Archives for August 2013

From Office Slave to Paperless Ninja

I have already written on the joys of cleaning house and how less is more when it comes to possessions.

But possessions aren’t limited to the physical realm. Your digital files – documents, emails, music libraries, photos, etc. – share many features with property, especially as regards the need to keep them well organized and consistently backed up. Then there is the world of tasks and commitments. Left unchecked, they will proliferate, and come to weigh down you down as surely as a surfeit of trinkets. But most people devote nary a thought to this very important element of life, let alone approach it in an organized and systemic way.

Going paperless and streamlining everyday life certainly appeals to people. Banks, shops, and utilities companies offer electronic statements and receipts. Tim Ferriss preaches it in bestselling books. The tech giants offer clouds, companies peddle software and productivity apps, and entrepreneurial gurus hawk “systems.” But faced with this avalanche of information, many people don’t know how to bring it all together, and their work and life habits remain as ossified and unproductive as before.

I do not say I have the best or most comprehensive solution. I do, however, say that I have a pretty damn good solution, or else I wouldn’t have bothered writing about it. Even better, it is immediately actionable, and 100% free (barring your computer and cell phone). I promise you that if you implement even parts of it, you will not only see immediate increases in productivity but a newfound feeling of psychological wellbeing as automated routines begin to care of the myriad minutiae that are not immediately actionable (“Buy eggs”; “Do problem set 4”; “Write blog post on productivity”) that we nonetheless have no choice but to store up and let loose to wreck havoc in the recesses of our minds.

The end goal is to become a cybernetic paperless ninja. He is unburdened by surfeit possessions, but has exceptional access. He never looks at his calendar, but never misses a meeting or appointment. He doesn’t spend (waste) a single moment of his life reminding himself of minutiae, and instead uses his brainpower to learn and to focus on the big life goals. To paraphrase David Allen, his mind is like water.

The Power of Evernote

Download Evernote.

This is the central element of our system. Some of you might view is as just another note-taking program. We will transform it into nothing more or less than our second brain.

The one that keeps track of trivial but essential crap so that you don’t have to.

Evernote is a free program (though a paid upgrade is well worth it for power users). You can create notes there, as text files, or as images, videos, or other attachments. Crucially, these notes aren’t only stored in “Notebooks” (the equivalent of Folders) but can be linked together via “Tags.” This allows us to convert it into an exceedingly powerful task manager and organizational system. The information is stored in a cloud, which can be accessed and manipulated via a Desktop application (works offline), a web browser, and your cell phone.

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Translation: Saakashvili says Putin the Wolf wants to Eat Him

In a Bloomberg interview, Georgian President Saakashvili says he is like a lamb before the “wolf” Putin and his stooge in Georgia, Ivanishvili – head of the “Georgian Dream” party that recently won the elections.

Saakashvili is afraid of Putin

For the time being, the Georgian president is confident that he is to be killed or imprisoned on Putin’s order.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s plans to go into wine making after his resignation are under threat: the Georgian leader has said that Vladimir Putin wants him dead or in prison. The Georgian leader has also said in an interview with Bloomberg that the Georgian Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, is acting in concert with Putin.

“The Russian conditions are quite clear: I must either be killed or put into prison. This is what Putin wants”, Saakashvili told reporters. According to him, the Georgian prime minister, who has predicted that Saakashvili will be gaoled following his term in office, is the Russian president’s accomplice.

At the same time, Saakashvili said that he and Ivanishvili can only be judged by the Georgian people. “We shall see who will be arrested. I am not a zebra or one of Ivanishvili’s pets that can be caught and thrown into a cage. His wish is one thing, but reality is another. The Georgian people will put everything to rights. As for me, history will judge me and not just any old zoo director”, the “Georgia News” quotes the president as saying.

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Timeline of the Runup to an Illegal War

Repost of Alexander Mercouris’ comments at Mark Chapman’s blog and The Russia Debate forum. The original compilation is posted at Mercouris’ blog.

PS. Originally, this space hosted just one of Mercouris’ comments. Now that he has taken the trouble to gather up his output, the least I could do is update it and try to ensure it gets maximum publicity.

Syria – An Illegal Attack Intended to Prevent a UN Investigation

No one should be under any illusions that the attack on Syria which will take place shortly is illegal and is intended to prevent an impartial investigation by the UN inspectors of what actually happened near Damascus.  In the light of the forthcoming attack on Syria and in view of the forthcoming meeting of the Security Council later today (Wednesday 28th August 2013) and of the parliamentary debate in Britain tomorrow (Thursday 29th August 2013) I have decided to post a number of comments I have made on various threads discussing this crisis on the Russia Debate and on Kremlin Stooge that explain this and which set out my views.  I have also published a comment by Anatoly Karlin to which I have responded.

