February 24, 2011


The mother of invention

As I said before, I am still around, but in part otherwise occupied and in part not much inclined to write Nederlog.

Even so, here are some bits, and if you did not read the third - in effect: Mark Twain's War Prayer - you should. Here it was triggered - in my mind: it's on my site since many years - by the second bit that follows:

1. Programming
2. It must be true for it is in the news + the US-value of ME/CFS
3. Mark Twain on people as they often are

Tip for the reader: You can well afford to miss my prose and quotations in the first two items, but you should not miss the last piece, if you don't know The War Prayer already.

Also, for people with ME (or their caretakers) there is an interesting graphic that concerns the question: what is the human worth of folks in the US with ME/CFS, in cash value terms?

1. Programming

The last time I wrote a Nederlog I was occupied with watching a series of videos of lectures on programming put on line by Stanford University in 2008. It's a long series, and presently I am somewhere in lecture 15 - and suppose I have watched too much too eagerly given the state of my health.

But it still is a pleasure to watch and meanwhile I learned a few things, besides which it is pleasant to see that the general ideas of programming I have acquired do correspond to those of a pro.

What few things did I learn? I'll briefly mention two, since I don't suppose most of my readers are really interested:

(1) I had guessed but did not know compilers may add some headers in memory before the starting point of an executable procedure that enables it to keep track;
(2) there wasn't much about assembly in the course, and what there was involved an assembly language I did not know about, called Mips.

In case you're interested: This is the beginning Lecture 1 | Programming Paradigms (Stanford) - and you'll probably will find no joy in it whatsoever unless you like programming and can do some in C. (But if these conditions are met, the likelihood is that you will learn a lot.)

2. It must be true for it is in the news + the US-value of ME/CFS

This and the following item are mostly triggered by what I shall for the moment be pleased to call "my wry sense of humour".

I found this by way of Phoenix Rising, and I quote a few pieces of it in a moment, because my bogosity meter has been pinned:

bogosity: /boh?go?s@?tee/, n.

1. [orig. CMU, now very common] The degree to which something is bogus. Bogosity is measured with a bogometer; in a seminar, when a speaker says something bogus, a listener might raise his hand and say My bogometer just triggered. More extremely, You just pinned my bogometer means you just said or did something so outrageously bogus that it is off the scale, pinning the bogometer needle at the highest possible reading (one might also say You just redlined my bogometer). The agreed-upon unit of bogosity is the microLenat. 2. The potential field generated by a bogon flux; see quantum bogodynamics. See also bogon flux, bogon filter, bogus.

This was quoted from a piece I wrote in 2007 (in Dutch), and is cited from Raymond and Steele's "Jargon files", which is concerned with terms especially used by hackers (in the sense of: creative programmers, rather than cybercriminals).

Now to what evoked that memory: The original of the next quotation is on the CNN-site, so it must be true - and what got me apart from what seems to me the bogosity of it is the sense of moral priorities that's expressed, as a matter of course also:

Researchers aim to 'print' human skin

Researchers are developing a specialized skin "printing" system that could be used in the future to treat soldiers wounded on the battlefield.

Scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine were inspired by standard inkjet printers found in many home offices.

"We started out by taking a typical desktop inkjet cartridge. Instead of ink we use cells, which are placed in the cartridge," said Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the institute.

The device could be used to rebuild damaged or burned skin.

The project is in pre-clinical phases and may take another five years of development before it is ready to be used on human burn victims, he said.
Burn injuries account for 5% to 20% of combat-related injuries, according to the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine. The skin printing project is one of several projects at Wake Forest largely funded by that institute, which is a branch of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Wake Forest will receive approximately $50 million from the Defense Department over the next five years to fund projects, including the skin-creating system.

Researchers developed the skin "bio-printer" by modifying a standard store-bought printer.
Researchers said it is difficult to speculate when the skin printer may be brought to the battlefield, because of the stringent regulatory steps for a project of this nature. Once the skin-printing device meets federal regulations, military officials are optimistic it will benefit the general population as well as soldiers.

I hope you are suitably impressed, and I admit to partial quotation, albeit fairly indicated by ellipses.

