch what it says.

As civilization develops, we handle information better. Information management evolves over thousands of years. It came across an explosion at the verge of the digital age. The evolution changed into a revolution of the fundamental way we handle information.

The traditional view: Information is a thing. It has a logical place which it can be stored - book shelf, filing system, catalog, or microfilmed. It requires expert to manage but it is still hard to find.

Digital information has no fixed material form and thus is beyond material constraints. When information reaches the Internet, it can be accessed everywhere.

Early websites handled information in the traditional way, with a top node, categories and subjects. As information grows, the hierarchy becomes very complex. There are now more than 5 trillion words, and over 5 billion links.

Information cannot be contained by categories and subjects now. It can be searched by keywords. Information is stored by tags. With more than one tag it can be found in several places. Everything is miscellaneous. The tags are ways to find information.

Together we create more information than the experts. Wikipedia is information created by the mass. The English Wikipedia has 600 million words, about 15 times the Encyclopedia Britannia.

We have now changed the basic rules of information. We no longer find information. We make it find us. Services such as Digg, RSS and many others, collect and organize information we want and present it to us as information occurs.

The responsibility to harness information is on us. Are you ready?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Your sign board

Yesterday I read from the Internet a photograph of a sign board below.  It is supposed to be a joke of someone by putting it outside his house.  However, it struck me as being much more than a joke.  It has a philosophical undertone and reflects the reality and the dilemma we face everyday with regard to our personal data.

A philosopher said: You are just what you did.  What you are is the things you did that others remember you.  The things you did are your personal data.  Others need to know such data in other to remember, or even recognize, your existence.  If you want others to do something for you, which is now a daily essential event in the modern world, you need to flash your personal data around.

Your personal data is the sign board you display to the world outside your house.  Everyone walks by will look at it.  If the sign board says you need something and it is available with someone, he may offer the service.  A sign board displayed in public is not a private sign.  If it is displayed in public then you cannot ask the public not to read it.  The bottom line is: What is written on your sign board is your responsibility.  At least you have to write down sufficient personal data in order that others cold understand what you need.  Now the problem: He may pass on your personal data to someone else so that your need is met; or guess what your future needs are and act accordingly.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Drunkard's Walk

The Drunkard's Walk
How Randomness rules our lives
by Leonard Mlodinow

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51z3c9LMvCL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

There are many books on randomness.  Most of them explore the very frequent random events occurring around us; that randomness is actually the norm in nature instead of the determinism and causality human beings seek.  Random walk is a scientific term describing the movement of atoms in fluid.  In fact, such phenomenon should be more accurately termed drunkard's walk.  The atom is moving in a path until it strikes another atom and changes course.  The event of meeting another atom is random.  It is like a drunkard who may think he is walking straight until he runs into someone or an obstacle which changes his direction.

However, the book is not about scientific phenomenon.  It is about the fact that randomness rules our lives.  There are illusions in life that we think events happened for a reason while they are not.  Chance plays a very significant part in the unfolding of the future.  We need to be clear about this fact and to develop the right attitude to deal with it.

A major part of the book is devoted to the history of the science of statistics: how it is developed slowly and for what reasons.  It helps build respect for this discipline of science and caution on the abuse of its use.  On numbers such as quantity, distance, size, etc, humans live within a very narrow range.  We are only comfortable with numbers we can observe in our daily live.  Very large numbers and very small numbers were mysterious some centuries ago.  Their explanation could only be given in theological term.

As science developed, many people were not comfortable with this belief.  They realized their limitation even in performing simple measurement.  The result was a revelation that there are errors in everything.  This conclusion spurred the development of the law of errors, where errors were duly acknowledged and respected.  The first formal presentation of errors is the standard deviation in scientific measurements.

Gambling is a human trait which separates us from other living things.  Gamble is a game we play for fun since many centuries ago, accepting chance as the rule of the game.  Very often it led to superstitious behaviour which is still seen today.  All along, some people gambled for a living.  Eventually there were conscious studies of the secret of winning the game.  The law of probability was developed from long term observation of the results of dice rolling and roulette turning.  Someone managed to make a fortune in spotting the abnormality of chance owing to defected dices and roulette wheels.  The method of probability eventually grew into the law of normal distribution and the Bell Curve.

The author explains in great length the human nature which tends to seeing chance as causality.  Long term observation of a phenomenon will sometimes lead to clustering of results.  They may be interpreted as positive results but they could actually be false positives occurring by chance.  Human mind has a confirmation bias.  We preferentially seek evidence to confirm our preconceived notions, and we interpret ambiguous evidence in favour of our ideas.  Our brains seek patterns in everything we see and interpret them as order, while many patterns could just occur by chance.

The conclusion of the book is that we need to realize how randomness rules our lives.  The determinism, fate and causality we believe may just be the result of chance.  The drunkard's walk has a special meaning other than its scientific definition.  We may be walking a path we wrongly believe as the definite way, but we may be the drunkards under the influence of alcohol.  Our lives will change course at every random event.  The best way to deal with it is the realization of the role of randomness and chance in our lives, and be prepared to distinguish between patterns and results happened by chance and those occurred for a reason.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

RIM may RIP

Research in Motion may as well rest in peace.  The most powerful feature of its Blackberry phone is being banned in UAE, Saudi Arabia and India.  The feature is the encrypted email and SMS being sent to a server of choice.  It is different from many public-domain webmail and SMS services which transmit data unencrypted.

Blackberry's push-mail service, together with the secure transmission, has an edge over many smartphone competitors which just use the Internet public network.  Many corporations and even the US president use Blackberry.  Despite its small display screen and lack of functions, it still has a place in the market.

It is very interesting to see the development of the data privacy issue nowadays.  We all want transparency of information.  We want to know what is going on around us, to the extent that we even claim the right to information as a human right.  Any attempt to withhold information is seen as unethical.  Any cover up by any organizations, or individuals, on the truth of anything will be seen as a cardinal sin.  This is being used by the press as the spear as well as the shield in exposing information for a living.

On the other hand, we want to guard our own information.  We also claim that keeping our personal information secret is a human right.  The recent news coverage on the Octopus has created a phobia that our personal data are being made known to many.  I think from now on, it will be more difficult for the salesmen on the street to get any personal data by disguising as surveys, interviews, discount offers, and even charities.

The lesson of the Blackberry reveals a reality: That all governments want to know what is in your mind.  This is a marked difference from the Google China case where the government wants you not to know something.  Censorship on communication exists everywhere and in many forms, some on security issues, some on moral issues, and some on political issues.  They all boil down to the same action.  You may call these the trinity of censorship.  The Blackberry case is such reality in reverse.  Governments, as well as many organizations with an intention, are already acquainted with what is in our mind.  The US Government openly admits that she monitors telecommunication including telephone voice and the Internet traffic.  She has a huge operation and uses complex filtering technology to catch any mention of certain keywords, and could follow-up accordingly.  I presume many governments are doing the same.  So when UAE, Saudi Arabia and India found out that they are inconvenienced by the encrypted information in the intercepted Blackberry traffic, actions are taken to stop such service.  Personal data privacy is an illusion.

I read from some commentaries in the news that people in Hong Kong do not have much concern on their personal data privacy; that citizens think the leak of personal data would only lead to a few more mail advertisements or telephone calls; that the real issue is actually the violation of human right and the rule of law.  In fact, exchange of personal data is a normal activity in a society.  We often exchange name cards, and give our personal information in order to obtain personalized services.  People very often give out personal data of others in good intention, such as references to friends, potential employers, schools, and also, mark this shifting dividing line, to insurance companies, salesmen of valuable services, etc.  It is a matter of self interest whether such disclosure may do you good or disturb you.