Friday 24th August 2013

The reality is that (NB: contrary at that time to claims by the US government and western media reports – AM) Russia has asked the Syrian government to allow an inspection of the area where the attack was committed and the Syrian government according to the Russian Foreign Ministry and from the tone of the reports carried by Syrian government’s news agency Sana seems to have agreed to this (1, 2).

A point that western media demands for the Syrian government to “allow” the UN inspectors into the area of the gas attack wilfully ignore is that the area where the attack seems to have taken place is rebel controlled.  It is therefore the rebels not the government who control access to it.  The onus should therefore be on them and not just the government to allow the UN inspectors in.

I do not know who carried out these attacks but as many have pointed out if it was the Syrian government then the timing – a year apparently to the day after Obama’s “red lines” speech and just after the UN inspectors arrived in Damascus – would in that case be incredibly stupid to the point of being bizarre.  As has also been correctly pointed out, an attack of this sort now when the government seems to be winning on the battlefield also appears to make little sense.  By contrast one can see why the rebels at a time when they are coming under pressure might want to stage an incident of this sort that they can blame on the government.  I would add that they might also feel a need to shift the spotlight back on them and away from what has been happening in Egypt.

What many people don’t of course know is that if one follows the accounts of the Syrian conflict provided by Sana then one would know that the Syrian government has been alleging incidents of use of chemical weapons by the rebels practically every week for the last few months.  Obviously I have no idea how true these claims are.  However I do find it depressing that the government’s claims of use of chemical weapons by the rebels get no attention whilst rebel claims (such as this one) get saturation coverage.  There is no reason to give greater credence to any side in this war but there is at least some corroboration of rebel use of chemical weapons: not just the famous comments of Carla del Ponte but also an incident when some rebels were discovered in Turkey in possession of a sarin gas canister a few months ago.  News of that incident was suppressed even though it was accompanied by stories that a gas attack on a Turkish town that would be blamed on the Syrian government was planned.

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James Kirchick: Vapid, Bloviating Troll

james-kirchikHe got invited to RT to talk about Bradley Manning and his impending sentence. The gay journalist James Kirchick got invited to argue his viewpoint that Manning wa a traitor who deserved to be put to death. (I wonder what his newfound liberal groupies would make of that?).

Instead, he used his airtime to go off on a tirade about how Russia has criminalized homosexuality (no, it hasn’t – but who cares about facts?) and to recycle all the canards about how RT is a Kremlin mouthpiece.

His rant lasted a whole two minutes, before RT’s host – having failed to steer Kirchick back on topic – finally kicked him off the channel. After rudely hijacking the show, the troll even had the gall to complain that RT wouldn’t pay for his taxi ride back.

There are many things one can say of this episode. One can highlight Kirchik’s sheer rudeness, chutzpah, and presumption. One can point out that Kirchick is only preaching to his own crowd here, while doing his utmost to validate the stereotype of the hystrionic homo as far as people who don’t much like homosexuals and need to be persuaded otherwise – that is, the majority of Russians – are concerned. Alternatively, one can note that Nikolai Alexeyev, the leader of Russia’s LGBT movement, basically calls him out as a hypocrite and then pens an article for RT with his own, far more nuanced views on the challenges facing the LGBT community in Russia.

I for one will note that if cutting off someone for incessant trolling makes RT a Kremlin mouthpiece, then…

… what does this make the “free” Western media?

Translation: Going on the Campaign Trail with Navalny

According to gazeta.ru’s Olga Kuzmenkova tagging him, Navalny has a popular style and likes asking resonant questions, such as why Russia, despite its petrodollars, only builds as many railways in a year as China does in a week.

“Where are my factories? Where is my Cosmos?”

“Gazeta.Ru” observed Alexei Navalny as he went about meeting Zelenograd voters.

“Gazeta.Ru” continues a series of reports, “One day with a candidate for mayor of Moscow”. On Thursday, the correspondent of the publication, along with the candidate Alexei Navalny, underwent three meetings with voters in Zelenograd. If the opposition does not withdraw from the elections by September 8, he will have spent more than a hundred meetings with supporters. The “Gazeta.Ru” correspondent explains how Navalny campaigns.

