December 2009

Famous last words of Craig Lee Duckett

by Limbic on December 31, 2009

Whilst cleaning up my Critical Thinking page I came across this most extraordinary  signing off statement: 

Craig Lee Duckett is my slave name.

For fifty-odd years—”odd” being the definitive term in all twelve of its meanings—I’ve allowed words to slant and skew my view of reality, attributing to them power and importance not supported by the ‘real world’, as if the mere mention of gods and ghosts and goblins was enough to make them existent. No more. In the absence of language such things cannot be found. They are products of the mind, exist only by way of definition, are abstract and artificial entities invoked only from language. This is also true of states, countries, nations, and continents.

The human race is hurting each other, mutilating each other, killing each other because of words in books, because of things that are found nowhere in the ‘real world’, because of imaginary lines in the sand, ink on maps, shapes on paper, sounds manipulated by mouths.

We are a foolish and superstitious species because we impart to words more power and value and importance than our own short and fragile lives. We would rather allow ourselves to suffer or die (or kill or be killed) because of artificial language than to embrace the fundamental realities of our own vibrant flesh and blood.

What the hell are we thinking? Are we even thinking? Or are we allowing culture—religion, politics, ideology, science, economics—to do the thinking for us?

For me, it has finally come down to being quiet and listening to the natural world. I no longer have the need to seek, to ponder, to elucidate, to evince. I am closing all my books, and my mouth. I’m stepping outside and turning my face to the sun, the rain, the wind, whatever the universe has to offer beyond the artifice of man-made scribblings on thin pages in thick books.

No words can express, no words can express, no words can express, that Silence is Golden.

Pax et bonum,

June 17, 2009

Brilliant. So long Craig!


Bosnia’s future is today’s Kosovo

by Limbic on December 31, 2009

Nebojsa Malic has slammed a recent OpEd in The Financial Times by British politicians William Hague and Paddy Ashdown.

He rightly points out that the piece is the usual mix of anti-Serb whinging, alarmism and multicultural wishful thinking.

The thing that caught my eye in the piece was this, a warning about what might happen in Bosnia if seccesionst elements got their way:

What happens in Europe’s backyard matters…The breakdown of the country into independent ethnic statelets would not only reward ethnic cleansing – surely a moral anathema – but would also risk the creation of a failed state in the heart of Europe; a fertile breeding ground for terrorism and crime

Well that sounds like exactly like Kosovo to me.

A little ethnic statelet has been lopped off from a sovreign European state by force. Its minorities (Roma, Gorani, Serbs) ethnically cleansed, and the resulting failed state at the heart of Europe is a fertile breeding ground for both terrorism and crime.

My advice: Ignore people like Ashdown and Hague, men who were actively involved in Bosnia and are trying to justify their actions and legacy. Rather, keep and eye on people like Ian Bancroft, independent journalists and experts who have put in the time in Bosnia and have a much more balanced and fair view.

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Happy 2010

by Limbic on December 31, 2009

Dear readers,

I just wanted to to wish you a very happy and prosperous new year.

Kind regards,



Happy 2010

by Limbic on December 31, 2009

Dear Members and Readers,

We just wanted to wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2010.

Kind regards,

The crew at the Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club

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Kosovo connection to Finnish massacre?

by Limbic on December 31, 2009

The New Years Eve mass murder in the finish city of Espoo, Finland was  carried out by an Albanian illegal immigrant from Kosovo  called Ibrahim Shkupolli.

There are rumours that Shkupolli was a KLA/UCK veteran wanted in Serbia for the massacre of Serbian civilians in Kosovo.

Is there anything in the Serbian media to confirm this link?

[Update 1: B92 is only reporting that Shkupolli is a Kosovo Albanian. Nothing about his alledged KLA links.]

[Update 2: According to AFP – “Shkupolli was born in Kosovska Mitrovica in northern Kosovo. Initial inquiries appeared to indicate that he did not have a criminal record in Serbia, according to Serbian Interior Ministry’s spokeswoman Suzana Vasiljevic.”