Besides the case of personal data privacy, or any data privacy for that matter, the Blackberry case has a far reaching effect on information technology.  The processing, transmission and storage of data are also subject to such struggle: convenience vs privacy of information.  It has a direct impact on the latest development of cloud computing.  You may wish to read a more detailed description of cloud computing I wrote in 2008.   In short, the crux of cloud computing is just like the Blackberry traffic, that encrypted information is stored in the Internet instead of your computer.  There are now many such services for you to connect to an offsite server through the Internet for data backup, virtual drive, or offsite computing.  Since its inception some years ago, cloud computing is now taking off with the improvement of availability, i.e. fast and always-on Internet connection, and improvement of data security.  Seen from the Blackberry case, the security issue could be compromised.  The latest moves of Research in Motion and Google seem to suggest that companies are yielding to the pressure of governments in opening up private communication for monitoring and allowing censorship on Internet access.  The only protected communication may only exist in virtual private networks.  In the mean time, we need to bear in mind that what we are communicating could be monitored by others.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Codex Sinaiticus

Times Magazine introduced the Codex Sinaiticus project together with some facts about the book.   Codex Sinaiticus is a manuscript containing the Christian Bible in Greek.  It is said to be the first book in human history.  It was handwritten, or transcribed, over 1600 years ago.  Before that, manuscripts were written on sheets of animal skin or papyrus paper, sometimes glued together to form a roll, or scroll.  Codex Sinaiticus is the first one found in bound book form.

The book got its name because it was found in Saint Catherines Monastery in Mount Sinai.  During the nineteenth century, events of war and exploration caused parts of the books to be transferred to other countries.  Today, the book is in four portions kept separately in the British Library, the Library of the University of Leipzig, the National Library of Russia in Saint Petersburg, and the Monastery of Saint Catherines.   The Codex Sinaiticus project is a collaboration of these four institutions.  They offered their kept portions to be digitized and made the book complete to be read online.  At its website, we can now see the complete book of Codex Sinaiticus, together with the image of the original pages, a clear transcription, and translation in four languages.

In the first century, Christians were scattered by the Romans around the middle east, down to Egypt and up to Turkey.  Each community had its own gospel claimed to be the words of god.  When Constantine I legalized Christianity and made it a governing tool, all these gospels were gathered and made into one book, the precursor of the Bible.  Codex Sinaiticus was one of such products at the time.  However, the contents of various gospels were not unique and many were contradictory.  As a result, some of the words of god were censored by men and many gospels not adhering to the story were banned.  Some of them have now re-emerged like the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Judas, much to the amazement of the modern Christians who fiercely deny them.  Codex Sinaiticus is the prime evidence of what the Bible was like back then.  It contains many manuscripts which were subsequently censored out.

You may have heard from the preachers that the Bible is the best and correct book because it was edited thoroughly for over 200 years.  Actually the Bible was edited by men as soon as Codex Sinaiticus was composed.  Just imagine men changing the words of god, which is a grudge of the fundamentalists.  The original manuscript shows that there were over 27,000 corrections in Codex Sinaiticus which include much erasures, additions, and substitutions.  The Bible we are reading now is not what was said 2000 year ago.

Another question about the Codex Sinaiticus is why it was written in Greek.  The words of god as spoken to the apostles, if you believe it was the case, were supposedly in Hebrew.  There were no written text at that time and the gospels in their various form were probably passed on as verbal memory.  Several hundred years later, gospel manuscripts appeared in Asia Minor (Turkey) and Egypt (Coptic) where ancient Greek was the dominant language.  Thus manuscripts presented to the court were all in Greek.  It is like we now in the 21st century write books on the history of the beginning of the Qing Dynasty more than 350 years ago.  Some may say that the Codex Sinaiticus is a translation of the words of god.  Translation is not a good word for the Bible because it means something derived from the words of other men.  To make the delusion more believable, we have versions of the Bible instead.  It is like King Jame's staff also heard the words of god, likewise the Chinese version.  I just read from the news that a new Chinese version of the Bible is being published.  The author also claimed a revelation from god.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

人類的未來

我在2010年5月號的 Scientific American讀到一篇文章,名為人類的獨特性與其未來。作者領導亞利桑那州大學一項起源研究計劃,探討人類的獨特性,與為何人類可以跨越很多生物進化的障礙。其答案是人類有特強的學習能力,而人類文化可以總稱是由學習而得來的行為,使到知識和技術得到整合和發展。現代人類以此在物競天擇的環境中脫穎而出。

自從人類走出獵人和搜集者(hunter/gatherer)的模式而去生產自己的食物,人類就已經開始變更,或破壞自然環境。直至現在我們才發覺情況嚴重,氣候的轉變對人類的未來有很大的影響。作者對人類現時應對氣候變化的能力很悲觀。他認為人類潛在的貪念,加上生存的需要,各國政府是沒有能力去減低溫室氣體的排放。這和我的想法一樣。現時溫室氣體濃度已使氣候持續轉變;就算即時不再增加排放亦不能改變這個情況。而且世界上仍有不少發展中國家正要極力趕上現代消費生活方式,能源使用正在增加。已發展的國家要替換較環保的機器,但舊機器很多是賣到別處再被使用。

當然我們要盡力找尋方法去使用另類能源,但更重要的卻是要準備面對氣候環境變化對人類未來的挑戰。在2007年,IPCC發表報告,要求各國政府減低溫室氣體排放。當時有一百個科學家聯署去信聯合國,說方向不正確,因為資源應要用在應付氣候變化的影響。請看看我在2007年寫的紀要

人類的未來會是怎樣呢?作者預測氣候轉變的後果,有好事、壞事和醜惡事。好事就是地球上現時有很多不適宜種植的土地將可以被使用。這可能包括美洲北部加拿大、中國北部的草原、西伯利亞凍原和北歐。壞事就是大量居住在沿岸地區的人要遷徙,引至社會、經濟和政治難題。壞事的規模會超越好事,很多地區變得不能耕種而有饑荒。醜惡事就是人類要面對極端天氣的衝擊,大量物種會滅絕而人類會大量死亡。

但作者對人類的未來仍然樂觀,他認為人類不會因此而滅亡或人類文化會式微。他認為人類的世界會有大轉變,而變得沒有現在那麼美好;但以人類的獨特性,我們會以科技去適應轉變的環境。其中一個可能的例子是基因工程,可以改變其他物種和人類在轉變的環境中共同進化。人類的適應能力在最近的考古學中得到證據。剛 出版的 Scientifc American 8月號有一篇報導,找到證據指出地球在約150,000年前因氣侯變化而不適合人類生存。當時人類的總數可能下降至只剩下數百人的群體,他們聚居在非洲南 部一處海岸,發展出新技術覓食而渡過難關。

今天的情況和150,000年前不同。現時地球人口已達70億,減少10%就意味7億人要滅亡,而實際情況可能會更壞。適應轉變需時,發展適合的科技以致普及使用需要很長的時間。我們現時無法準確估計生存環境轉壞的速度,最佳的選擇就是要即時開始準備適應,而且目標要明確。現時流行呼籲各國要減排,雖然大部份政府都擺出姿態支持,但行動卻於事無補。大多數的目標都只是減低排放增長的速度,而不是減低溫室氣體水平。我早前看到一個廣告,Diesel時裝已推出 Global Warming系列;現時要做的正是如此,要積極面對預見的未來。可做的包括重點投資另類能源、廉價海水化淡技術、基因科技加強生產食物能力、土木工程技術保護沿海重要城市。人類未來存在與否與此有關,只希望我們有足夠時間趕上。

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The perfect market

All economists and historians study the market.  It is the fundamental activity of human living in a community.  Exchange of goods and services is the basic force which shapes human civilizations.  There are so many explanations and analysis on market that we believe the goal of human civilization rests on a perfect market, where everyone is happily providing his goods and services for a reasonable reward, and receiving goods and services he needs for a reasonable price he could comfortably afford.  And everyone lives happily ever after.