“I thought that after a 25 minute delay, the maximum I could expect would be rotten tomatoes … And you applaud me”, said Alexei Navalny when he turned up in front of those who attended the next voter meeting with. In the whole campaign, this was the first time that he had been late. The candidate for mayor of Moscow had been a victim of traffic problems: on the way to Zelenograd his car had got stuck in a “grandiose traffic jam.” “A bus crashed into a trolley bus”, said Navalny, who was clearly uncomfortable about having been forced to wait. “And then there was no trolleybus to Pyatnitskoy”, said one of the standing women, good-naturedly.

Navalny started his election speech with saying that for him Zelenograd is a special place. “Here, my mother was born; my grandfather is buried here; as a child, I regularly went to my relatives here and spent a lot of time”, said the candidate. Having achieved the first of approving nods from the audience, Navalny went set to work.

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Translation: Did Navalny Fail to Reach an “Understanding”?

Izvestia’s Sergey Podosenov queries political experts as to why a new case has been launched against Navalny. The concensus is that he is becoming too popular, or violated informal understandings.

Navalny Violated Informal Arrangements

“Izvestia” sources talk about the background of the Prosecutor General Office attack upon the opposition leader.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky is known to have asked the prosecutor’s office the other day to check the sources of Alexei Navalny’s campaign funding. The Liberal Democrat opposition leader suspects about 20 million rubles have been raised, including money received from abroad. The Prosecutor General’s Office has confirmed that some of the money transferred on the internet by Navalny’s associates using foreign IP-addresses.

“Through the electronic payment system ‘Yandex.Money’ more than 300 foreign legal entities and individuals, as well as anonymous donors from 46 countries (including the United States, Finland, the UK, Switzerland and Canada) using 347 IP-addresses have transferred to Navalney’s electronic wallet as well as to those of his campaign staff N.N. Lyaskina, K.S. Jankauskas and V.L. Ashurkova money for Alexei Navalny’s election campaign as candidate for mayor of Moscow”, said Minister Yuri Chaika.

Since the law prohibits the anonymous and foreign funding of political activity, the investigation results were sent to the Interior Ministry in order to determine whether a criminal charge be made.

Navalny himself responded by indicating that the foreign IP-addresses of senders does not say anything about their citizenship. A similar opinion was expressed by the ‘Yandex.Money’ press service:

“We cannot understand by what parameters the Prosecutor General’s Office drew the conclusion that foreigners are involved … For example, if you are on holiday in Italy and are sending money from there, you still remain a Russian citizen: the ruble transfer is considered to be a domestic one.

“Be that as it may, having become involved in a matter involving the foreign funding of Navalny’s campaign, the Prosecutor General will see the matter through to the very end, namely in court”, said a Kremlin source. But Navalny will not be granted such a gift as being withdrawn from the election: that, according to the source, would not be in Sergei Sobyanin’s interests, who has already done much so as to ensure that his opponent will be able participate in the elections.

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Translation: The 35 Cyber-Friends of Navalny

35 CEO’s of Russian Internet companies have signed a public letter supporting Navalny in return for his promise to ensure accountability and the rule of law.

Navalny’s 35 Friends

Small businesses get involved in politics.

Thirty-five representatives of Internet businesses are to speak publicly in support of the candidate for post of Moscow mayor, Alexei Navalny. This is a precedent, as “equidistanced oligarch” businesses used not to openly try to support the opposition.

A group of 35 Internet entrepreneurs has launched a manifesto in support of Navalny. “Instead of voting from our hearts, we have made a socio-political contract”, they wrote. “Our support is not an act of charity. We expect the protection of the rule of law from Navalny, support for independent courts, and real accountability of public officials. For our part, we will support Navalny’s policy by means of our reputation and our financial, organizational and other resources.”

“The Contract” has been signed signed by the founders/owners/top managers of, amongst others: The Internet-shop “Vikimart” (Camille Kurmakaev and Maxim Faldin); the discount service Groupon and the educational portal Eduson.tv (Elena Masolova); HeadHunter.ru (Yuri Virovets); the publishing house “Mann, Ivanov and Ferber” (Mikhail Ivanov); the polling site Votepoller (Valentin Preobrazhensky); and Sports.ru (Dmitry Navosha).

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Map of Natural Population Growth in the Former USSR in 2012

H/t AP for this beauty. It is for 2012.

natural-population-growth-ussr-2012

[Click to enlarge].

