January 2010

Summing a table in MS Word

by Limbic on January 28, 2010

Its obvious in retrospect, but for years I have always manually added up figures in columns I was working on in Microsoft Word (e.g. a payment schedule in a contract).

This week I was getting sick of recalculating figures every time I made a change, and googled the problem.

Word Tips has just what I needed: Summing a Table Column .

  1. Click the table cell you want the formula in
  2. Click the Layout tab on the ribbon.
  3. Click the Formula tab in the Data group. Word displays the Formula dialog box.
  4. Insert your formula , default is “=SUM(ABOVE)” which sums all the cells above.
  5. Click on OK.


Are Serbian sports teams “moody”

by Limbic on January 25, 2010

I was in Denmark for Serbia’s recent handball clash with Denmark at the European Championships.

Prior to the match, Danish TV was commenting on how the Serbian team seemed a bit cavalier. They were sitting around smoking and drinking coffees in contrast to the Danes who were all eating salad bars and working out.Do not be complacent, the commentators warned Serbs are great fighters and extremely skilled opponents.

The Serbian team defied expectations, playing slow and listless handball without passion, eventually being beaten easily.

After the match the Danish commentators were puzzling over why Serbia – a nation of great renown in  handball – had allowed itself to be beaten as they were.

One of the commentators then claimed that the Serbian team was a “mood team”, that is, prone having wildly different results based on their mood.

Whilst this is true to some extent of any sportsperson or team, is it particularly true of both Serbian sports stars and teams.

Are Serbian teams moodier than others?


Should Serbia join NATO?

by Limbic on January 18, 2010

Over at Belgraded.com, there is a discussion about a group of 200 “intellectuals” who have asked the Serbian parliament to call a referendum on the country’s possible future NATO membership.

The argue that Serbia is traditionally neutral, that the Kosovo situation precludes Serbia’s NATO membership and that people are against membership and should be given an referendum on the matter.

Here is a slightly modified version of the comment I posted there.

Its clear that the 200 “intellectuals” are nothing of the sort. The list contains artists and sports stars who may be may be intelligent, but not intellectuals as the word is commonly understood.

The self-proclaimed “intellectuals” do have a point about Serbia’s military neutrality. From the time of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia onwards, Serbs have only joined wars after being directly attacked or invaded. During the postwar era Yugoslavia was part of the non-aligned bloc (along with the likes of India and China) and considered neutral (it never joined the Warsaw Pact). NATO war planners actually thought that in the event of WW3, Yugoslavia would side with NATO despite being a socialist country.

The main point, or question, is should Serbia join NATO? If the political elites determine there is a reason to do so, then the question arises as to whether it is a matter for referendum or not. The constitution should dictate the conditions under which the government can take the country into legally binding international agreements that affect the country’s neutrality.

As pointed out by others, the main “reason” for joining NATO might be to signal that Serbia is firmly in the Atlantic camp. NATO is seen as a sort of EU-lite, joining it is one of the stages on the way to full member status in the Western European fold. This of course, is agreeable to Serbian liberals and inimical to Serbian nationalists who look to Russia as the country’s natural and historical ally.

There are benefits to NATO membership. It is a common defence pact, so the fact that Serbia’s military is currently weak means that it may benefit from the umbrella cover of NATO allies.

But I do not think that Serbia should rush into membership. This move requires serious debate and has major geopolitical consequences for Serbia.

Serbia is unique in that it is the only NATO candidate country that was subjected to an illegal war of aggression and civilian bombardment by the organisation.

The “intellectuals” are right, NATO was the military instrument used to violate Serbia’s sovereignty and create the mess that is Kosovo. This fact alone complicates matters significantly because the history of that conflict is still disputed and and it’s consequences are still unsettled.

Joining NATO might be presented as Serbia’s “admission of guilt”.  By joining the organisation that bombed it, some might suggest that Serbia is tacitly accepting that what happened in Kosovo was justified, weakening its current negotiating position. Others will see it as surrender, a case of a beaten and bullied former enemy now agreeing that 2+2=5 and therefore welcomed back to the bosom of the West. A case of state level Stockholm Syndrome.

Other things to keep in mind include the fact that membership implies responsibilities and commitments. Serbs will be promising to fight and die for any member state that is attacked, including Turkey, or America. Serb men and women might end up fighting and dying in Afghanistan, or wherever else NATO decides to get involved.

In addition, joining NATO would anger and isolate Russia, a key ally and economic partner (albeit a self-serving one). This really is not something that should be undertaken lightly.

Finally NATO is lost in space and scrambling for relevance at present. The organisation is trying to work out what to do with itself and its strategic direction is not settled yet.

My feeling is that Serbia should wait and see. I think remaining neutral is wise for as long as it is possible, but joining the EU will end that anyway as the EU is gradually moving towards a common defence policy that means de facto military commitment from all members.

The EU may attempt to dodge this bullet by adopting NATO as the military wing of the EU, in which case Serbia would be mad to join NATO as it could enjoy the benefits of EU membership, but carry none of the burdens of military commitments.