But this is never the case.  From history and our day-to-day experience, the market is never perfect.  A perfect market is an illusion.  As human, we see the market equilibrium as the utopia.  Human has the ability to imagine and recognize perfection.  We can imagine and recognize that the ultimate state of everything is god: the ultimate happiness, ultimate power, ultimate love, and also the ultimate perfect market equilibrium.

People study the market and come up with a consensus that the market is imperfect owing to three reasons: scarcity, incomplete information and externality.  You may wish to take a look at a book review I wrote in 2007 on these elements.   Imperfect markets are everywhere.  We can always find out one and explain it with one or more of these elements.  Take the properties sale saga at present, the cause is first the scarcity of properties, and then the deliberate act of developers in making information incomplete.  Now we have government intervening.  Though with good intention or a political motive, it is externality.

However, the point I really want to make is that the reality of the real world (to emphasize that it is really real) is that there will never be a perfect market or a market equilibrium.  There is an ideal and we will try to work in that direction.  But it is a moving target which will never be reached. In the process, we live our entire life.  Our successors will do the same. We are like Sisyphus and this will go on forever.  The good news is, we will find pleasure and even the purpose of life while doing it.  So in the mean time, we need the government to tame the properties market; we speculate the movement of the stock market, and even try to strike a fair deal in the heaven market of happiness by doing charity.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Octopus and Google

On the eve of the retirement of the Privacy Commissioner, there are more privacy matters for him to handle, putting him in the spotlight. The two most newsworthy cases are the Octopus and the Google street view.

I am not sure why the Octopus privacy issue suddenly becomes news. It probably arose owing to the complaints of a few customers. The defense of Octopus is that the information disclosure statement is already included in the application form. The problem is, same as many other contracts, the devils are in the fine print. Notwithstanding the Octopus case being seen as a terrible infringement of privacy, the fact of life is that we are constantly giving out our personal information to be used by presumably friendly companies. Just take a look at your wallet. All the plastic cards you have reflect the extent of your personal information being given to others. Add to that, any purchase you made requiring email contact or physical delivery means that your personal information has been passed out.

Some companies look more benign in asking for your consent whether you wish to receive information from their partners. Translation: your personal data will be transferred. However, even without your consent, the company could send to you direct advertising materials, either from them or their subsidiaries, using your personal data in a legitimate way.

The Octopus case can be more serious. Although it is not a location-based device, i.e. it does not show your location in real time, the records it held on the location of purchase could be a history of your whereabout. This does not limit to Octopus cards which are linked to names, bank accounts or credit card accounts. The various locations of your card with timing, plus the numerous records of video images, purchase records, etc, could build a profile pointing out individuals. We have seen it in the movies which are based on existing technologies. It is just a matter whether you are a target of the criminals, or the police, or the government.

The case of Google is similarly interesting, or scary. I don't know if you like Google street view. It is a very convenient tool in finding direction. It makes the world smaller or closer if you like it. In taking street view photographs, it also collects many location-based information such as GPS co-ordinates. It claimed that the collection of wireless data is not intentional. The data just got stored at random together with others. Most of them are encrypted and many are fragmented. I wonder how such news got reported. It came from a press release by Google, but there could be pressure from whistle blowers within the company.

Many companies and families use wi-fi devices nowadays. A wireless router only costs a few hundred dollars and can allow a company or a family share one broadband connection. Wi-fi data include everything we send and receive in the Internet, which could mean most of our lives. The Internet is the information superhighway, and the wi-fi data stream is public traffic. You cannot hide your car in the traffic, but you can still do private matters inside your car, with proper protection.

The morale of these two stories is a revelation, in case you still do not know, that personal privacy is a very fragile thing. In the modern world, it is hard to live without plastic. Octopus is the most useful plastic of all. We also have a lot of credit cards, purchase cards, VIP cards, membership cards, discount cards, etc. All these partners of ours are sharing our personal information. Digital information is more insecure. We heard of hackers, viruses, and trojans everyday. It is very uncertain that at this very moment, the data in your computer could be accessed by others. Wireless data at least give a feeling that they are freely distributed through the atmosphere, and their security is an obvious concern. The basic protection is to password-protect your wireless router.

I often draw the analogy that you are using your personal data as walking down the street with your valuables. You cannot stop going out in order to protect your valuables. Just be careful out there. The caution is: anyone who knows your personal data is not necessarily your friend. Make sure you cross-check the identity of those who contact you, at the door, in the mail, on the Internet, or on the phone.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Management is not a profession

Managers are professionals.  At least we say we are professional generalists.  Management science seems to have its own discipline and can be viewed as an unique body of knowledge.  So it is strikingly surprising that the Harvard Business Review in its July issue carries an article entitled Management is not a Profession.  If you are interested, please have a look.  Whether you agree with the article, the arguments are useful food for thought.

Management is commonly seen as a profession.  The status of managers is similar to that of doctors or lawyers, as is their obligation to contribute to the well-being of society. Managers can be formally trained and qualified, usually by earning a MBA or other post-graduate degree.  If management is a profession, the business school is a professional school.  This concept has fueled criticism of business schools during the recent economic crisis. They have come under fire for allegedly failing in their obligation to educate socially responsible business leaders.  Richard Barker argues against these views.  He considers the claim of a professional business education fosters inappropriate analysis and misguided prescriptions.

The author defines a profession as a particular categories of people from whom we seek advice and services because they have knowledge and skills that we do not.  Very often we cannot judge the quality of the advice we receive.   However, the boundary of the discipline of management or a consensus on the requisite body of knowledge does not exist.  No professional body is granted control, no formal entry or certification is required, no ethical standards are enforced, and no mechanism can exclude someone from practice.

The inherent differences between the professions and management have direct implications for the design of education in each. Professional education enables an individual to master the body of knowledge deemed requisite for practice. It comprises three stages: admission, during which potential entrants are screened for intellectual ability and aptitude; a taught program, during which educators impart knowledge of the subject; and formal assessment, which leads to certification. Business education also involves admission, a taught program, and assessment, but the similarity is superficial only.

Admission
Professional education is about taking a given individual on the journey from having little or no knowledge or experience to becoming qualified.  But business education is typically post-experience, meaning that participants are not novices. A MBA program offers them an opportunity to share, conceptualize, and better understand workplace experiences; to build on the skill of working with others; and to open up new career opportunities.  A second difference is that although professional education is concerned exclusively with the individual, a quality business education depends in a distinctive way on the peer group. Thus no given candidate can be effectively evaluated independent of all the other candidates.

