July 2009

Massive mosquito swarms pestering Belgrade

by Limbic on July 20, 2009

One dead sucker, swatted in Dorcol, July 2009.

One dead sucker, swatted in Dorcol, July 2009.

Belgrade’s already bad mosquito problem has worsened considerably over the last few weeks.

There are more than ever, and they are both bigger and more aggressive than I have ever seen.

Plug in anti-mosquito vapors are useless, although heavy use of aerosol sprays do have some effect.

One cannot leave doors open at night or one risk swarms of them.

Bites can lead to huge swelling, and in one case, to a serious infection.

The problem is the high levels or rain this summer, flooding of the rivers and the authorities only having conducted one anti-mosquito overflight spray this summer.

It is strongly recommended that you buy and use some insect repellent cream over the next few weeks.


Why is There Peace?

by Limbic on July 14, 2009

Stephen Pinker, writing in Greater Good Magazine asks Why is There Peace?

Over the past century, violent images from World War II concentration camps, Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur, Iraq, and many other times and places have been seared into our collective consciousness. These images have led to a common belief that technology, centralized nation-states, and modern values have brought about unprecedented violence.

Our seemingly troubled times are routinely contrasted with idyllic images of hunter-gatherer societies, which allegedly lived in a state of harmony with nature and each other. The doctrine of the noble savage—the idea that humans are peaceable by nature and corrupted by modern institutions—pops up frequently in the writing of public intellectuals like, for example, Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, who argued that “war is not an instinct but an invention.”

But now that social scientists have started to count bodies in different historical periods, they have discovered that the romantic theory gets it backward: Far from causing us to become more violent, something in modernity and its cultural institutions has made us nobler. In fact, our ancestors were far more violent than we are today. Indeed, violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species’ time on earth.


Is Evolutionary Psychology Misunderstood?

by Limbic on July 10, 2009

Ionian Enchantment links to a recent post by one of my favourite thinkers, David Sloan Wilson, in the Huffington Post. He helpfully quotes the best bits, reproduced here:

How did the blueprint offered by Cosmides and Tooby go wrong? Let me count the ways: 1) They portrayed the mind as a collection of hundreds of special-purpose modules that evolved to solve specific problems in the EEA. 2) Their conception of the EEA was limited to the range of environments occupied by humans during their evolution as a species, which they acknowledged to be diverse. However, it did not stretch back in time to include primate, mammalian and vertebrate adaptations; nor did it stretch forward to include rapid genetic evolution since our hunter-gatherer existence. 3) They emphasized a universal human nature, or rather separate male and female natures, while minimizing the importance of adaptive genetic variation that cuts across both sexes. 4) They dismissed open-ended, domain-general psychological processes as a theoretical impossibility, creating a polarized worldview with “Evolutionary Psychology” at the positive end and “The Standard Social Science Model (SSSM)” at the negative end; 5) Their blueprint had almost nothing to say about culture as an open-ended evolutionary process that can adapt human populations to their current environments. They did not deny the possibility of transmitted culture, but they had almost nothing to say about it. Their most important point was that what seems like transmitted culture can instead be an expression of genetically programmed individual behavioral flexibility (evoked culture).

…Evolution is here to stay as a theory that can help us understand the human condition, along with the rest of the living world. With understanding comes the capacity for improvement. This is not just an idle intellectual pursuit but has consequences for the solution of real-world problems, so the sooner we can advance our understanding the better. One reason that we are just starting is because the term “evolution” became stigmatized early in the 20th century, in the same way that terms such as “sociobiology” and “evolutionary psychology” tend to become stigmatized today. This problem can be avoided by distinguishing particular schools of thought from the more general theory, so that the former can be accepted or rejected on their own merits without questioning the merits of the latter.

Whilst you are on the subject, check out the dispatches by Daniel Dennett who is attending the Darwin celebration at Cambridge University, and sent some  report from the two symposia on faith and religion.


Bruce Sterling on the next decade

by Limbic on July 10, 2009

Favela chic, Studies in Atemporality, Old as New and many other brilliant insights and observations.

Also see his amazing “Notes for a projected science fiction novel


The World in Nuclear Weapons

by Limbic on July 10, 2009


“Which country has the most nukes? How many missiles could the US launch? How many bombs does Russia have? These are the latest figures”? See The world in nuclear weapons | News | guardian.co.uk


The Resilience Doctrine

by Limbic on July 10, 2009

David Steven and Alex Evans have a new article out in World Politics Review where they present “The Resilience Doctrine“. They argue that ” globalization is both unstable and inevitable, and that governments have little choice but to build collaborative platforms to manage risk…[and] conclude with a dozen guidelines for building an international system fit for the 21st century”.

Here are the guidelines summarised by the authors:

  • Develop a doctrine with resilience at its heart, using it to create a unified narrative about how to manage the risks the world will face between now and 2030.
  • Start with the ultimate objective of building and protecting global systems, cultivating a new constitution for the society of states.
  • Create incentives for connecting to the international system and increase penalties for exclusion. Avoid disrupting the global order for short-term gain.
  • Focus on function (what systems need to deliver in order to manage risk) over form (the organogram that devotees of international politics obsess over).
  • Build the global institutions (rules, norms, markets, organizations, etc.) needed to deliver these functions. Aim for a shared operating system capable of managing each key risk.
  • Invest in mechanisms that create, analyze and debate solutions, delivering the shared awareness that underpins successful reform.
  • Build shared platforms on which state and non-state actors can work together to re-engineer systems. Sustain them over the long periods needed to battle for systemic change.
  • Use open standards to foster interoperability, allowing networks of organizations to work together and achieve elevated rates of innovation and learning.
  • Develop a theory of influence tailored to the modern age and use it to bind together all the instruments of international relations (diplomacy, development, military).
  • Apply a rigorous principle of subsidiarity, devolving responsibilities to regional, national and local levels where possible, thus maximizing resilience throughout the system.
  • Use the opportunity to reform national governments, increasing their openness, while reducing the scope of their mission so that they do less, better.
  • Be accountable for outcomes, using shared metrics and external assessors to report publicly on whether resilience is increasing for those risks that will mean most to the future of our civilization.

From: http://www.globaldashboard.org/2009/07/07/resilience-doctrine/


I Love Realism

by Limbic on July 9, 2009

Inspire me, now!


Silent movie posters

by Limbic on July 9, 2009

ephemera assemblyman: The Silent Film Posters of Peter Kocjančič


“As long as we see rivers as something to be consumed or treated as a dump, we will never be a healthy society” – Peter Gleick writing in AlterNet


Another year, another jet fighter crash

by Limbic on July 7, 2009

Is the airshow jinxed? Another show, another jet crash

[Update: As I suspected, the crash happened during practice for the airshow. The pilot ejected, but his chute failed to open]

From B92 – News – Politics – Pilot, soldier perish in military jet crash

BELGRADE — The pilot and one soldier on the ground were killed when a Serbian Army (VS) MiG-29 crashed near Batajnica airport this morning, the Defense Ministry has said.

According to a statement, one soldier was killed and another slightly injured when the plane hit the ground at around 09:10 this morning.

The crash takes place days before the Belgrade Air Show where the MIG-29 is usually the star attraction.

Last year the air force lost one of its most experienced pilots in a G4 crash before last year’s Belgrade Air Show. The show was delayed as a mark of respect.