Changes Afoot

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Apologies to anyone who has had trouble accessing this blog in the past few days. I have been switching over to a new system, so things might have been a bit odd. I think everything is up and working now.

The most important change is the URL: my address is now fluenthistorian.com, NOT blog.fluenthistorian.com. The latter should redirect to the former, but you probably ought to update your bookmarks and links anyway. :)

How To Do Research

I found on an anonymous professor’s blog (sorry I don’t have a link; I can’t find one) a very interesting quote. She was talking about her next book that she’s started writing and said that she has a massive document full of quotes from the books she has read to do research.

Is this how to do proper academic research? Seriously, when I read that, a light bulb went off in my head. I have done annotated bibliographies in classes before. Somehow I never considered using them for my own research. My way of doing research is actually dreadfully inefficient, so I think I will try this new way for my Super Secret Research Project that I want to start on (but have zero time for at the moment).

A Crime Against Humanity

This, my friends, is a crime against humanity:

isis support

I found it via Anatoly’s Twitter and I am appalled. Yes, I know the French figure is high—but even the German figure is appalling. In a decent, civilized society, ISIS should have a negligible amount of support (like a tiny fraction of a percent, if that).

I despair for Western Europe if these figures are indeed true. And I am disgusted.

The Dinner Party

Tonight was the much-anticipated dinner party. I was a bit apprehensive that it would awkward or strange or not fun, but it was amazing. A few bank executives were there and it was nice to meet them. The food was excellent and I really enjoyed talking to everyone. I’m exhausted now and probably will be very tired at work tomorrow, but it was well worth it.

Busiest Week Ever

Ugh, this is the busiest week ever, people. We have a ton of stuff to do at work and a dinner tonight at an executive’s house. It’s to welcome everyone in my program to our new city. He said we can dress casually, but I feel like it’s almost sacrilegious to meet with an executive while not wearing a suit. I know it’s after work hours, but still.

Sunday Night Music: A Mozart Violin Concerto On The Double Bass

I found a very cool video on YouTube of a performance of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219 on the double bass. I’ve played this concerto with my teacher before, so I was interested to see how Catalin Rotaru, the bass player, would handle some of the passages.

He did not disappoint. This is a very fascinating rendition. It’s so interesting to hear it played on a different instrument, but about three octaves lower. I still maintain that the third movement sounds best on violin, but as a violinist, I am more than a bit biased. :)

A little bit about the piece: Violin Concerto No. 5, which is nicknamed ‘Turkish’ due to a passage in the third movement, was Mozart’s last concerto written for solo violin (Nos. 6 and 7 are of dubious authorship and most music scholars agree that Mozart did not write them). He was nineteen years old when he wrote it and I desperately wish he had continued to write violin concerti so that I’d have more of them to play!

Why I’m Not Renewing My Foreign Policy Subscription

Shout out to Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Lavrov, who made it onto an FP cover.

Shout out to Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Lavrov, who made it onto an FP cover.

Last fall, I was fortunate enough to win a contest sponsored by Russia Direct, a great website for all things Russia-related (and it’s written in English!). The prize was a one-year subscription to Foreign Policy, a magazine I’ve read for years. FP recently put up a paywall, forcing readers to sign up for an account. Signing up is free, but the free version gives access to a limited number of articles per month. I was skeptical about this business model—it seemed like it would greatly reduce readership—but I continued to read, thanks to my subscription, which gives me unlimited access.

Over the past year, I occasionally have wondered what would happen when my subscription runs out. I hoped to win another free one from Russia Direct, but so far, no more contests have been offered. In a couple of months, I’ll have to start shelling out $4.99 a month if I want to continue reading FP.

The problem is, I don’t think I want to continue reading it. Once a fantastic magazine, I have recently found FP to have insipid, click-bait articles that offer little real analysis. There are so many other websites out there—Foreign Affairs, The American Interest, The National Interest—that offer the kind of insightful analysis on issues I’m interested in. It could be me, but it seems like FP is trying to cater to a bunch of dilettantes who don’t really know what they’re interested in. I question this strategy, both because catering to dilettantes isn’t the most sound business idea, and because it alienates truly interested readers like me.

And then there’s the website design. Web design is one of those things you don’t notice unless it’s really, really bad and trust me, FP’s new design (I think they rolled it out in 2013, but I could be wrong) is really, really terrible. Not only is it ugly and unintuitive to navigate, it crashes my browser on my iPad about half the time (and freezes my desktop browser on occasion). Simply put, navigating through this insipid design is nothing short of torture sometimes. Even if I liked the content FP published, I still would despise this design.

Once my account is downgraded to the free version, I will be able to read eight articles a month, so not renewing my subscription doesn’t mean I will never, ever read FP again. I’ll try the occasional Russia-related article. I’ll just read the magazine a lot less often. Unless there is a radical editorial policy change at FP, I will be happier spending my valuable reading time elsewhere, where more rigorous analysis is offered.