NATO is very active in Serbia currently. It is very keen to get Serbia in to the organisation. One has to wonder why? Clearly NATO sees Serbia as strategically key to the region, and it is. The real question is, does a partnership with NATO suite Serbia. That is yet to be determined.



The Saturday Profile – Vuk Jeremic, Arguing Serbia’s Case Against Kosovo Independence – Biography – NYTimes.com


THE public face of Serbia for years has been that of a wizened war criminal in the dock in The Hague. Now, as the once-outcast country presses for membership in the European Union, it is increasingly represented by the gap-toothed grin of its energetic young foreign minister, Vuk Jeremic, all of 34 and a graduate of Cambridge and Harvard.

It is not just appearances. He is a minister in the most westward-leaning government Serbia has ever had, one that is aggressively pursuing membership in the European Union and good relations with the United States. Yet at the top of his agenda stands the issue that brought so much trouble to Serbia: the breakaway province and self-declared nation of Kosovo.

To the consternation of powerful supporters of Kosovo’s independence, including the United States, the Serbian obsession runs much deeper than a handful of ultranationalists from the generation of Slobodan Milosevic. Even young liberals like Mr. Jeremic, whose fluent English sounds more Bronxville than Belgrade, cannot let go of Kosovo, though it could endanger Serbia’s chance to move beyond its recent troubled past.

“The fact that this kind of fervent, pro-European politician in Serbia happens to have this position on Kosovo confuses a lot of people,” Mr. Jeremic said in an interview on the eve of the Orthodox Christmas here last week.

“This place, Kosovo, is our Jerusalem; you just can’t treat it any other way than our Jerusalem,” he said.


It is a good profile, but I cannot believe that he is serious about this “Jerusalem” stuff.  He has to say this sort of thing because Serbian politicians are trapped in a  Prisoners Dilemma.

If they all cooperated, and told the truth, they could tell the country what most admit privately: Kosovo is gone. The best that can be hoped for is some sort of partition or territory exchange; perhaps global recognition that the way that Kosovo came to be independent was both illegal and grossly unfair to Serbs; some concession from the EU during accession negotiations. That’s it.

The problem here in Serbia is that all politicians  – with the exception of Cedomir Jovanovic – maintain the pretence publicly that Kosovo can be “saved”, that is, can be returned to Serbian rule. Any deviation from this position risks political suicide.

One thing is certain: Unless they are conquered militarily, Kosovo’s Albanians will never again submit to Serbian rule. The only way to “save” Kosovo would be to invade it, and that is not going to happen any time soon.


Poor Haiti

by Limbic on January 13, 2010

I feel desperately sorry for Haitians today. They have been blighted by every sort of evil, from poverty and social collapse, and now this mega-quake.

The thought of those thousands of people painfully trapped under rubble is too terrible to bear. I hope the world acts quickly to help.

BBC News – Haiti earthquake: devastation emerges


Smartmobing for Big Brother

by Limbic on January 12, 2010

I ran into Relja from Beating Tolstoy at the weekend . He’s a super interesting young man. We talked about Evolutionary Fitness (Art De Vany), the Prisoners dilemma of Serbian politicians and  the idea  a trained ruling class (Plato’s Philosopher-Kings). I also told him about an idea I had about a 911/999 phone.

The idea came to me in the shower (where most ideas are born) whilst pondering the problem of bystanding and the Bystander Effect, .

If citizens witness an incident, say a mugging of a gang attack, instead of intervening and perhaps risking their own lives, they could simply dial 911 (0r 999 in the UK). Apart from putting them through to the emergency operator, their phone camera would automatically stream to the CCTV network where the feed could be used by the police to respond to the incident and recorded for evidence if charges are filed and/or the attacker steals the phone. Attackers would know that any phone being pointed at them was potentially the eye of the police recording their crime.

Relja argued the idea into the ground though. There is too much scope for abuse. The police could have an army of spies, who could stream their observations directly into a police video database with no oversight or restrictions. It could be abused or used in spite.

Maybe a better idea would be to have that panic button, but the feed streams to you own, private and secure repository. If your phone was taken, you could submit the footage to the police like any other. Or if you are dead, your repository could be accessed by investigating police.


I found myself deeply irritated by an opinion piece from Roger Boyes published in The Times over the new year about the New Year’s Eve massacre in Espoo , Finland.

It is the usual liberal guilt trope: Finns are guilty for the murders because despite the fact it gave massive numbers Kosovans refuge and “accepted them generously, gave them benefits, schooling and roofs over their heads”, the Finns “ignored them” and did not do enough to help them with their war traumas so “a significant number are suffering from untreated mental problems”.

There is only one, massive problem with the hypothesis: The killer – Ibrahim Shkupolli – was not a traumatised war refugee. He left Kosovo long before the war started, way back in 1990. He was nothing more than common criminal, probably a psychopath, and his Balkan machismo could not handle being rejected by a mere woman.