The program
The London Business School interviewed many corporate leaders on the qualities they desired in the recruitment of managers.  Almost none involved functional or technical knowledge.  Rather, virtually all their requirements could be summed up as follows: the need for more thoughtful, more aware, more sensitive, more flexible, more adaptive managers, capable of being moulded and developed into global executives.  These requirements are attributes rather than skills. They are intrinsically soft and indefinable. They can probably be learned, especially in a business school environment, but it is not obvious that they can be taught, which is what would be expected from a professional school.  Knowledge on functional areas is important.  But we need to broaden our perspective on business education.  The manager must also acquire the core skill of integration and decision making across various functional areas, groups of people, and circumstances.

The skill of integration distinguishes managers and is at the heart of why business education should differ from professional education.  The key here is to recognize that integration is not taught but learned. It takes place in the minds of the students rather than in the content of program modules. The students themselves link the various elements of the program. Thus it is vital that business schools understand themselves primarily as learning environments, where individuals develop attributes, rather than as teaching environments, where students are presented with a body of functional and technical content.

Moreover, business education is explicitly not one-size-fits-all. Most MBA students have prior work experience; each of them is building in a unique way on a unique foundation and will experience the program differently, learn different things, and emerge to pursue a different career. An important implication is that learning needs differ according to the stage of a student’s career.  In other words, business education is best delivered in doses throughout a career, rather than in a single shot at the beginning.

Assessment
Business education is about more than clearly defined subsets of knowledge; its essence is in softer, indefinable attributes and experiences that have relevance in interpersonal contexts. Thus an academic grading system cannot reliably predict managerial ability.  Grading is important in technical and functional areas, but the distinctiveness and vitality of business education require that a grading culture be downplayed. Students are there to contribute to and benefit from a rich learning environment; they are there to be empowered rather than ranked.

Management educators need to resist the goal of professionalism. Functional and technical knowledge is an important component of business school curricula, but it is not the essence of management or the substance of business leadership.   Business schools do not uniquely certify managers, enabling them to practice. Nor do they regulate the conduct of those managers according to a professional code of practice. What they do is provide learning environments that consolidate, share, and build business experience, that accelerate personal development and growth, and that help equip managers to deal with their diverse working environments. Business schools are not professional schools. They are incubators for business leadership.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Make that change 轉軚

近期最熱門的話題是轉軚。轉軚究竟是好事還是壞事呢?駕駛人士知道得最清楚,因為軚是駕駛最重要的部份,不轉軚一定會車毀人亡。如果一條直路直達目的地,當然不用轉軚,但世事從來不是這樣。雖然如此,轉軚究竟是天使還是魔鬼行為其實還是取決於主觀利益。

同事們對於轉軚應該認識很深,因為各位管理專業人士就是轉軚管理專家 change management expert。轉軚管理是管理學高級課程,培訓組不時都會為高級主任級同事舉辦這項培訓活動。我們非常清楚轉軚的重要性、如何組織轉軚行動和如何引誘他人轉軚。

轉軚第一步就是自己要轉軚。Michael Jackson 金曲 Man in the Mirror 就是說首先要照鏡,鏡中人要轉軚,"If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make that change." Michael 的版本聽過無數次,請你聽聽 Diana Vickers 的版本,較清新又有美女演出。

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Top ten religion stories of 2009

Each year, Time Magazine summed up the news stories of the previous year and selected the top ten stories of the year.  Religion is a large item and it has it own set of top ten.  If you are interested in the details of these stories, you may wish to read them at Time.  Here is a gist.  It could shed some more light on the religion delusion. 

1. Secularism or Bust
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the crucifix hanging on the walls of many Italian public schools is a violation of religious and educational freedom.  In France and Italy, Muslim women wearing religious swimwear were kicked out of public pools.  French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged members of Parliament to consider banning burqas in public. Swiss voters approved a measure to prevent the building of mosques with minarets.

Secularism is strong in Europe, with more than two-thirds of survey respondents in countries such as Britain and France considering that religion is not important to them.

2. What Reformation?
Five centuries after Henry VIII left the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he was creating a way for disaffected Anglicans to come back. The Vatican would allow Anglicans, including married priests, to practice Catholicism while using much of their own liturgy.

Many critics charged that the move was simply a way to encourage a full-fledged schism within the Anglican Communion's 80 million members worldwide.

Some Catholics expressed concern about the precedent of allowing married Anglican priests in the church while maintaining the requirement of celibacy for Catholic clergy.

3. Keeping the Faith-Based
 Many Barack Obama's supporters thought he would not keep the controversial White House faith-based office created by George W. Bush.  However, he expanded the office and created the new Presidential Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Some of the 25 secular and religious leaders who serve on the council have complained that they don't feel heard by the White House.

4. Faith Healing Turns Fatal
When Dale and Leilani Neumann's 11-year-old daughter became severely ill, they prayed.  They continued praying as their daughter slowly died.  Kara Neumann died at her Wisconsin home of a treatable form of diabetes. Her parents were convicted this year of second-degree reckless homicide, and in October they were both sentenced to six months in jail.

The judge told them, "God probably works through other people -- some of them doctors."

5. Going to the Chapel

The gossip magazine TVnotas published two dozen photos of Father Alberto Cutie engaged in uncelibate behavior with a woman on a beach. The handsome Cutie admitted that the woman was his girlfriend. In response, the Miami Archdiocese removed him from his parish post and barred him from leading Mass. In May, Cutie announced that he was leaving the Catholic Church and becoming an Episcopalian. Two weeks later, the pair married in Coral Gables.

6. Dr. Dobson Has Left the Building
James Dobson announced in February that he was stepping down as chair of Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs-based organization he founded in 1977.  Chuck Colson is now the only remaining member of the quintet that launched the Religious Right to still hold a position of authority.

Focus on the Family has struggled with budget crises in recent years and has been forced to make severe layoffs to stay afloat.

7. Obama's Notre Dame Touchdown
University of Notre Dame invited Barack Obama to address graduates at the commencement. Right-wing Catholics demanded that Notre Dame rescind the invitation and descended on the campus when it did not. The day of the speech was marked by blood-covered baby dolls. Obama responded to the furor with an address about how to deal with disagreement in a democratic society.

Pope Benedict XVI declined to weigh in on the controversy, and three-quarters of American Catholics surveyed thought it was no big deal.

8. Americans Go Church Shopping
More Americans than ever are leaving church. But those Americans are also going back to church or changing churches if the first few they try don't quite work.

A report found that 44% of adults in the U.S. have changed faiths at least once. Some converted from one religion or denomination to another; others grew up with no tradition only to adopt one as an adult; still others left their childhood faith and found themselves with no religious home.

9. Banning the Baha'i

The government of Iran has held seven leaders of the Baha'i faith in prison for more than a year without formal charges, access to their attorneys or a trial.  Baha'i is a monotheistic religion founded in 19th century Persia. She considers that all religions are derivatives of the same god.
The Baha'i tradition is outlawed in Iran, and some government officials have claimed that the prisoners are guilty of spying for Israel or insulting Islam. Several times, the government has scheduled capital-punishment hearings for the seven, only to cancel at the last minute. As of early December, the Baha'i leaders remained in prison with no trial scheduled.

