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Archive for August 2006


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flight #1

flight #2


It’s the return of the PlaneMash! More will be uploaded, I just need to convert some images to JPG format.

Written by brian t

August 30, 2006 at 11:47 pm

Posted in humour, internet

dodging a bullet

with 5 comments

It’s been a while since I’ve had anything to say about Multiple Sclerosis, mostly because nothing has been happening on that front. There’s a small chance that I’ve been misdiagnosed, but I know that that the MRI results and the symptoms I have still point that way. The only other known cause for nerve damage of this type – pernicious anaemia – was ruled out by blood tests.

What I have is best classed as “benign” MS, and while the symptoms continue to fall into the “annoying” category, they aren’t going away. I’m not quite as steady on my feet as I used to be, and find myself taking extra care around the home and office. On the other hand, it’s not stopping me walking to and from work, which puts about 32km (20 miles) on my shoes per week, and often more on weekends.

Benign MS is not getting as much attention as the more severe forms, which is quite understandable, but a new research paper from Italy is informative. Full details are here, but the opening and conclusion are the most reader-friendly part, which I will quote from here.

The trend to start disease-modifying therapy early in the course of multiple sclerosis makes it important to establish whether the benign form is a real entity. In previous studies, measures of magnetization transfer (MT) ratio (MTr) have been shown to provide good estimates of the amount of tissue damage occurring in multiple sclerosis brains. Thus, with the hypothesis that if benign multiple sclerosis patients were really benign, sensitive measures of subtle tissue damage would be less pronounced in these patients than in very early relapsing-remitting (RR) multiple sclerosis patients.

We carried out conventional MRI and MT imaging in 50 patients with benign multiple sclerosis [defined as having Kurtzke Expanded Disability Status Score (EDSS) ❤ and disease duration >15 years] and in 50 early RR patients selected to have similar disability (EDSS <3) and short disease duration (<3 years).

We conclude that lesional and non-lesional MTr values can be significantly less pronounced in benign multiple sclerosis than in a cohort of RR patients at their earliest disease stages, suggesting that brain tissue damage is milder in benign multiple sclerosis than in early RR disease. This can be due to an extraordinary beneficial response to demyelination of benign patients and may represent the evidence that benign multiple sclerosis truly exists and might be differentiated from other forms of this illness.

The part that speaks loudest to me is the choice of patients who have had benign MS for more than 15 years. Other sources I’ve read stated that benign MS was a temporary phase that would almost inevitably lead to RR or Progressive MS. If there is a significant population of people who have lived with benign MS for 15 years or more, that is definitely a positive sign for me. In particular, if what I have can be medically classified as benign MS, and it is recognised as a separate condition that does not inevitably lead to disability, that should serve to allay the concerns of potential employers. I need to do more research, and consult my famous neurologist again.

Written by brian t

August 28, 2006 at 9:48 am

pushing up dizzies

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Ever since my last boyfriend tried to kill himself, robbed a store, and shot at a guy, before disappearing off the face of the earth, (Mom) wants to meet everyone I date.

Claire Fisher, in Six Feet Under, inviting her new boyfriend to Christmas dinner. I’m halfway through Series 2, and eventually expect to see it through to the end, in Series 5. I already know how it will end but, as a self-professed connoisseur of Black Humour, I have to say this is about as good as it gets on TV. It helps that it was made by HBO, the cable-only TV channel in the US, who don’t have to answer to the FCC Broadcast regulations, any more than they did with Sex and the City.

More black humour arrived yesterday in the form of a book, Blood, Sweat & Tea, created from the author’s blog, Random Acts Of Reality. It’s quite hair-raising stuff, based on the author’s daily work as an Emergency Medical Technician in Newham, London. I’m only about 1/5 of the way through it, and the author has already had a HIV-positive patient blow chunks in to his mouth, necessitating two months of “prophylaxis”. So far it appears that most ambulance calls are the result of age, alcohol, and a surprising number of people in diabetic shock, possibly due to being overweight.

Back in the Fisher family funeral home, meanwhile, Christmas dinner is a non-starter: besides Mrs. Fisher’s employer Nikolai, stuck there with two broken legs and a lot of painkillers, there’s a biker funeral that threatens to go on all night, complete with airbrushed casket and cases of JD. What else? Oh yes, it’s the anniversary of the death of Nathaniel Fisher, the first of many cadavers we meet, who refuses to stay down where they put him. Why should he, when there’s so much happening to his family up top? Rest in Peace? Like Hell.

Written by brian t

August 22, 2006 at 7:46 pm

Posted in books, humour, television

new links

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The move to a new site, still going on at the moment, is going to cause some disruption to other people, too: those who had set up direct links to items on this site, mostly images used on other sites. People have been taking some of my work and using it directly from their pages. When someone loaded their page, it included a direct call to my site for the image, which then appeared on their site.