Even if it were true that Shkupolli was a mentally disturbed war refugee, would Finnish society really hold some responsibility for his mass murder?

This article also completely ignores the responsibilities and duties of immigrant communities to help themselves and integrate peacefully into their host cultures.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

But behind the horrific crime of an apparently deranged individual there was the deep-rooted problem of social exclusion. The clue is in the name of the suspected gunman: Ibrahim Shkupolli.

Finnish sources say he was a Pristina-born Kosovo Albanian, one of the many who have settled in Finland. And therein lies a story.

The Finnish Government was quick to recognise Kosovo as an independent state and has been more ready to shelter Kosovo Albanians than many other states in Europe. Ordinary Finns are less enthusiastic about inviting in people who are largely perceived as economic refugees and the popular prejudice is that these foreigners lead a shadow existence.

One of the first, less charitable, responses to today’s killings was to lament a human tragedy but to point out that this time at least it was not a Finn who had pulled the trigger.

Yet there is some degree of social responsibility and the Finns will have to face up to it. A study of the mental health of mass evacuated Kosovo Albanians, conducted by Goeran Roth of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, revealed serious psychological problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder and clinical depression, and a greater sense of displacement than other migrant communities. The study was conducted in Sweden but tallies with results from many societies that took in war-scarred Bosnians or Kosovars.

Finland accepted them generously, gave them benefits, schooling and roofs over their heads – and then ignored them. As a result the Balkan refugees often inhabit a parallel universe made up of internet cafes, betting syndicates, casual work.

It surprised few in Finland to hear that Shkupolli did not have a weapons licence for his handgun; rightly or wrongly, it has been assumed for years that the sale of illegal guns and a chunk of the drugs trade was in the control of Balkan gangs.

…Now Finland has to use a similar creativity in dealing with immigrants and refugees: a significant number are suffering from untreated mental problems.

Shkupolli had been on the police register since at least 2003, when he was first convicted of illegal gun possession; the restraining order on visiting his ex-girlfriend showed that the courts considered him unpredictable and violent. Why was action not taken? Why was he not referred for psychiatric treatment?

If you are going to have a Nordic nanny state then it has to work for everybody, not just the native-born Finns.

Comment: Ibrahim Shkupolli, the killer form Kosovo, was left in the cold – Times Online

One of the early commentators had it dead right:

“If I understand Mr Boyes correctly, Finland is to blame for this shooting, because: “Finland accepted [refugees] generously, gave them benefits, schooling and roofs over their heads – and then ignored them.”

This particular killer had arrived in Finland 19 years ago.

In Mr Boyes’ mind, Finland, and not the shooter, is to blame for the killings, because Finland expected refugees, at some point, to assume responsibility of their own lives.

It would be interesting to learn from Mr Boyd just how long Finland should continue granting its “generous support” for refugees, instead of expecting them to behave as adults like anyone else.

After the London Tube terrorist attacks, there was much analysis in the Finnish press about why those attacks had occurred. Most of this analysis squarely identified the problem as militant extremism, and it did not blame the government of the UK for the deeds of deluded few.”

Another writes:

We WESTERN Europeans have had to the suffer the social experimentation of the left wing mediocracy for thirty years. it has been an unmitigated social disaster and we have more than had enough of the 20 years of apologist nonsense. Condemned with your own words Mr Boyles-

“Finland accepted them generously, gave them benefits, schooling and roofs over their heads…”

This is not a trivial point you can qualify with the claim that we ignored them.


Outgoing Croatian president Stjepan Mesic commuted the sentences or pardoned 14 war criminals on Thursday in a move that has angered Serbs.

One of those who had his sentence commuted by a year was Sinisa Rimac, convicted of participating in the notorious murder of prominent Zagreb Serb family, including a 12 year girl.

Serbian President Boris Tadic said of incident:

“When the outgoing Croatian president pardons a criminal who killed Serb children just because they are of a different ethnicity, then that is an act that deserves every condemnation, a deeply anti-civilised and anti-European decision [coming] from the other side of common sense,”

I agree with Tadic. What possible reason could the President have had to do this at a time when Serbian – Croatian relations are already strained by the tit for tat genocide charges laid against each other at The Hague.

Was it a calculated offence against Serbs? If it was then why did he commute the sentence of a Serb too?

Given it happened on the eve of his first visit to Kosovo, the evidence suggests it was a deliberate provocation. Its purpose? Only he knows.

Tadic Slams
Mesic for Serb Killer Sentence :: BalkanInsight.com


Invasion of America, 1942

by Limbic on January 8, 2010

Ptak have a brilliant post on Life magazine’s 1942 feature on possible Axis invasion routes into the US. Note how the 5th columnists always originate from the hinterland to strike the costal defences from behind. Red state, blue state, even then.

Ptak Science Books: Mapping the Invasion of America, 1942


Francois Hardy

by Limbic on January 4, 2010