October 2, 2012

me +ME: Nederlog| Norbert Wiener and dr. Strangelove| My eyes and M.E.


This is a copy from the orginal to NOTEBOOK. I insert the copy here for ease of reference - the idea being that Nederlog 1012 continues after August with NOTEBOOK, which is easier to maintain for me, because of the problems with my eyes that started in May 2012.


2.  Norbert Wiener and Dr Strangelove
3. M.E. and my eyes

PHILOSOPHY: But what's your job? There's no harm in asking that.
LUCIAN: I'm an anti-cheatist, an anti-quackist, an anti-liarist, and an anti-inflated-egoist. I'm anti all the revolting types like that - and there are plenty of them, as you know.
PHILOSOPHY [smiling]: Well, well! You're quite an anti-body, aren't you?
LUCIAN: I certainly am. You can see why I've got myself aso much disliked, and why I'm in such a dangerous situation. Not that I'm not an expert pro-body too. I'm a pro-truthist, a pro-beautician, a pro-sinceritist, and a pro-everything that's pro-worthy. But I don't find much scope for exercisting my talents in that direction, whereas thousands of people are always queuing up for the anti-treatment. In fact I'm so out of practice as a probody, that I dare say I have lost the knack of it by now - but I'm a real expert at the other part of my profession.
PHILOSOPHY [seriously]: That's bad. They're opposite sides of a coin, as it were. So don't specialize in one at the expense of the other. They should merely be different aspects of the same fundamental attitude.
LUCIAN: Well, you know best, Philosophy. But I'm so constituted that I can't help hating bad types and liking good ones.
(From: Lucian Fishing for phonies, in de Turner-vertaling, p. 177-8)


I leave the above quotation standing for the moment, since I like it a lot, and it also describes me - or an aspect of me. (See my Spiegeloog-column, for one example.)

My subjects today are Nederlog and how I hope to continue it; Norbert Wiener as an inspiration for Kubriick "Dr Strangelove", with some reflections on war; and my eyes.


1.  Nederlog
It does go a little better with my eyes, as explained in Section 3, but also I tend very easily to do too much with them.

And as I  meanwhile saw the Nederlogs of September - quickly - on another browser one another computer, I agree - where you to say so - that it doesn't look well.

I am sorry, but it's the best I can do for the moment, and I am also sorry that I can't do better on the moment. (In a real sense it is my own fault, also, apart from my eyes: I should have used style sheets for the site, but I didn't like these in 1994 when I started the site, and then it grew and grew without my ever doing it. It would have been quite handy now.)

Also, while I agree that the formatting is no good - I explained this before: interactions between settings in my editors and browsers to save my eyes from getting worse - the text (minus spelling mistakes) seems tolerably OK to me, and I do need a dark background to write it on and to see what I have written, and I also can't spend much time on fixing things.

And there is some hope it may improve: Section 3 below.

I do intend to keep up with Nederlog if and when I can, but to write less in it per file, and maybe rI will estrict myself mainly to selective subjects, probably mostly limited to the main subjects my site is about:
- Philosophy
- Logic
- Computing
- M.E.
and only as I can, with maybe
- Politics
- Nederland (The Netherlands)
thrown in, since we live in dangerous interesting times, about which I have quite a few things to say.

The last subject, writing about The Netherlands in Dutch, I have mostly avoided since January 2010, mostly because (1) I wrote and read much about M.E. and related subjects, and (2) it does not make much of a difference whatever I write about Holland: There are few who care - though for a fundamentally difficult site I am quite well read, thank you kindly: currently still over 2 days reading time per day, on the least well read site - but those who read me have as little influence as I have.

Anyway... that is the plan, and it depends on my eyes and my M.E.
2. Norbert Wiener and Dr Strangelove
 My main problem with my eyes started with and continues to looking at white and light colors on a computer screen. Because of that, I have spend the summer of 2012 mostly not looking at such screens (which is difficult, for it is the main channel for my commuications with the rest of the world) and tried to do other things, such as (re-)reading books.