I didn’t mind this, because the amount of traffic didn’t exceed the limits I was paying for, and it was interesting to see all the MySpace users with my pictures as their backgrounds. Well, that is still possible, but I don’t have the same “flat” image storage that I used to have, any more. If anyone wants to keep doing that, they will have to go to the image gallery, find the picture they want, and get the new link from there.

I haven’t yet figured out what to do with the “b3ta bodges”, the modified images and animations i put together for They’re mostly animated GIFs, which Picasa Web will not allow me to upload, probably for reasons related to the patent on the LZW compression used there – even though there has been no need for concern for two years now. Lawyers…

I may up putting them on a static page, uploading each file to WordPress individually, but that will not be quick, and will not put the pictures at the same locations as before.

Written by brian t

August 20, 2006 at 4:54 pm

Posted in internet, sitenews

age gaps

with one comment

(I wrote the following as a comment to an article lamenting the decline in fertility in the developed countries. Like many respondents, I’m not convinced it is a problem. Other comments have noted that attempts by countries such as Germany to import skills have been a failure: the immigrants tend to use more resources from the social system than any benefit they brought in – which is not an anti-immigrant opinion, just a demographic fact. I’m an immigrant, after all!)

Isn’t it a basic point that any given country or region is limited in the number of people it can support? NB: by “support” I’m factoring in everything, including politics & aid – factors that will change the numbers, drastically, but don’t invalidate my basic point. When the land can not support the people, they will starve, or leave; as this point is neared, costs soar, and people can’t afford to have large families any more. I see this here in Dublin, too – one colleague of mine is being so badly hammered by the care costs, for his one (1) child, that a second is out of the question, unless they move to a cheaper country (ideally where the in-laws are).

My take on this: in any mature society, the population will stabilize, because some resources are fundamentally limited – such as land to build houses on. A country like Japan has gone just about as far as it can down this road. Yes, the balance is currently on the side of the elderly, and the young are bearing the burden of caring for them, but is that the way it’s always going to be? To be blunt: more of the Baby Boomer elderly will die per year than normal, which means the resources they use (esp. property) is freed up more quickly, restoring the balance eventually.

So, in a stable society the supported numbers are stable, and the population can adapt to them, eventually. (Oversimplification, I know!) In an unstable society, the number of people a country can support can change suddenly, due to factors beyond the control of the people. Zimbabwe is a great example: people are starving because of recent politics, not because of poor land or lack of natural resources, and there is hope that that can be reversed.

But in other parts of Africa, where countries & regions have been poor for generations, I would say the supported population is stable at a level well below the actual population. I really do not understand why women continue to have large numbers of children – or why men continue to force repeated pregnancy on women. They KNOW most of the children will die, but they still have them, and we get badgered by charities to “save the children”!

I think we don’t need more people: we need better people, which means dedicating more resources to each of them. Which means lower fertility is a good thing, in my opinion.

Written by brian t

August 18, 2006 at 5:08 pm

Posted in culture, economics, politics

ancient history

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I’m taking some time, slowly, to upload some older blog entries, so don’t be surprised to see posts from 2004 popping up. It’s a manual process, cutting-and-pasting HTML from flat files in to the WordPress HTML editor. Timeconsuming, but I don’t mind, since I can vet the posts as I go.

I could automate this with some kind of HTML -> XML Translation, but I’m leaving out some old entries that look out of place or embarrasing: yes, I’m not above a little personal revisionism.

Written by brian t

August 16, 2006 at 9:21 pm

Posted in sitenews


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Last night, after Matt from WordPress kindly fixed the Domain Mapping to point here, I bit the bullet and switched over, by taking out the DNS entries that pointed at my previous web hoster. Here’s a summary of what has changed and what hasn’t:

  • Old blog entries are not yet transferred over: that will only happen after I can upgrade the old site to WordPress 2.1, the first version that will support exporting in the XML format used for importing into (This is a new feature pioneered on, probably because the administrators didn’t want users of the hosted system to have to deal with the MySQL database format used there.)

As before, images used on this site fall roughly in to two categories:

  • Incidental images added to normal posts and pages: these will use the upload process provided with WordPress
  • Photographs and other large images: these go to the Picasa Web Gallery referenced to the right, from where they can be linked in to posts and pages, or viewed in place.

In both cases I will need to re-upload and relink them all, but I will be using the gallery more. I’ve found Picasa Web so useful, and quick, that I’ve already uploaded all the photographs I had online before, in a matter of minutes, yesterday. The captions are missing, I will fix those over time.

I’ve yet to see if ZIP files are supported for upload to WordPress directly. I suspect not, because a ZIP file can contain anything, and could therefore be used for piracy or other nefarious purposes. There’s a general restriction on file hosting through free services for those reasons, even for little sound files such as the samples I put up for download. If it doesn’t work I will see what I can do, or just do without them.

Written by brian t

August 16, 2006 at 1:24 pm

Posted in sitenews