January 2008

What is it with the adverts?

by Limbic on January 31, 2008

Some members might have noticed that the blog, forum and Wiki all now have Google Adsense advertisements. Does this mean that the Belgrade FVC is now a profit making commercial enterprise? Definitely not.

My reasoning is that the adverts are fairly unobtrusive and discrete, but provide a small but useful income to cover the operating costs of the BGFVC.

So far costs massively outweigh income of any sort. In the event they even come close, I will keep a full account on an online spreadsheet. Any surplus earnings will be put in the BGFVC charitable projects fund for use as we see fit.

If anyone has any objections to this, please let me know.

Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club



I found this book in a charity bookshop in Ealing. I bought the book because I liked the cheesy cover and every South African has a fascination with Shaka Zulu.

I was surprised to find myself enjoying the little book, and I finished it in one sitting on the plane to Belgrade from London.

The books introduction tells the story of a young consultant with a very tough gig at a well established South African corporation. The problems in the company stem from poor leadership. Whilst complaining to his wife about the impossibility of his task, she reminds him of a family heirloom – a diary written by his grandfather at the turn of the 20th century which reveal the leadership secrets of Africa’s greatest emperor Shaka Zulu. He rushes to the family home and reads the diary.

The bulk of the book is the diary itself, written by the Oxford educated Phinda Mzwakhe Madi, the author’s grandfather.

It recounts a series of encounters with Shaka’s aunt and eventually murderer Nobelungu. She recounts Shaka’s rise and fall – and most importantly his leadership secrets – which help young Madi overcome his foes and problems related to setting u the first newspaper in Zululand.

The 10 Principles are:

1. Build a sense of Mission
2. Mission is more important than convention
3. To be a conqueror, be apprenticed to a conqueror
4. Lead the charge (from the front)
5. Build a fanatical team
6. Go where angels fear to tread
7. be a good strategist (or get one)
8. Know the battlefield (better than the enemy)
9. Be obsessed with world-class technologies
10. Never believe your own PR

I groaned when I read this list. They sound like the usual leadership clich?s. There are however a few gems in the text and an genuinely interesting take on some of these themes.

The best advice, and the wisdom Nobelungu considered the most important, was the last: Never believe your own PR. Shaka, who was adored by his people, eventually became a figure of hate who nearly destroyed everything he had build after he became convinced he was a demi-god. Eventually his team – the very people he has brought together to help him achieve his mission of unifying the African people – had to kill him to preserve what was left of his achievements.

The book is available on Amazon.co.uk.


Physiognomy and success

by Limbic on January 29, 2008

Thin Slicing at work in the corporate world as the Economist declares “What the boss looks like determines how he performs”.

This may sound like voodoo. Psychologists spent much of the 20th century denigrating the work of 19th-century physiognomists and phrenologists who thought the shapes of faces and skulls carry information about personality. However, recent work has shown that such traits can, indeed, be assessed from photographs of faces with a reasonable accuracy.

…These findings suggest that instant judgments by the ignorant (nobody even recognised Warren Buffett) are more accurate than assessments made by well-informed professionals. It looks as if knowing a chief executive disrupts the ability to judge his performance.

Sadly, the characteristics of likeability and trustworthiness appear to have no link to company profits, suggesting that when it comes to business success, being warm and fuzzy does not matter much (though these traits are not harmful). But this result also suggests yet another thing that stockmarket analysts might care to take into account when preparing their reports: the physog of the chief executive.

Physiognomy and success | Face value | Economist.com


Document Depth Charges

by Limbic on January 28, 2008

I was the victim of my own booby trap today.  My translator was baffled by a NOC Manager Job Description which specified one of their duties as “preventing the company hologram AI from achieving singularity and sparking WWIIII” (see an actual screen grab of her document above).

You see I sometimes seed my documents with jocular “depth charges” – deliberate mistakes or jokes –  to see if people are actually reading them. Where sign-offs are required, I find that people are much more attentive if they know that there is a depth charge that is there for them to discover and report.

This time I forgot to remove it from the archived version and have now advertised myself as a loon but if you want to make sure your people actually read what they are required to read, make sure they are looking out for your “test”.

Now I am off to investigate reports a  “talking printer” that claims it is the “company AI”.


Ten tips for improving posture and ergonomics

by Limbic on January 20, 2008

From Spine-health.com:

“Over time, poor posture may be caused by habits from everyday activities such as sitting in office chairs, looking at the computer, driving, standing for long periods of time, or even sleeping. Poor posture can easily become second nature, causing or aggravating episodes of back pain and damaging spinal structures. Fortunately, the main factors affecting posture and ergonomics are completely within one’s ability to control and are not difficult to change.