10. Religious Runaway

17-year-old Rifqa Bary ran away from her home near Columbus, Ohio, and bought a bus ticket to Florida so she could live with a Christian pastor whose wife she had met on Facebook.  Bary claimed that her parents, Muslim immigrants from Sri Lanka, had threatened to make her the victim of an "honour killing" for recently converting to Christianity.  The girl's parents said they had never threatened her and just wanted her to come home. Investigators found no credible threat to the girl.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

School Management Committee

Two weeks ago, the Court of Appeal dismissed the application of the Diocese for an appeal to the Court of Final Appeal on the case of the School-based Management legal requirements.  From the news report below, the Diocese intended to apply directly to the Court of Final Appeal.  Each time such news hit the headline, it gives a very bad impression on the Diocese that she is trying to rule her schools by autocracy, which goes against the belief of democracy or simply transparency in school management.  I discussed this topic earlier in February in a blog article.  The latest development led me to think that the Diocese must be facing a very big problem in the new legal requirement or there is a very serious underlying conspiracy.  I therefore read again carefully the detailed judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal on the reasons advanced by the Diocese and why the court did not accept them.

The judgment gave a very clear description of the present system and the new system.  In essence, it stated the objective and purpose of the Diocesan schools.  In paragraph 20, it said "The regime thus established was designed to ensure unity of the Diocese in the promulgation of Catholic values in schools and it is this unity which is said effectively to be undermined by the 2004 legislation."  It means these schools are not just for education.  They are for the promulgation of Catholic values.  For the Diocese, it is perceived that this function cannot be ensured if the 2004 legislation is enforced and the school is governed by an incorporated management committee IMC.

The Diocese brought out seven perceived material changes to the manner in which it was previously able to operate schools. They were categorically refuted by the government.  The refutation was endorsed by the court.  According to paragraph 43, the perceived changes and the refutation are:

(1) The obligatory submission of constitutions and the incorporation of management bodies
There has always been a statutory power for the government to call for the submission of a written constitution for the management committee.  The absolute autonomy suggested by the applicant as previously enjoyed by it is, according to the respondent, an illusion, for the applicant has always been subject to the provisions of legislation and supervision of the government.

(2)  The reduction of representation in management bodies
By reason of its 60% membership majority, the applicant retains effective control over the IMC.  The applicant argues for absolute control, an objective that is at odds with greater transparency and accountability, features that are reasonably required for schools that are publicly funded.

(3)  Diminution in the scope of the applicant’s functions
This complaint ignores the requirement upon the IMC to act in accordance with the sponsoring body’s vision and mission; and the 60% sponsoring body representation upon the IMC.

(4)  Loss of the guarantee of priority.
This complaint is an exaggeration: the ‘guarantee’ was not a question of priority on all matters of management.  The provision did not guarantee that a school management committee would stay true to the vision and mission of the sponsoring body; and the sponsoring body now has a 60% controlling representation on the IMC.

(5)  Changes concerning the supervisor.
Since the sponsoring body is responsible for drafting the IMC constitution and since the supervisor must be appointed by the sponsoring body or elected by the managers of the school in accordance with the constitution, it is open to the applicant to draft a constitution accordingly.  As for functions, the management committee is under the effective control of the sponsoring body and there is power in the Ordinance to delegate responsibilities to the supervisor.

(6)  Changes concerning the principal.
Since the composition of the principal selection committee is determined by the constitution which in turn is drafted by the applicant, the point is without substance.

(7)  Changes in the selection of teachers.
The selection of teachers remains under the control of the applicant through its majority control of the IMC and through the requirement that the IMC must act in accordance with the vision and mission set by the applicant.

Notwithstanding the point-by-point rebut, the Diocese is still not satisfied with her own power in controlling schools.  It reflects a great sense of insecurity.  Is the Catholic value in school governance just castle in the sand?  Is it so fragile that a very small minority in the management committee with different views would undermine it?  From the perceived material changes, although they might just be fabricated for the case, there will be crises in submitting a constitution, losing absolute control of the management committee, losing guarantee of priority in management, and facing difficulties in appointing supervisor, principal and teachers.

As I see it, all these will not stop the school from preaching.  We can only guess, but the Diocese knows best.  May be all these will eventually undermine the Catholic value in school.  What if the government mandates that religion should not be included in the constitution?  What if a father/sister on the committee suddenly finds conscience and joins hand with the other 40%?  What if non-Catholic supervisors, principals and teachers are appointed?  Could this be the end of a Catholic school?  I hope not.  40 years after graduation, I am still connected with my alma mater with many of these changes implemented but still basically Catholic.

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校本例覆核 上訴終院被拒
(明報)2010年6月4日 星期五 17:30
【明報專訊】天主教香港教區為確保辦學自主權,就《校本條例》提出司法覆核敗訴,上訴遭駁回,再向法院提出上訴至終審法院,但昨日上訴庭拒絕發出上訴許 可,代表教區的大律師表示不排除再向終審法院直接申請上訴。上訴庭副庭長司徒敬與另外兩名法官商議後表示,今年2月頒發的判 辭,已清楚列明教區敗訴原因,他下令教區需向政府支付昨日的訟費。

天主教香港教區主教湯漢昨日回應上訴申請被拒時說,教區尊重法庭決定,並會諮詢律師意見,再決定是否向終審法院提出最終上訴。資深大律師李柱銘昨代表天主 教教區,向上訴庭提出申請,要求將《校本條例》是否違反《基本法》第136、137及141條中,指宗教組織可按原有辦法繼續興辦院校等條文,移交終審法 院定奪。李柱銘指出,原訟庭及上訴庭雖然兩度判教區敗訴,但原因不一致,故有必要向終審法院尋求最終解釋。他又指《校本條例》從未交上終審法院審理,該議 題有廣泛 社會重要性,理應獲批申請上訴。
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Friday, May 21, 2010

BeethovenFest 貝多芬節



今個樂季港樂其中一個重要節目是在五月舉行的貝多芬節 BeethovenFest。貝多芬節是德國波恩的傳統,已有百多年歷史,每年舉辦為期三天的音樂會,演奏貝多芬的音樂。今年港樂仿傚其做法,五月份有三個音樂會只選奏貝多芬曲目。

三個音樂會包含第一、第五和第九交響曲,蕾奧諾拉序曲、帝皇協奏曲和費黛里奧歌劇音樂會。我在季初已訂了兩場票,後來港樂又送上一場免費票,結果是整個貝多芬節都有出席。

五月七日聽帝皇和命運,是貝多芬最為人所知又是最好聽的作品。負責鋼琴獨奏的是英國鋼琴家李維斯 Paul Lewis,他看起來有英國紳士風格,但彈帝皇卻一點都不斯文,反而將這個樂曲威風的一面表露無遺。命運是這一晚壓軸節目,但第一樂章命運在敲門卻不顯得特別有優勢。可能這一個樂章太為人所熟識,著名錄音無數,我對現場演繹的要求大大提高了,覺得節奏上應該緊湊一點,而弦樂部份的勁度和精確度都要加強。終章就表達得很理想,氣勢淋漓盡致。

五月十七日聽費黛里奧 Fidelio。我以前沒有看過整個 Fidelio歌劇,只聽過一部份選曲,今次音樂會可以完整聽到全套歌劇。雖然這套歌劇號稱自由平等意識超越當時流行的劇本,但我卻覺得情節很薄弱,故事發展交代不清晰,但貝多芬的音樂才華就充分表現。管弦樂部份非常用心,和歌曲配合得很理想,到最後推到高潮,極似一首交響曲輝煌的結局。

貝多芬節於五月二十日結束,最後一場演奏第一和第九交響曲;其第一交響曲第四樂章,是我聽過最佳版本,很多細緻的部份都表達得很清楚。說到第九交響曲,少不免要和小交在二月的演出比較。港樂的水準確實較高,第一樂章已經做得很好,營造了一個很獨特的氣氛;第三樂章就聽到各個聲部完美的平衡,弦樂與木管渾為一體,聽來十分舒服。唯一可以互相比美的是第四樂章;我起初以為上海歌劇院合唱團會人數較少而比較吃力,但它的實力卻非常強,唱出爆炸性的快樂頌完全勝任。