The plane you park in the garage

by Limbic on December 15, 2009

This is to aviation what the PC was to computing. 

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Design Thinking

by Limbic on December 13, 2009

I am currently crunching through Steve Litt’s brilliant series of books on Troubleshooting. I am hugely into general problem solving frameworks and his Universal Troubleshooting Process (UTP) is one of my favourites.

Today, whilst clearing my backlog on Instapaper I came across this piece on legendary design firm IDEO. They use a simply process called “Design Thinking” that they claim is at the heart of their stunning successes:

Practically speaking, the approach isn’t complicated. In stages, it goes like this: firstly, immersion, whereby the designers research the problem by plunging themselves into it – talking to the people they’re trying to help, working with them, interviewing experts. Secondly, synthesis – whereby they gather together their findings and look for patterns. Third, ideation – brainstorming solutions to the real problems identified by stage two. Then comes prototyping, making mock-ups of solutions to try out against the problem. After that comes the product. Only at the end, at the prototyping stage, are judgements made; until then, all ideas are given equal weight.

This methodology is radical in that it differs from traditional approaches to business strategy in two key ways. Whereas in many companies the concept for a new product may have already been based on, say, an idea from the marketing department with a designer later brought in to make it look pretty, design thinking places the designer at the heart of the innovation process. Secondly, the methodology gives a firm framework within which a wider team can work. It takes the cliché of the lone creative mind being struck with genius, and replaces it with a process that a whole team can follow. Creativity, therefore, isn’t a thing that magically appears, but a process you work through.

From: Reinventing British manners the Post-It way –

I can see similarities to Ken Watanabe’s simplified problem solving methodology as presented in his best-selling children’s “Problem Solving 101

1. Understand the current situation current (Immersion)
Identify root cause (Sythesis)
Develop an effective action plan (Ideation)
Execute until solved, making modifications as necessary (Prototyping)


You can also see similarities between IDEO’s framework and Dan Roam’s framework for proble  solving through visual thinking as outlined in “The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures“. In the book Roam explores a four stage process for solving any problem with visual thinking:

1. Look (Immerse/ Understand)
2. See (sythesis / Identify patters / root cause)
3. Imagine (Ideation / Plan)
4. Show (Prototype / Execute)

How do these map to the Universal Troubleshooting Process (UTP)?

The UTP shares the core troubleshooting steps with the other three (3, 4,6,7 and 8), but it has some seemingly anachronous and superfluous steps (1,2,5,9 and 10). I say “seemingly” because experience has taught me that the Universal Troubleshooting Process steps are all necessary and in the right order.

It is aimed more at professional, routine troubleshooters and as such addresses the important psychological factors and habits that contribute to long-term effectiveness.

I cannot do this process justice in a few lines, but here is summary:

1. Prepare – This is about having the right attitude and mindset for troubleshooting as well as the required tools, skills and information. For professional troubleshooters (like Technical Support agents) attitude is one of the most important elements in their professional quality and success.
2. Make damage control plan – This is iatrogenic prevention i.e. do not make things worse. If forces you to think of consequences before trying pot luck fixes.
3. Get a complete and accurate symptom description– Here the UTP shares a step with the first principle of the other three (i.e. Look / Immerse/ Understand). In the UTP thi9s is usually achieved by creating a simple block diagram off the problem system so as to understand elements and relationships.
4. Reproduce the symptom This is part of fully understanding and verifying the current situation. You verify the symptoms and measure them.
5. Do the appropriate corrective maintenance – This step is again targeted at professional troubleshooters. So many problems are caused by bad maintenance and fixed by routine maintenance, that often it is worth running the standard best practice maintenance procedures over the system and seeing of that fixes the issue.
6. Narrow it down to the root cause This is the core step. Often it is a process in itself as you look from problem patterns, isolate elements of the system and systematically disqualify them as candidates for root cause. Eventually you generate a most likely root cause hypothesis and proceed to step 7.
7. Repair or replace the defective component Here you generate a plan to test the hypothesis by fixing, replacing or implementing a work-around for the root cause.
8. Test You now apply your fix and test to ensure the problem is indeed solved. 
9. Take pride in your solution – This is another psychologically important steps to help prevent burn-out and boost morale.
10. Prevent future occurrence of this problem – This is simple operational best practice. You learn from your problems, document your solutions and new knowledge, you modify systems and procedures to ensure the problem does not reoccur, or you can respond quickly and effectively.