The following guidelines suggest several ways to improve posture and ergonomics, especially for people who work sitting in an office chair for most of the day. “


W. Heath Robinson

by Limbic on January 16, 2008

From Wikipedia: “William Heath Robinson (May 31, 1872 – September 13, 1944) was an English cartoonist and illustrator, who signed himself W. Heath Robinson. He is best known for drawings of eccentric machines and “Heath Robinson” has entered the language as a description of any unnecessarily complex and implausible contraption.

Loved a cartoon he drew during WW1, look out for “Cracking Nuts for the Officers Mess”.


Unbelief is one community

by Limbic on January 14, 2008

This is attributed to the Prophet Mohammed. I heard it listening to an excellent GreyLodge Podcast interview with Joel Gilbert, writer and director of Farewell Israel: Bush, Iran, and the Revolt of Islam . It seems to me like the perfect catchphrase or motto for Humanists or Atheists.


European Union Battlegroups

by Limbic on January 12, 2008

“European Union battlegroups (EU BGs) are military forces of 1500 combat soldiers under the control of the European Union. There are currently fifteen, mostly multi-national groups who rotate actively so that two are ready for deployment at any one time.

The battlegroups reached full operational capacity on 1 January 2007. They are based on existing ad hoc missions that the Union has undertaken and has been described by some as a new “standing army” for Europe.[1] In 2004, Kofi Annan welcomed the plans and emphasised the value and importance of the battlegroups in helping the UN deal with troublespots. [Source: European Union Battlegroups – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

A discussion about these battlegroups and their possible uses is underway at MilitaryPhotos.net.

In another EU related thread at MilitaryPhotos.net they are discussing the massive constitutional changes introduced under the radar by the Lisbon Treaty, these include:

1. It establishes a legally new European Union in the constitutional form of a supranational European State.
2. It empowers this new European Union to act as a State vis-a-vis other States and its own citizens.
3. It makes us all citizens of this new European Union.
4. To hide the enormity of the change, the same name – European Union – will be kept while the Lisbon Treaty changes fundamentally the legal and constitutional nature of the Union.
5. It creates a Union Parliament for the Union’s new citizens.
6. It creates a Cabinet Government of the new Union.
7. It creates a new Union political President.
8. It creates a civil rights code for the new Union’s citizens.
9. It makes national Parliaments subordinate to the new Union.
10. It gives the new Union self-empowerment powers.

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Google GrandCentral

by Limbic on January 11, 2008

Love the look of GrandCentral, the definitive follow-me number/voicemail/contacts application from Google. It is not yet available in the UK or Serbia, but I am really looking forward to it.

Features include:

  • Screen Callers – Know who’s calling and screen unknown callers
  • ListenIn – Hear why someone is calling before taking the call
  • Call Record – Record calls on the fly and access recordings online
  • Block Callers – Unwanted callers won’t be able to reach you anymore
  • Notifications – Receive voicemail notifications via email or SMS
  • Ring Different Phones – One number that rings different phones based on who’s calling
  • Greetings – Personalize your voicemail greetings by caller or group
  • Ring Share – Go beyond the ring and choose ring back tones for your callers
  • Web Call Button – Let people call you from a web page without showing your number
  • Call Switch – Switch phones in the middle of a call
  • Click2Call – Call from your address book and save your typing
  • Mobile Access = Visual voicemail for your mobile phone

GrandCentral: The New Way to Use Your Phones


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Lame duck? What lame duck?

by Limbic on January 7, 2008

From the ever superb Ivo at The Spike:

2007 turned out to be a pretty good year for George W. Bush.

Late last year, voters turfed Republicans out of Congress over either lack of spending restraint or dissatisfaction with progress in Iraq or both, depending who you ask. (Robert Novak: war; Alan Greenspan: spending; Rush Limbaugh: both, and liberals suck; Reason magazine: both, and government sucks.)

This electoral loss, which meant Bush could no longer rely on a compliant Congress to send him only bills he likes, merely reinforced the view that Bush now is a lame duck, unable to govern effectively. (CNN: Is Bush already a lame duck?; Lou Dobbs: Beware the lame duck; The Guardian: ‘Lame duck’ Bush faces struggle to push through new agenda; The Telegraph: Allies desert ‘lame duck president’; Dan Froomkin: How lame a duck?)

A few voices ran against the media herd, but looked like wishful thinkers. (Christian Science Monitor: Bush’s lame-duck advantage.)

But on Friday, Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal, and Steve Huntley of the Chicago Sun-Times (apparently independently) noted that Bush hasn’t had a bad 2007 at all. Moore’s item is worth quoting in its entirety…

Read on at The Spike