聽這個貝多芬節收獲不少,可將貝多芬最重要的作品都感受一下。不過貝多芬貢獻不止於此,還有很多經典室樂作品,如果在此期間加插他的奏鳴曲或四重奏音樂會就更理想。明年港樂會做柴可夫斯基節,六七月三場音樂會都演奏柴氐經典作品,聽聞還請來 Midori,又是一件盛事。

Friday, May 14, 2010

音樂會贈票

剛發表的衡工量值核數報告批評香港中樂團管理不善;今個星期一公共賬目委員會公開聆訊這份報告,議員再加質詢。眾多罪行之中,其中一項是贈票缺乏監管。究竟中樂團贈票嚴重至什麼程度?可以看一看報告提出的數據。

核數師調查了七個音樂會,贈票的數目佔座位總數由8%至30%。以總數計算,七個音樂會總共有17,770個座位,而贈票共有2,947張,佔16%。16%贈票算不算很多呢?這需要看看音樂會受歡迎的程度和賣座情況。這七個音樂會入座率為55%至88%,而總入座率是67%。即是說,如果沒有贈票,總入座率會低至51%。以另一個角度看,音樂會仍有空置座位,沒有觀眾會因為贈票太多而買不到票。當然,沒有贈票不代表那些觀眾會去買票從而增加售票率。所以贈票對購票觀眾和中樂團都沒有損失,但收到贈票的觀眾就有機會接觸音樂藝術。可惜以核數觀點,不跟從規則就是不該。

為什麼要贈票呢?以中樂團規則,免費票可贈與樂團賓客,包括議員、外國領事、外賓、文化界、贊助商和演出者,又可贈與傳媒和職員,主要目的是禮儀、公關和宣傳。但對藝術表演來說,觀眾是最重要,最理想是有大量觀眾欣賞,以至座無虛席,一來可以提供節目予知音者,又可向市民大眾和學生推廣藝術;所以大部份的藝術團體贈票都很有彈性,如果臨近演出仍有相當數量的票未賣出,就可能有團體特別折扣票安排,或乾脆贈票予學校。我曾在數個音樂會看見一大群學生一起出席,又在中場休息時一起撤退,他們可能是應老師介紹去聽免費音樂會。如果核數師有興趣調查贈票,例子是隨處可見。

贈票不是一個有利的商業行為。所有機構都會將贈票數量減到最低,只以達到宣傳目的為止,收入要超過支出,否則就不能生存。但以公帑資助的團體的想法不同,收支平衡不是重要考慮,以贈票吸引觀眾出席對財政沒有問題,而公帑在這方面的運用亦不是以營利為本,不管是購票還是贈票,只要有觀眾就目的已達。但核數師的看法卻不是這樣,而間接付鈔而不出席的市民看法又如何呢?更重要的是,監察政府的議員看法又如何呢?究竟是想少點贈票還是多些觀眾。

這其實是一個很基本的公共政策題目。藝術並不是必然需要政府資助,有很多私營藝術團體收費很高,但很受歡迎而有可觀利潤。關鍵是藝術水平能令人欣賞而藝術形式為大眾接受。需要政府資助的都是一些曲高和寡的藝術形式,只有少數人欣賞,簡單的說,是不能養活自己。但藝術在文化中有其地位,逝去的作曲家,作家和劇作家是歷史的一部份,需要保存,而新進的藝術亦需要鼓勵。但保存幾百年前的藝術並不代表要將之變為普及藝術,要去蕪存菁亦要藝術工作者有競爭,政府不能強迫市民去欣賞而只能提供機會供市民選擇。現時政府的做法可以勉強在這方面達致平衡;當然有人總是說政府資助不足夠,亦有人說政府在浪費公帑。我的看法是:一個百多二百人的樂團支出龐大,以現時的票價計,票房收入是不可能支持;幸好有政府和財團資助,票價可以很便宜。中產階層在政府支出方面沒有得益,藝術資助算是少少補償。不過我仍然有點內咎,所以就將用不完的長俸捐給樂團。至於贈票,一年只有一次。

Monday, May 3, 2010

安祖拉休伊特 Angela Hewitt

星期六晚 (5月1日)聽安祖拉休伊特 Angela Hewitt 與港樂的鋼琴協奏曲音樂會。這是一個真正的鋼琴協奏曲音樂會,全晚的節目是四首鋼琴協奏曲,而 Hewitt 為獨奏者與指揮,以一人的功力貫徹整個演出。

雖然Angela Hewitt演奏的曲目很廣泛.但她被稱為巴哈鍵盤音樂天后,並非無因。她花了大量時間鑽研巴哈的音樂,又用了十一年的時間將巴哈全套主要鍵盤音樂作品 灌錄成唱片,被認定是唱片界一大成就。於2007/08年,她作世界巡迴表演,在三十個城市只演奏巴哈的四十八首序曲與賦格曲。這套十二平均律曲集包含十 二個大調和十二個小調序曲與賦格各一首,是為現代西洋音樂的基礎。

這一晚的曲目是兩首巴哈的鍵盤協奏曲和兩首莫札特的鋼琴協奏曲,兩位作曲家有什麼淵源呢?巴哈活在十八世紀前半部,期間整合了大小調平均律系統理論,又留 下不少權威性的作品。他死去數年莫札特才出世,可想莫札特是在巴哈的音樂全盛時成長;這位天才將其音樂方式發揮到極致,又加入了很多華彩和感情原素。

這晚的選曲可以表達其間的演變。兩首巴哈的鍵盤協奏曲是其俗世音樂的佳作,Angela Hewitt 充分發揮巴哈音樂緊密的組織和優雅的對位。連綿不絕各聲部的旋律交織在一起,是一幅美麗的圖畫,聽來非常舒暢。莫札特的音樂一出,感覺更加豐富,他好像 在巴哈的音樂裡加入了很多裝飾音,而樂團部份亦進展到包括木管和銅管的音色。兩首音樂是第20號D小調和第27號降B大調協奏曲。後者是莫札特最後一首鋼 琴協奏曲,在他去世的一年才首演。前者的第一樂章曾被用作電影莫札特的配樂,大家可能會覺得熟識,但其所用的一段是開始的管弦樂片段,反而有點幽暗,暗示 莫札特的不幸,但之後音樂的發展卻是一派歡欣氣象。Angela Hewitt 極有大師風範,在技術和感情方面都恰到好處,反而港樂的演出只是不過不失。

Saturday, May 1, 2010

天使與魔鬼

早前在電影院看 Dan Brown 的天使與魔鬼 Angels and Demons 電影版。這本書和電影都被宣傳為達文西密碼的續集,但其實除了 Tom Hank 的角色外,故事並不是達文西密碼的延續,它並沒有 Mary Magdelene 作為耶穌妻子和耶穌有後代的橋段。故事環繞著天使與魔鬼的故事,在魔鬼群中有天使,在天使群中亦有魔鬼。劇本以羅馬為場景,對梵蒂岡和天主教極有挑釁性。話說光明會 Illuminati 已滲透羅馬,在城中四個方向設立教堂,各以水、火、土和空氣為本,然後有四個主教在這些教堂被殺害;到最後第五個教堂,似是第五元素,就是四個方向的中心點,位置是梵蒂岡,在此最高級的教士被謀殺。當眾主教要選出繼任者時,Tom Hank 就揭露出最純潔的天使其實是魔鬼。歹角被追捕至祭壇,自己淋上聖油自焚,臨死前說:Into thee, I command my spirit。所有教徒都知道這句話的意思,亦明白作者想說什麼。