Also, be sure - if you believe what I just quoted - to say a prayer tonight to say thanks for the noble intentions of the unnamed US "military officials", and also for God's goodness in giving civilian folks the same sort of skin as soldiers.

O, and since I have ME: In the US, there are about 1 million Americans with CFS, while the research into ME/CFS (from the link in the title of the picture) amounts to this:

NIH Budget for 2012 and Disease Prevalence

  • Multiple Sclerosis -   $135 million 500,000 Americans
  • Lupus                -   $114 million 1.5 million Americans
  • West Nile Virus    -   $46 million 3,630 Americans (2007)
  • Lyme Disease      -   $25 million 150,000 Americans (since 1992)
  • Fibromyalgia        -   $9 million 3-6 million Americans
  • CFS                   -   $6 million 1 million Americans

NIH Funding:

The needs and interests of 1 million Americans who are ill with ME/CFS are worth, in research funding, around 1/10th from what the needs and interests of the Wake Forest Institute, where money or miracles are milked from printer heads, are worth.

And then there are some folks who don't believe in God's goodness - for which see also the next item:

3. Mark Twain on people as they often are

"Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

As I said, my own bogosity meter was seriously pinned by the above, of which I believe virtually nothing, except the gift of 50 million dollar to the amazing scientist Dr. Atala - "We started out by taking a typical desktop inkjet cartridge. Instead of ink we use cells, which are placed in the cartridge" - but I also admit to a very small chance that I may be mistaken and to a considerable hope I may be, since burns are indeed awful, and all moderated by my usual rational skepticism.

In any case: If you believe the above CNN-News, you are blessed with a more credulous disposition than I am - and I do agree it would be nice if it were true. (But then that is the usual trick of salesmen, conmen, politicians and priests: Promises, promises, promises.)

Then again, the morality of it all also got to me: It is presented as if it is an imminent step forward to fewer serious casualties for US troops on battlefields.

Now that may be - and indeed in some senses: is - a noble aim, but it did remind me also of the following, that also hails from the US, although the writer has lately been much PC-ified (*):

The war prayer

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and sputtering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spreads of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country and invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpouring of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.

It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came-next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their faces alight with material dreams-visions of a stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender!-then home from the war, bronzed heros, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation -- "God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest, Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!"

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was that an ever--merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory -

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there, waiting.

With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said

"I come from the Throne-bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd and grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import-that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of-except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of His Who hearth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this-keep it in mind. If you beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer-the uttered part of it. I am commissioned by God to put into words the other part of it-that part which the pastor, and also you in your hearts, fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory-must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle-be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it-for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause)

"Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits."

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Thus Mark Twain.

Incidentally, my title "The mother of invention" was not so much inspired by the thought of Necessity, as by noting that, as things go, mostly, it is war that is the mother of invention, for humans.

And in case you missed it: Neither Twain nor I was claiming all wars are bad, even if most are, and I am also not claiming inventions made to improve Our Side's War Effort - "help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire" etc. etc. - are necessarily bad or immoral, but that indeed I am suggesting it is one of the more unhappy features of human beings that it is often war that triggered or at least enabled the discovery or invention of useful things.


(*) Mark Twain has been recently PC-ified by replacing "the N-word" - "nigger" - by "slave" in a new edition of his work. To me, that sounds pretty sick: If that was what he meant, he would have written it, while to believe that Mark Twain - when adult - was a racist is pretty stupid. It's very much a form of Bowdlerizing, indeed ad usum delphini, even if that category of folks in these PC days has been replaced by ad usum profanum vulgus. Human Progress!

P.S. Corrections must wait till later.

So far this year I have kept up with Recent Changes: Summaries of relevant changes on the site.

As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

6. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7. Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)

Short descriptions:

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
   "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon
     insufficient evidence
7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.

    "Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!
     - (Shelley, "Prometheus Unbound") 

    "It was from this time that I developed my way of judging the Chinese by dividing them into two kinds: one humane and one not. "
     - (Jung Chang)


See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources

Maarten Maartensz (M.A. psy, B.A. phi)

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