It speaks for itself so comprehensively that I’m not sure it’s worth commenting further on my part here. Let’s leave that to the comments section.

Russia’s Demographics Continue to Steadily Improve

Here it is, for those who read Russian. The May data also has emigration data, which is not included in the prelimary estimates – that is here.

The main points to take away:

  • Births fell 0.3% and deaths fell 0.5%; as a result, the overall natural decrease has fallen from -57,000 in 2012 to -53,000 in 2013.
  • This is amply compensated for by the 101,000 net immigration for Jan-May 2013.
  • Russia’s population is estimated to have risen from about 143.3m at the end of 2012 to 143.4 now, with the fertile summer months still ahead. Overall, we can reasonably expect that as with last year, zero natural population growth and 250,000-300,000 net immigrants will enable Russia to eke out another small if solid population increase to 143.5-143.6m by year-end.
  • In per capita terms, the birth rate remained steady at 12.7/1000 as did the death rate at 13.5/1000.
  • These figures are, of course, for the first half of the year; in the second half, births tend to rise while mortality falls (more Russians die during the winter). In 2012, the birth rate and death rate both converged to 13.3/1000 by year-end. Barring unexpected shocks, roughly the same thing should happen this year.

And now, a brief regional comparison:

  • The situation in Ukraine is significantly worse. For Jan-May, the birth rate was at 10.3/1000 while the death rate was at 15.3/1000. Relative to the previous year, births fell while deaths remained steady.
  • In Belarus the birth rate for Jan-Jun is at 12.0/1000, while the death rate is at 13.8/1000. The death rate increased slightly from the previous year, while the birth rate increased significantly.
  • Caution should be used in interpreting these figures. In particular, Ukraine and Belarus don’t, of course, have vigorous minorities in the Caucasus and southern Siberia as does Russia – who make up a small but certainly non-negligible fraction of its population.
  • In particular, comparing Belarus with Russia’s Central region or Pskov, as would only be fair, it comes off looking very good indeed.
  • Ukraine however is definitely falling behind, especially considering that it too has a vigorous minority (of sorts) in the three westernmost oblasts which have a different demographic pattern to the rest of the country. Basically, there is no equivalent in either Russia (maybe a couple of particularly run down oblasts), Belarus, or probably anywhere else in the post-Soviet space for the very low birth rates and high death rates that characterize most of Ukraine’s eastern and central regions.

Apart from that:

  • The pattern of Russian mortality continues to get better, with deaths from external causes (aka the worst kind) falling most rapidly as has been the pattern of late. But deaths from alcohol poisoning, though still falling, are beginning to fall less rapidly. Could it be tied with more moonshine production in the wake of the big excise rises on vodka seen in the past few months?
  • The only major disease categories that saw increases in mortality are deaths from lung-related disease and from other causes. This might be tied to the unusually harsh winter seen this year (more elderly tend to die in hard winters, of the above causes).

Translation: Provincial Court Grants Victory to Gay Partners

The Gryaz city court in Lipetsk oblast has voided a Saint-Petersburg registrar’s refusal to accept the intention of Dmitry Chunosov and Jaroslav Yevtushenko to get a same sex marriage.

In the Lipetsk region gays win a court decision in their favour

Today the Gryaz City Court declared the refusal to register a same-sex marriage to be illegal.

Today the Gryaz City Court held a hearing in the civil case of St. Petersburg residents Dmitry Chunosov and Jaroslav Yevtushenko that challenge the refusal of a St. Petersburg registry office to accept their declaration of intent to marriage.

Before starting the process, it turned out that in fact today in Gryaz were being heard two lawsuits made by supporters of same-sex love. 21-year-old Ilmira Shayhraznova and 23-year-old Elena Yakoleva had also tried to apply for a marriage in Moscow, but were refused and decided to challenge this in Gryaz, their registered place if residence.

Today in Russia will be filed another lawsuit to ban same-sex marriage. It is expected that it will take place in a Moscow court.
There was also was also awaiting Chunosov and Yevtushenko another surprise at the Gryaz city court: paratroopers tried to get into the building, claiming that the both the legal action and the people that had submitted it were obnoxious. However, none of the paratroopers, who were celebrating Paratroopers Day, had no passport, and were not allowed into the court. 10 paratroopers remained outside in the street, where they intend to picket the court.

The correspondent of portal Gorod48.ru has stated that at the end of the trial LGBT representatives called a taxi to the Gryaz court entrance.

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