This universal troubleshooting procedure has been a vital tool for my team and I in beating some extremely tough problems, sometimes involving desperate customers begging us to fix badly broken massively complex undocumented systems and us successfully finding and fixing the root cause problems in 24 hours where the system designers could not succeed for months.

I also heartily recommend the Dan Roam and Ken Watanabe books referred to above. They are both brilliant and accessible.


This is an excerpt from the transcript of a very interesting episode of Radio national (Australia) All In The Mind with Natasha Mitchell on “Climate Change and the Psyche“.

It features an interview with Mike Hulme, founding director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, an organisation described by The Register as “so revered by environmentalists that it could be mistaken for the academic wing of the green movement”. Hulme left the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in 2007 and has since become an “outspoken critic of such sacred cows as the UN’s IPCC, the “consensus”, the over-emphasis on scientific evidence in political debates about climate change, and to defend the rights of so-called “deniers” to contribute to those debates”.

In his new book “Why We Disagree About Climate Change” , he explores the politics, sociology, anthropology and psychology of climate change, something he does not see as “solvable”, but rather something we need to adapt to rationally.

In this interview he illuminates something I have sensed but not been able to word until now: the myth of Themisius as applied to climate change.

[Themisius is] the Greek goddess of natural law and order or justice and
quite often we approach climate change and we quite quickly move into
the arguments around inequality that the rich and northern nations have
been causing the problem but it’s the poorer southern nations who are
most exposed to the consequences of it. And that quite quickly leads to
a very powerful, a very morally driven language and discourse of
justice and equity. And for some people this myth, the myth of
Themisius is actually really what climate change is about. It’s not
about physically trying to stop climate change per se, but it’s about
using climate change to attend to the injustices and the inequalities
and inequities that trouble our world. And again for me this is very
important to recognise this trope of communication.

Here is the an excerpt from the show:

Natasha Mitchell: Leading climate scientist Mike Hulme is Professor of climate change at the University of East Anglia. He was founding director of the acclaimed Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the UK, but as a major contributor to the scientific consensus on climate change his new book Why We Disagree About Climate Change really takes him into new and provocative terrain. He joins me today to discuss mythology, our mental ecology and a changing climate, as will Dr Jonathan Marshall an anthropologist and research fellow at the University of Technology, Sydney who’s just edited a collection of Jungian perspectives on climate change called Depth, Psychology, Disorder and Climate Change in which climate is cast as a struggle with ourselves as much as our physical world with a call to dig deeper into our psyche and our unconscious for new myths and motivations to respond to it. So, starting with Mike Hulme — Mike, why do you argue climate is as much a phenomenon of the mind and culture?Mike Hulme: Yes, well this is where I start off the story, you see, because too often I think stories or books around climate change start off with oh what the scientists have discovered in the last 30 years. I start the story much further back in cultural history because of this ongoing and enduring relationship that humans have had with the weather around them or what we have called climate, which is simply the ensemble of weather experiences.

And it’s very important to start there because to me this is what distinguishes climate change. Climate change is not like the hole in the ozone layer, the depletion of stratospheric ozone, because we’ve never had a cultural relationship with stratospheric ozone. Most people didn’t even know stratospheric ozone was there. But with climate we’ve had millennia of experience and relationships of storytelling and that’s actually why climate change can’t be placed into this box of a technical problem requiring a technical solution. It actually has to be approached through the lens of culture if we are actually going to really understand what it signifies for us and therefore what sort of responses we have to make to it.

Natasha Mitchell: Are there historical stories of climate that particularly stood out for you in your investigations?