Two such books I reread, for the first time since 1980, are
Norbert Wiener's two biographical books:

- Ex-Prodigy (1st publ 1953)
- I am a mathematician (1st publ 1956)

These tell the story of his life as a youth, in which indeed he was a child prodigy, unttil age 23, in the first volume, while the second volume is  about the rest of his life, in which he was mostly a mathematician at the M.I.T. for about 40 years, and also the main founder of cybernetics (which these days seems to be mostly a small part of computer science, though it still has some interesting important ideas, such as feedback, that have much wider applications than computers), while Wiener was also a fairly popular writer about the subject of cybernetics, and related ones.

He was an interesting man, with interesting ideas also outside mathematics and cybernetics. Here is a bit from the second of the abovementioned books, that I think are still quite correct, and also seem to me to be the likely trigger of the book that was made by Stanley Kubrick into one of the best movies I have ever seen:
Dr Strangelovewhich you should try to see if you never did.

Here is a quotation from p. 300-301 from "I am a mathematician", written (dictated, to be precise) in 1955, and caused by the atom bomb on Hiroshima:
"Up to now no great war, and that includes World War II, had been possible except by the concerted and prolonged will of the people fighting, and consequently no such war could be undertaken without a profoundly real share in it by millions of people. Now the new modes of mass destruction, expensive as they must be in bulk, have become so inexpensive per person killed that they no longer take an overwhelming share of a national budget.

For the first time in history, it has become possible for a limited group of a few thousand people to threaten the absolute destruction of millions, and this without any specific immediate risk to themselves.

War had made the transition between an overwhelming assertion of national effort and the push-button declaration of a small minority of people. Fundamentally this is true, even if one includes in the military effort all the absolutely vast but relatively small sums which have been put into the whole body of nuclear research. It is even more devastatingly true if one considers the relatively minimal effort on the part of a few generals and a few aviators to place on a target an atomic bomb already made."
Quite so: The last sentence spells out, quite precisely, the main idea on which Dr. Strangelove was based, while Wiener (pronounced: "Weener" not "Winer") is quite right about this:
"For the first time in history, it has become possible for a limited group of a few thousand people to threaten the absolute destruction of millions, and this without any specific immediate risk to themselves."
That is the case now, and has been the case for quite a while, in fact also without using atom bombs: Drones may soon suffice, while the political elites and the rich can shelter, as in Dr. Strangelove, in luxurious places  somewhere hidden in old mines.

This is one of the main reasons I said we live in dangerous interesting times, and why I would not at all be amazed if a major war breaks out soon, indeed also because of other factors:

Too many people with too few resources; too many dangerous conflicts; too much and too long of an economic crisis; too many grossly incompetent political and religious leaders; too many people with totally inadequate ideas and ideals, easily manipulated by propaganda; and indeed also major wars that may be fought without the leaders having to bear the consequences, indeed in part with soldiers sitting far away, playing as-if wargames with drones on a screen.

I sincerely hope I am mistaken, but I have been right before quite a few times about things I hoped I was mistaken about.

And in fact I expect that the 21st Century is likely to dwarf the 20th Century in violence and war, for the reasons listed above.
3. My eyes and my M.E.

My eyes are a bit better - though indeed far from good - probably for two reasons:
(1) I found a better way to administer Duratears
which is "the appropriate medicine" for what I have, but quite hard to properly administer to oneself, which is what I am forced to do, living alone, and having been denied all help for decades now, in spite of asking.

Incidentally: If one searches the subject, one finds pretty authoritarian prose by some of its suppliers. As a patient you must do this, and you mustn't do that, and so on for a long list, that in fact are all quite difficult to do, especially if one lives alone, but also if not. I think it is mainly for legal purposes: It is not to help the patient, but to help the pharmaceutical suppliers.

Indeed, if these wanted to do so, they would supply the plastic bottle with an U-shapped dropper that fitted on top of it, to make administration of the drops easier. As is, one may only hope one's chemist sells these items.
(2) Ubuntu allows me to have most of the screen mostly black most of the time.
This I have explained before, and should be of help for people with eye problems like mine, so I link it again: , as I explained in on Sep 17 (check it out if you have my type of complaint!).

This feature of Ubuntu really is a _great_ help for me, and I could not have written this, or anything the last month, without this possibility, which does NOT exist on MS Windows in any version, and not by a large margin either.



Maarten Maartensz

P.S. My eye problems

                  PS: Any necessary corrections have to be made later.