Friday, May 15, 2009


echo <<EOF >>/dev/null

It must be spring!



Thursday, May 14, 2009

Taurelilomea-tumbalemorna Tumbaletaurea Lomeanor

Dear Treebeard,

Sometimes I look at my blogging history, and think of you. Sometimes I look at the things I've actually blogged, and think of you in the opposite way. Sometimes I look out the window, and I'm surprised at how suddenly, how almost hastily the crab-apple has blossomed, after such a patient and cautious wintering.

In most things, in writing or whatever else, it hasn't been easy to find the right ballance of waiting and moving. So timing has often been a tricky issue for me, alternately impatient and reserved near to wavering. But it would seem that the apple trees have been successful through millenia; and considering how soon again those petals are going to fall while the fruit slowly ripens, hidden among the leaves, we can't say the blumelein really are too impetuous after all.

I don't hope to meet you in person any time soon, but should you chance by my house it will be a happy meeting. I hope this squirrel doesn't get lost too often; but I'm assured he's reliable to find you.

a clumsy some guy on the street

a PS (May 31, 2010)
This seems to be one of the more-frequent accidental entry-points to our correspondence here.

I almost feel sorry for everyone who comes to this spot and doesn't find out anything to do with sheep and shepherds adopting eachother's manners over time ("both are slow to change, and neither has long in the world").

Bloggers could, of course, be roughly classified by the volume of their output. 'Blogs might also be sorted according to how much commentry they naturally elicit. ("Commentry" and not "commentary", as 'Brethil' has settled on "commenters" as opposed to "commentators".) Of course, there is a back-and-forth: fast publishing tends towards many comments; a feeble reaction may slow the 'blogger, dulling his interest.

So, perhaps 'bloggers get like commenters, and commenters get like 'bloggers. Commenting was certainly a gateway to 'blogging for me! (Although it took further externals to push me over the edge --- notably leaving Hometown Suburb to study at Metropolitan University).

It's a feeble excuse for a second letter, but the squirrel was in the neighborhood anyways.

Keep your toes rooted!
some guy on the street

Friday, May 1, 2009

On ethics in bad scenarii.

ATTN: Mr. R.T.Quoll

Dear Reginal,

If the patient is twice as likely to have illness A as illness B, but treatment for A will kill him if he has treatment B, then we're watching House I'm not sure what should be done; moral certainty that the doctor should prescribe treatment A seems to require additional conditions.

Well, IANAD.

I think one of the fascinations of the "ticking time bomb" is related to the "fourty ninjas with uzis" fascination among so-called what-if monkeys.

It seems that the ticking-time-bomb interrogation *starts* with a (sensible!) desire to emphasize that some situations have no good immediate temporal outcome. IF the object of the scenarist is to exhort his pupils in the face of catastrophe not to despair nor to acquiesce to their vengeful or violent inclinations to "save thousands whatever the cost", then the scenario has perhaps been well-presented. On The Other Hand, if the scenario is presented as a harangue with the object of getting you to admit that sometimes this particular disgusting idea (torture, abortion, genocide) is the best answer, then sound the alarms and call your diocesan inquisitor.

The what-if monkeys seek to prove their schoolmasters fools by constructing scenarios in which the schoolmasters have no good thing to do: that is, they believe the best analysis is achieved by *complicating* the problem. Of course to me, this sounds like making our jobs more difficult than they need to be. If we've studied mathematical logic, we know there *is* a degree of complication that makes algorithmic decision impossible; the really mathematical approach to a Doctor's Diagnosis/Treatment Dilemma is to first simplify the problem.

So, let's try! (continuing the medical metaphor) Given the candidate diagnoses A and B, it's possible that neither condition (if untreated) is a life-threatening or debilitating condition. e.g. the conditions A might be common cold --- keep your energy up and don't stress-out? --- and B might be a deadly allergy to most of the food in the hospital that got a bit inflamed by walking in. "Treating" A would consist in moderate rest and eating, but if you insist on feeding the patient there and then, he'll die of ... something, anaphylaxis? However if you just send him home, he'll eat sensible foods and/or eventually get over his cold.

A worse, but still simplified possibility is where one candidate condition is harmless, but would complicate under treatment for the more-dire candidate. I expect one might look for a test to specifically *exclude* the milder condition, to conclude on the bad option by elimination. I don't imagine this is generically possible, but still emphasizing that there are still options

And I suppose we *can* imagine bad situations where both candidates have treatments we can't safely pursue in both circumstances, or together AND we can't diagnostically distinguish conditions A and B, but at some point we have to remember that you can't humanly fix every situation. That isn't failing as a human doctor, any more than it's a failure in a detective to not obtain plot-thwarting inteligence by abuse, nor of a self-defence expert to prove mortal when confronted by firearms.

At least, that's how it seems to me.

SGOTS the ethical dabbler

P.S., I think Tom will find this either interesting or hackish. If you can ask his opinion, that'd be nifty.