可能是受到教訓,宗教界對這電影的反應並不十分強烈。回想達文西密碼推出時,宗教人士對它嚴加駁斥,有很多很有份量的人士引經據典,長篇大論,指出劇情不符合歷史。其實所有讀者都明白小說情節是虛構,但宗教界卻墮入電影公司的圈套,免費為電影作宣傳。

究竟天使與魔鬼是什麼呢?它們有超凡的能力,比人類優勝。據說神在六日內創造了一切,而人是最後的創造物;但天使與魔鬼是在何時被創造呢?它們是否神的一族,或是其一部份?或是神除了在人間之外又在另一空間創造了這些超級創造物,而它們又有能力到人間來辦事?如果你認為聖經可以解答一切,可以查一查約伯記 1:6 "有一天,神的眾子來侍立在耶和華面前,撒但也來在其中。" 原來撒旦是神的眾子之一,可以和神在一起評價約伯。它原是天使但因為和神辯駁而轉為魔鬼;這樣看來,天使與魔鬼是神的一族;以一神論,天使與魔鬼其實就是神的一部份。這是宗教這一個局帶來的結論。

天使與魔鬼的相對關係可以引起人類無窮的構想。下面這一個動畫是一個有趣生動的例子,又極富娛樂性,請你點點看看。

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jill Tarter of SETI spoke at the TED Prize 2009

Jill Tarter was awarded the TED Prize 2009. At the ceremony, traditionally, she could make a wish for mankind. Please click the photo below to watch the speech.

Jill Tarter is an American astronomer and the current director of the Center for SETI Research, holding the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI at the SETI Institute.  Her astronomical work is illustrated in Carl Sagan's novel Contact.  In the film version of Contact, the leading actress Ellie Arroway is played by Jodie Foster. Tarter conversed with the actress for months before and during filming.  Actually, the character of Arroway was largely based on Tarter's work.

In her speech below, she outlined a proper perspective of mankind in the universe.  It is a very touching speech of how small is mankind and how far we can reach, and an illustration of SETI the past, present and future.

She spoke eloquently with excellent English.  If your children are studying English, I recommend them to watch the speech.  The English is so perfect that it can be used in dictation and conversation.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nature by Numbers

I just saw a short video describing nature by numbers. Those who like mathematics may be interested. For those who admire the wonder of god's creation, the video shows that complex structure of living things, such as the shells of Nautilus, the seeds of a Sunflower, and the wings of a dragonfly, can be derived from simple numbers and natural ratio. God just made simple mathematical rules and evolution took over the process of creation.

The video is an animation employing three simple mathematical facts. The first one is the Fibonacci Sequence, named after a thirteenth century Italian mathematician. It is an infinite sequence of natural numbers where the first value is 0, the next is 1 and, from there, each amount is obtained by adding the previous two:

0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 89 144 233 377 .......

When the sequence is represented in squares, the resulting diagonal curve of each square would join up in a spiral, resembling the complex structure of the shell of a Nautilus.



The second simple mathematical fact is the Golden Ratio obtained from the sides of a Golden Rectangle. Splitting from a square, the Golden Rectangle can be drawn with its two sides a and b in a ratio where a/b=(a+b)/a. This constant ratio is an irrational number 1.61803399.... It has a close relationship to the Fibonacci Sequence because the ratio of the two adjacent numbers in the sequence gradually approaches this number:

8/5=1.6
13/8=1.625
21/13=1.615384615
34/21=1.619047619
55/34=1.617647059
55/34=1.617647059
89/55=1.618181818

From the Golden Ratio, the Golden Angle can be derived. It is the angular proportional relationship between two circular segments of length a and b. The value of the angle formed by b is another irrational number, which is rounded to 137.5 degree. This value is deeply present in nature. The video presents an animation on how to configure the structure formed by the sunflower seeds simply by rotating at this angle.

The third segment of the animation works on a mathematical concept called the Voronoi Tessellations. From it, there is a simple process in building many natural structures, like the wings of some insects or these small capillary structure in some plant's leaves.

The process starts with two points and a segment joining them, and then a second orthogonal line right in the middle, which is bisector of the segment. Then a third point is added, generating two new bisectors that intersect with the first. If we continue adding points to generate successive bisectors, their intersections will lead to a series of polygons called Voronoi Tiles around a set of points. The perimeter of each one of these tiles is equidistant to neighboring points and defines their area of influence. All these segments that interconnect the points form a triangular structure called Delaunay Triangulation.

Given a certain number of points in the plane, triangles are drawn using 3 points only if the circumcircle created using these 3 points is empty (not enclosing any other points). The animation then rotates 90 degrees each side of the triangle using the the midpoint after defining the Delaunay Triangulation to construct the Voronoi Tiling. This is how the structure of the dragonfly wing is built.

Now watch the video below to see how these rules are implemented.

Monday, March 29, 2010

亞凡達宗教論

亞凡達今年差少少就可以取得奧斯卡最佳電影大獎,但結果敗於拆彈雄心,其中一個原因是美國人對伊拉克戰爭的情意結。亞凡達是否好戲各有意見,我覺得視覺效果有突破,而DNA替身的概念亦是科技最前線,但故事骨幹仍是老套。

在宗教人士眼中看來,亞凡達電影卻有另一番解釋。事緣美國一個教會,在一次講道用了路加 4:33-34 "在會堂裡有一個人、被污鬼的精氣附著、大聲喊叫說、拿撒勒的耶穌、我們與你有甚麼相干、你來滅我們麼、我知道你是誰、乃是神的聖者。" 牧師介紹這個魔鬼,就用亞凡達來作比喻。他說不明白為何基督徒要看這部電影,還要稱讚是好戲,又說被啟發,但這電影其實是魔鬼 (demonic)和撒旦 (satanic)。

牧師的演繹是該片在傳道,宣揚一個虛假的理想。其主張是所有原始的都是好的,而先進的都是壞事。影片說族人要和動物和樹木聯繫,還要和大自然結合,其實是要暯拜創造物。他說影片描述 Jake 通過亞凡達化身來到 Navi人之間而被認定是救世主,是想說耶穌亦是這樣通過化身來到眾人之間。最後 Jake 的化身死而復生,亦暗示耶穌復活是虛假的。這部電影其實是在說一個假的救世主帶領人去一個假的天堂。

這段佈道由教會拍攝為記錄短片放上Youtube。由於觀點偏激,大批網民互傳批評,短短由二月至今已有七萬人觀看,又有一千二百多人留言,大多說此人是白痴,有人說他的髮型很潮。

如果你想親自看看這個短片,請點點這裡。

Sunday, March 21, 2010

薩頂頂 Sa Ding Ding



星期六 (三月二十日) 聽薩頂頂,是藝術節節目。薩頂頂是中國女歌手,唱功相當好,比香港很多女歌星要優勝得多。她的聲線很特別,高音域很清澈,低音有魅力,但都是流行歌手的唱法,並不是美聲唱法。她的音樂類型是世界音樂電子版,加入中國少數民族音樂元素、民族樂器和一點爵士。