Mike Hulme: Well I did a very brief survey of some of the different ways in which different cultures conceive of climate and of course there are indigenous cultures who see in the performance of weather the behaviour and the personality of the gods. The retribution of the gods for immoral behaviour, or the blessing of the gods through weather for good behaviour. And actually that trope is also present in early modern European societies as well. Climate gets endowed with this religious language, this morality, and that shows again how intimate this relationship is between how we see ourselves and our behaviour and our responsibilities and how we think of the performance of the weather.

Natasha Mitchell: …Mike you’ve also drawn out four enduring and interesting myths, myths in an anthropological sense, that you think were used to make sense of and to psychologise about the world and that you think are relevant to climate change. Why have you turned to mythology?

Mike Hulme: Well, yes, that’s right. I’ve not come at this from a professional anthropologist or a psychologist but it just seemed to me as an amateur in this area that actually myths — in the anthropological sense that Jonathan has just been describing — can be
very useful vehicles for helping us to understand why we seem to adopt different positions. And this is one of the things that’s been not concerning me but fascinating me as a researcher, to understand the many different ways we end up talking about climate change. It is not as simple as here is the science that’s telling us what the problem is, here are the policies that could attend to the problem, and let’s get the politicians to implement the policies. That’s a very naïve and linear model which is not adequate.

But myths help us to understand that things are actually much more complicated than that and the four myths that I picked out from what I hear and listen and read in the way that climate change is talked about, is myths that emerge from our instincts, for nostalgia, for fear, of pride and of justice, and I attach labels to these using biblical and Greek mythology. So it’s the myth of Eden which is this sense of having lost something that is innocent, humans are now changing not just their local environment but humans are actually rewriting the entire planetary nature and that concerns us because we feel that in doing so we have lost something that’s important to us.

Natasha Mitchell: And that really casts I guess nature as something pristine and to be protected?

Mike Hulme: Exactly, that it rather is something that is sacred and shouldn’t be contaminated by human activity. And to me that’s a mythical position but it is a very powerful one, I think, that appeals to quite a lot of the discourse that we hear around climate change.

Natasha Mitchell: Well it’s certainly driven much of many environmental philosophies and activists over the decades.

Mike Hulme: That’s right; it appeals to that instinct and is a lament for something that’s been lost. But the second one is rather different although perversely one can hold the two together, the myth of the Apocalypse, this enduring fear of the future, because the future has always been unknown to humans and always will be unknown to humans. Something that gives us new cause for anxiety and worry it can be a very powerful myth — the Apocalypse — and the language that we do sometimes hear around climate change: eight years before the end of the world, catastrophe or tipping points are around the corner. It’s a very powerful way that people do engage with the idea of climate.

Natasha Mitchell: And it’s become a very powerful rhetorical device, again, hasn’t it?

Mike Hulme: It has and we’ve seen it certainly in the run-up to this big international meeting in Copenhagen in a few weeks time. The rhetorical language of expectation for that meeting plays very often to this Apocalyptic myth, that if we don’t get a deal in Copenhagen then we’ve signed a suicide pact — basically all is lost. But I think for many others it can have the opposite reaction in fact, that it is a trope, a mode of a discourse, that is actually disempowering and fatalising that people think well if it really is this bad there’s nothing I can do about it so I may as well just live, drink and be happy. And some of the social behavioural psychology work that we’ve done in the UK suggests that that actually does seem to be quite often the reaction to overplaying this fear of the impending Apocalypse, it doesn’t really engage in behavioural change.

Natasha Mitchell: Well Mike Hulme, one of the myths that you nominate that is about behavioural change is perhaps the Promethean myth. What are you nominating there?

