The Early Days of a Better Nation

Monday, August 17, 2009

De-socialized medicine

Blogging pathologist Ilorien flags up a coup for fellow comments regular George Berger. Dutch-speaking reader(s), go here and scroll down.


And here's the whole thing with a handy babelfish wrapper (Hang on, though: isn't the news meant to wrap the fish?):

My goodness, Steve. I am eternally indebted to you. That's really quick, great, work. I am a half-techniphobe and would never have thought of that.
Best regards, George

No problem - just one thing to look out for: the autotranslation from Dutch to English garbles text that is already in English just a bit....

(And one thing that doesn't happen here, but has confused me for years with Babelfish: "bok" as in beer is always translated as "jumbo derrick")


Thanks for the notice. My humble blog and I are honored, and more importantly, the greater the knowledge of, and outrage about healthcare failures, wherever they are occuring, the better.

Also, I just finished Learning the World. Beautiful. It felt very different from most of your others... as though I were allowed to bask in the warm glow of a relatively happy, peaceful, and rational distant future without having to wade through the struggles of the grim and grimy near future. Given an increasing disillusionment of late with far too many aspects of the modern world, reading Learning the World was a welcome and much needed reminder of the brighter bits of life -- the reasons to keep struggling. Thank you much.

I know how you feel Ilorien, although I could never express such feelings so eloquently. And Steve, the "translation" has some very funny moments. My last name, BERGER, indeed means RESCUE WORKER in Dutch, since BERGEN is the verb for SALVAGE! But BERGER is also a quite normal and rather common Dutch and German last name!!
The failure of accurate translation algorithms was predicted in the early 60s (or late 50s) by the Israeli philosopher Jehoshua Bar Hillel. Not many people took him seriously then. I did, and his writings became one source of my AI skepticism.

George Berger wrote "The failure of accurate translation algorithms was predicted in the early 60s (or late 50s) by the Israeli philosopher Jehoshua Bar Hillel. Not many people took him seriously then. I did, and his writings became one source of my AI skepticism."

If I recall correctly, even the 1950s computer-popularising book Faster Than Thought mentioned what happened when an early translator program attempt was tested by translating two English phrases into Russian and back again. "Out of sight, out of mind" and "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" reportedly came back as "invisible idiot" and "the meat's great but the vodka's lousy", respectively.

But even human translators can over-translate. There is a story that the Germans cracked a message planning for the allied leaders' conference at Casablanca, giving them the perfect opportunity for a Tojo-style shoot down. Only, the translator overdid it and reported that the conference would be at the White House, so they didn't try it.

I do not vouch for the authenticity of any of this.

Oops - I meant "the vodka's great but the meat's lousy", obviously.

You are right, P.M. Lawrence, I remember hearing about that funny eample but forgot it. Thanks for reminding me.

Yesterday morning I got an email from the prominent Dutch psychiatrist Kaspar Mengelberg. He asked me for permission to use my article on his website. The site is (I Translate) The Free Psyche, and is the name of a group of Dutch psychiatrists and other people worried about the practices of the Dutch insurers and their political henchmen. I'm thinking not only of what I wrote about but privacy-invasive activities as well. Kaspar is a very brave person. He is risking legal countermeasures from the Dutch Ministry of Health. So it is a duty and a pleasure for me to help him. Here is the link to the site's page of news reports. I'm at the top today: .

Yesterday afternoon I got a forwarded email from a Dutch psychiatrist who was appalled by my article. He strongly suggested to Kaspar (see above) that it be translated into Dutch. I gave my permission at once and hope that Kaspar, the emailer, or some journalist picks up on this. The article could then alert non-English residents of the Netherlands. If the thing gets translated, it would have made my month (at least), not only my day. Besides the problems I discuss, the Netherlands' insurers have--with the aid of their political cronies--instituted several systems of privacy invasion that many MDs there do not agree with. Believe me, in this and other areas of public life, the KGB could not have done it better. Indeed, right after the collapse of the SU, the new Russian Federation govt. sent some education experts to Holland, with the aim of learning about a "progressive" system of university education. After looking around for a few days, one remarked to a friend of mine that "Stalin would have loved this." So bad government is rampant right now, in the guise of Humanism (Erasmus) and Brotherly Love (a certain dissident Jew in Roman Judea. QUERY, Was the noun Jew once Roman slang for a person from Judea?).

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