Why Obama made friends with Cuba?

I was, of course, delighted when Barack Obama announced the sudden and dramatic imprvement of relations between the United States and Cuba.

As for pretty much everyone else, the news seemed to me to come out of the blue; I hadn’t been aware that Obama had previously been interested in Cuba. Indeed, I’m not really aware of any previous statements from him about the issue.

Reading through the news reports, I see a curious absence: any suggestion of an answer to the most obvious questions – Why? Why now, after so many decades? Why now, when Obama has so many other pressing issues before he leaves office?. Even more interesting, there’s no indication that anyone in the mainstream media has pursued these questions with any great effort.

I have a theory about this. See what you think…

Continue reading

So it’s been a while…

An email dropped into my inbox today: do I want to buy the .com version of my domain? Well, thanks, not just now. Thanks for asking, though.

I am genuinely grateful, because that email reminded me that this blog still existed! I’ve been keeping up my blogs on Chinese and Russian martial arts, but this domain had dropped so far off my radar I’d forgotten I had it…

This blog, though… Well, back in 2013 when I was looking to exit from Swansea University, I looked into freelance consulting and started to put together a website. Updated it a bit while I was in Russia. Since I never promoted it, it never led to anything beyond a couple of hits on blog posts. When I moved to China, it became irrelevant, and to be honest I completely forgot about it…

So, now that I’ve been reminded about it, what to do with it? The old content, long since of date has gone. The blog’s the only part worth keeping.

I’d still like to do something with my copy of Suvorov, which I brought with me to China. Events in the wider world have moved on quickly, and I’ve been in some heated debates recently about Russia, which raised issues I could usefully develop…

Hmmm. Let’s think about that.

A roof with a view

 
roofwithview
 

I’ve been back in Beijing for six months now.

Russia was fantastic. I don’t know that I will fully review my time there in this forum, but during the fifteen months that I lived in St. Petersburg, I met some great people, and truly value being able to see the world – at least to some extent – through Russian eyes. St. Petersburg itself is a beautiful city, and I really don’t feel that I’ve done it justice; there’s so much there that I wasn’t able to explore. Working as an English teacher means extremely antisocial hours, and not a great deal of money; I feel I have a lot of unfinished business in Piter but, if (when) I go back, it’ll be on a different basis.

So, here I am in China once more.

Continue reading

The art of war and the science of victory

373px-Joseph_Kreutzinger_-_Alexander_Suvorov

One reason for taking my MBA in Singapore was that most of my fellow-students would be coming from India, China, and south-east Asia; I would be learning from them all kinds of invaluable cultural experiences and insights. That also happened in the classroom: as well as the normal MBA fodder taught in every business school everywhere, Nanyang Business School offered a course in Sun Zi’s Art of Strategy, taught brilliantly by Professor Wee Chow Hou, an authority on the application of Sun Zi’s insights to business strategy and management.

Continue reading

Thought provocations

IMG_20140804_225459_0 The famous White Nights are over for this year, and it’s no longer light at midnight. The nights are lengthening rapidly: the sun is now shining through my apartment windows at 7:45am. Only ten days or so ago it was 4am, so this development pleases me mightily. It’s a reminder that things change very rapidly in St. Petersburg, and very soon we’ll be plunged into the sunless winter freeze.

A few nights ago I sat on a cafe terrace close to my apartment, and over the course of a couple of hours – and a couple of beers – saw the moon spin from the far left of the colonnade in front of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, up behind the dome, and down again to the far right of the colonnade. I don’t recall ever seeing the moon move through the sky so quickly. IMG_20140804_230019_0 Like the moon, world events are shifting quickly, but that’s for another post. Still, there’s time to take pleasure in higher things, like art, and interesting people. Continue reading

A different perspective

IMG_20140729_223435_0

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been on the move. The lease on my Soviet-era flat in Primorskaya ran out, and I’ve moved into a new studio apartment right in the centre of historic St. Petersburg. The availability didn’t quite match, so I had to spend a couple of weeks living out of my suitcases in a temporary apartment in Dekabrovista Ulitsa, just around the corner from St. Isaac’s Cathedral. This is one reason why I haven’t posted any updates for a while – but not the only one! I’ve been setting up some online learning systems, and listening to what my students would like the world to know about their country…

Continue reading

Weekly retrospective 18-05-2014

Last week was back to work after my holidays, never a pleasant experience.

What with one thing and another, I haven’t had time to do much exploring. The weather has turned very warm, and most business buildings have now turned their air-conditioning on.

Stepping out from a frosty air-con environment to feel hot sun and hot air is an experience that suddenly took me back a few years, to when I was delivering training at Nokia in Singapore – though St Petersburg’s air doesn’t have a ‘defining feature’ like the mingled smells of vegetation, incense, and food that I associate with Singapore, or the acrid tang of charcoal that will forever be for me the smell the Wudaokou chuan’r environment in Beijing.

Continue reading

Weekly retrospective 11-05-2014

 

IMG_20140509_151607_0
The big event of the week was of course Friday: May 9th, Victory Day – the anniversary of the Second World War. 20 million Soviet citizens died during the war; the overwhelming scale of their loss, and of their overwhelming contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany often isn’t sufficiently acknowledged in the West.

That said, Victory Day turned out to be quite different to what I had expected. I knew there would be military parades; I’ve seen them on YouTube, and I remember from news programs when I was young how Kreminologists would study them carefully to see who was standing where on the podium outside the Kremlin to take the salute, and whether there was any new military technology on display.

So, I had a mental image of a show of military strength crossed with Britain’s Armistice Day tributes: a solemn, restrained day, spent in quiet remembrance.

Continue reading

Weekly retrospective 04-05-2014

IMG_20140502_142552_0

 

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.

Another delayed post, this time due to having visitors. It’s been great to have been exploring St. Petersburg for a few days, and getting to see some areas and sights that were new to me. It’s been a week in which I learned a lot of things that astonished me, some of which inspire me, and others which appall me.

Continue reading