Mike Hulme: Yes, well this is the Greek deity who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to the mortals but in the process lost his way. But it’s trying to get this idea that humans have this desire for mastery and control and we’ve seen it again emerging in many, many episodes of human history and it’s an enduring instinct and enduring desire. And with climate change it plays in the sense that we want to reassert our control, to re-engineer the climate to bring stability back. It’s a little bit like what Jonathan was saying earlier on about the ordering of the world around us, and if we see that there is some chaos or disorder our instinct is to want to try to put order back and we become the masters. And particularly I feel that this is the instinct that is driving some of the new language of climate engineering, these…

Natasha Mitchell: The big geo-engineering efforts…

Mike Hulme: The big geo-engineering efforts to put mirrors in space and aerosols into the stratosphere to create a thermostat for the planet, so we just have to change the thermostat to get the climate that we want. That to me is the ultimate sort of hubris of humans that we can somehow produce that intricate level of control over the natural world. I just don’t — personally I don’t believe that but I do think it’s an important mythic position and I think it does help to explain some of the arguments and language that we hear around climate change.

Natasha Mitchell: What’s your last myth that you nominate? You do nominate a fourth which I find very interesting.

Mike Hulme: Yes, the fourth one is again a very frequently used mythic position when talking about climate change. It’s the myth of Themisius the Greek goddess of natural law and order or justice and quite often we approach climate change and we quite quickly move into the arguments around inequality that the rich and northern nations have been causing the problem but it’s the poorer southern nations who are most exposed to the consequences of it. And that quite quickly leads to a very powerful, a very morally driven language and discourse of justice and equity. And for some people this myth, the myth of Themisius is actually really what climate change is about. It’s not about physically trying to stop climate change per se, but it’s about using climate change to attend to the injustices and the inequalities and inequities that trouble our world. And again for me this is very important to recognise this trope of communication.

Natasha Mitchell: I mean as a climate scientist it’s interesting then to read you when you say the ultimate significance of climate change is ideological and symbolic rather than physical and substantive. Is this the basis upon which you nominate these four myths?

Mike Hulme: Yes, I think this is a position that I’ve come to. Ten years ago I probably wouldn’t have understood myself what I was taking about. But you know after these last three or four years I’ve read much more widely, I’ve appreciated what anthropology, psychology, sociology, philosophy can offer here. And to me this actually now is where we have to take climate change, we have to understand its symbolic significance and use climate change to look back on ourselves, on our own behaviour, on our own values and attitudes, and find ways of mobilising not in a way that will get global agreement, because I don’t believe that we can ever fully reconcile all of these different mythic positions. So I’m not proposing in some sense that we can get a global agreement that will somehow bring in climate change to an end. But I think if we’re going to use the idea of climate change in any creative way, we’ve got to turn this back into understanding ourselves, our behaviour and what drives our different types of behaviours.


Also see: – Prof. Hulme’s home site
Top British boffin: Time to ditch the climate consensus – The Register
‘Show Your Working’: What ‘ClimateGate’ means – BBC (article by Mike Hulme and Jerome Ravetz)
Climategate: Why it matters – The Register
The four myths behind the climate change debate – Richard Chandler for CBS News
Climate fraud kills people – Ivo Vegter for The Daily Maverick. Check out the follow-up “LETTER: Ivo Vegter hits a climate nerve, ‘should be fired’ (and Vegter responds)


Nurture Shock

by Limbic on December 9, 2009

Looking forward to reading this book:

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children By Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman (Twelve)
Why don’t white parents talk about race? Why does praise produce underachievers? This blockbuster draws on years of psychological research to discuss how common knowledge about raising children does the opposite of what we expect. In 10 enthralling essays on topics such as how childhood sleep deprivation influences memory and why kids don’t outgrow lying, it manages to debunk tried-and-true parenting tenets as well as broach the bizarre world of childhood ethics: One study found that children thought that lying was the same as swearing, believing it to be an essentially harmless breach of etiquette rather than a possibly harmful moral transgression. But you don’t need kids to fall under the book’s spell. Combining the fascination of pop psych with rigorous application of science, NurtureShock is more people manual than parenting manual.

Via Books to Read (And Give) Now § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM


“Death Fugue” (1944) by Paul Celan

by Limbic on December 8, 2009

This poem “Death Fugue” (1944) by Paul Celan is compulsory in German schools. Translated by John Felstiner.


Paul Celan is known for the famous quote “Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric”.