這樣的組合在流行音樂界多的是,她怎樣可以脫穎而出呢?關鍵在於外國現時流行中國熱,世界新聞焦點在彊藏和喇嘛。薩頂頂唱了幾首歌,以藏文、蒙文、梵文為賣點,就給環球羅致。第一張唱片奪得 2008 BBC 世界音樂大獎,之後就在世界各地巡迴表演,以現代舞台色彩表現東方宗教神秘氣氛而大受歡迎。

除了綽頭之外,薩頂頂的才華還在於其音樂天份。大部份的歌曲都是她自己作曲填詞,而意念都很原創。 現場欣賞的印象不錯,幾首招牌作品有東方神秘感,怪不得外國聽眾為之瘋狂,其他歌曲是民謠和流行曲模式,但都是有水準之作。請看看成名曲 [萬物生] 音樂短片。

Thursday, March 18, 2010

宗教與歧視

在龔立人教授的網誌看 到他談論宗教與歧視,尤其是有關教會的難題和香港人的歧視心態,甚有意思。所以節錄下來思考一下。

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[節錄]初期教會,一個主要爭論點是外邦人信徒的地位。當外邦人信徒的數目不斷增加時,外邦人信徒反過來對付猶太人信徒(例如,306 年 Elvira 大會禁止基督徒與猶太人通婚和一起進食;1050年Narbonne 大會禁止基督徒住在猶太人家中;1215年第四次Lateran會議要求猶太人穿著特別服飾,從基督徒中分別出來)。這些經驗指出宗教也避不了對其他種族 的歧視,所以,教會不要以為相信「上帝愛世人」,就不會有種族歧視。...種族歧視可以以另一種形態 出現,就是對外藉英語人士優惠,從而產生對本地人不公平和歧視。這是一種後殖民心態,即人沒有因離開殖民角色而變得自主,反而昔日管治者的思維繼續是他今 日的管治態度。例如,有大學有內部指引,外藉英語申請人優先聘請。查實,我們社會仍有很多人對歐美人士存在迷思,以致歐美人士比華人和菲律賓人等等獲得更 有禮貌和歡迎的對待。這種後殖民意識需要更認真被認識和批判。
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在香港,相信最受殖民時代影響的應是公務員。英國政府統治香港時,公務員的主子是外籍官員,所以對外藉英語人有對上級的態度;而當時政策的來源與推行亦有殖民地色彩,公務員與民眾的關係亦是如此。時至今日,後殖民意識仍未消除。除了政府施政仍受此抨擊之外,公務員行列以致社會仍以英語為優越的溝通方式。這個意識 早在香港回歸之前已被安排,政府推行雙語官方語言政策,仍以英語為主。政府內部以英語溝通,而英語水平低可以是仕途的致命傷。教育亦以英語為主,雖然民眾 用中文作日常溝通,兒童亦以中文為母語,但到達大學階段,用英語大都是有優勢,甚至是必須;這個現象再反映在中小學教育,英語學校自動被認定是優等學校。

當時決定以英語為主要官方語言,是要維護外資企業和公務員的既得利益以及英國政府的影響力,因為這群人擅長使用英語。說出來的理由,是要保持香港為一個國 際城市,而英語乃是國際 通用語言。這是一個似是而非的解釋,英語在很多地方都有人懂,但除了在英語國家之外,英語其實亦是外語。在很多地方,例如中國、日韓、歐洲、非洲、中南美 洲,英 語只在遊客區可用;這些地方的商業語言都不是英語。現時所有國際會議都有多種語言傳譯,英語只是其中一種。我們現在接觸的所謂國際資訊,其實只是來自英美 加澳,而觀點亦被其壟斷。香港回歸中國,中文是理所當然的語文,但殖民地 時代遺留下來的一族,即商界精英和公務員,卻因英語被提升為社會高級語言而受惠。

正如龔教授所說,這其實是歧視的一種。引申至現時就業情況,雖然公務員向市民提供服務時是使用中文,但投考公務員職位大多數要有合格的英語程度;而私人機構亦會視英文水平為應徵者智力和潛力的指標。以近幾年的觀察,大家都說畢業生的英語水平似乎下降了,但這並不是解決英語正面歧視的指標,因為他們中文水平並未大大提高。

我身為前度公務員,又受殖民地教育,和很多同事一樣都是受害者。身在香港,日日聽講中文,但又天天以英語寫作。結果是手口腦筋不一致。最明顯的是閱讀英語 文章遇到數字時腦筋會忽然轉回中文,讀中文遇到專有名詞時又會以英文作解釋。寫作時習慣用英文,因為比用中文較流暢和容易表達。我懷疑有很多同事連中文寫作能力都已經消失,因為從未見過他們的中文信件、電郵或其他文字通訊。以一群長期接受殖民地教育,又長年在政府內以英文為工作語言的人來說,要在這一代徹底改變已是不可能,唯有希望下一代可以有所改變。現時就讓這個歧視暫時繼續下去罷。

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Strings in HKAF 藝術節的弦樂

一個星期內一口氣聽了香港藝術節三個弦樂節目,由古到今。十三號聽 Freiburg Baroque Orchestra,二百年前的作品;五號聽李傳韻拉Paganini,有百多年歷史;十二號聽Meta4四重奏,主要是近代音樂。橫跨幾百年的音樂,樂 器沒有太大不同,但樂風和樂思卻有很大變化,可能人的腦筋已有明顯的進化,由有條理的組織進化到複雜而無固定章法的表現方式,亦可以說是由中世紀宗教皇權 教條式的 思維躍進至現今的自由思考領域。

Freiburg 來自德國,演奏Baroque音樂完全稱職;但他們更進一步,要刻意營造Baroque時期的氣氛和音色。其中一首Mozart鋼琴協奏曲,更借來一個古 鋼琴Pianoforte,是為Mozart時代的標準鍵盤樂器。但問題是Mozart時代音樂廳設備未如現代完善,樂團規模普遍較小。在今天聽來古鋼琴 的音量較弱,和樂團相比有點吃力。我聽過這首樂曲以現代鋼琴演出效果更佳。如果真要懷念Mozart,就不如用個較細小的場地,比較小型的樂團,還要配上古代的服飾,亦可以請位主教坐在大堂正中,更能切合古代的氣氛。

來到Paganini的時代,音樂家就驕傲得多。得到民眾的擁戴,他們不用乞求於貴族和宗教之下。Paganini的音樂極重個人主義,小提琴對他來說是 一件工具,他的音樂以表現小提琴的威力和技巧為本,不是所有的小提琴樂師所能應付。今天有個李傳韻,似是Paganini復活。艱深的技巧對他來說絕不是 一回事。他彈奏的Caprice No. 24,是最難的小提琴音樂之一,但他卻再加潤飾,在Paganini的原譜加上更困難的技法。我覺得是在聽一個瘋狂的小提琴家在拉瘋狂的小提琴音樂。

Meta4應是Metaphor,來自芬蘭。當晚選奏的曲目全都是二十世紀的作品;其中一首 Sibelius,已是較為客易欣賞的四重奏。另一首Pohjola的是新作品,為世界首演,是由Meta4邀請而作,所以說是有Meta4的風格。但 Meta4的風格是什麼呢?以當晚的演出,聽來他們很強調四聲部合奏的和聲。有很多片段當四支琴一起做出相同節奏時,和聲的效果又厚又重,有很莊嚴的感 覺,比起四支琴以對位互相追逐比對,令人感覺有別一番味道。