matt's angry little thoughts
Sunday, September 12, 2004
 
FINALLY! My new domain and hosting are resolved, I have a pretty functional blogging API, and my archives have finally migrated successfully.

All new content will be at http://mattwhitman.com. Reset your bookmarks (both of you), and see you there!
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Thursday, September 02, 2004
 
SO HERE'S THE DEAL: even though Blogger.com is adding functionality all the time, I will be migrating to my own site shortly (Eric got me my domain, and I found a good hosting deal on my own). So As soon as I get Movable Type up and running, I'll be working there. Watch this space after the holiday weekend (that's September 4 to my non-US readers) for the announcement, and change your bookmarks then.
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Friday, August 27, 2004
 
I WAS GOING TO WRITE ABOUT THIS PAUL HAMM FIASCO, BUT LINDA DID IT BETTER.
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OK, A POST TO SEE IF BLOGGER CONTINUES TO SCREW UP MY LINKS. I am a regular reader of Penny Arcade, a three-days-a-week online comic that focuses on computer gaming. [I have now established geek cred.] PA's creators, the pseudonymous Gabe and Tycho, are candid are about their goal--money! And theirs is that rare site that actually succeeds at making money on a non-subscription basis (PvP is another). They are expanding their niche and this weekend are hosting a gaming convention in Bellevue. Interesting feature of the piece is a picture of PA's creators Mike and Jerry, who do not bear much resemblance to their comics avatars.
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Monday, August 23, 2004
 
BLOGGER IS RANDOMLY SCREWING UP MY LINKS. I speculate it might have something to do with its "enhanced" posting engine, but I'm not sure. In any event, some of my links are gorked--they look fine in raw html, but then when clicked they don't got through--blogger appends a blogger referent prefix that leads to a 404. I have complained, but this may be the straw that breaks the camel's back, leading me to get off blogger and onto my own domainname, hosting, usage of MT, etc.

All of which makes me cranky.
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A "NO-DRIVE" LIST, I COULD UNDERSTAND.
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Friday, August 20, 2004
 
BY POPULAR DEMAND: NAKED MOLE RATS! They were the best exhibit at the Zoo last time I was there, but I see from the website that they now have a display of Matschie's tree kangaroo. The website tells us this:

Birth: usually one joey (about 1 inch at birth) * female isolates herself before birth * Birth position - sitting on base of tail with tail between legs * Takes 2 minutes for joey to crawl to the pouch * pouch contains 4 mammae * joey attaches to nipple for 90 to 100 days, at 250 days joey looks out, at 300 leaves pouch for first time, at 350 leaves pouch permanently * long pouch life compared to other kangaroos

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Thursday, August 19, 2004
 
I AM A FAN OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE. He is by turns exhilirating, frustrating, and bewildering. Right now I am reading two of his books: Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity, and Oblivion: Stories. Wallace as a writer is best known for insanely, microscopically detailed digression and discursivity; both these books (so far) are very much "his." The oddest thing about either is that the cover of Oblivion actually qualifies Wallace as "Author of Infinite Jest."

This is bizarre. Infinite Jest was one of the most difficult (and rewarding) reads I have ever encountered. It is 1088 pages (and 2.79 pounds, according to Powells), of which close to 200 pages are fine-print endnotes, of which endnotes some are full-page narratives. I know only one other person who actually completed it, though it was glowingly reviewed. So why use that as a sales point on the book jacket? To entice me and the four other people in the world who read it neither for a literature class nor to write a professional review? Or simply to give prospective Wallace shoppers an alternative? "I heard Infinite Jest was good, and look, here's one by the same guy, and it's way thinner."
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Wednesday, August 18, 2004
 
STEM CELLS! STEM CELLS! In the back of the latest issue of Time, Charles Krauthammer has an interesting article on the stem cell issue in which he says:

I would have drawn the line [regarding federal funding of stem cell research] differently. I would have permitted the conduct of all research using cells drawn from the discarded embryos of fertility clinics (unused and ultimately doomed) but not from embryos created purposely and wantonly for nothing but use by science.


Krauthammer then bashes Kerry for "politicizing" the issue. There are real and justified critiques of the bandwagoning that is happening on the left, whicha re cogently laid out here by Will Saletan, but it's just silly to say that the politicization of this particular line of scientific inquiry started with Kerry, rather than Congress' 1996 ban on federal funding of research that involves the destruction of embryos, or indeed Bush's 9/9/01 announcement of his stem cell executive order.

There are at least three problems with Krauthammer's little exercise. Breaking them down:

1. The "line" Krauthammer proposes is the one many people suggested at the time Bush should have drawn. Krauthammer's "politicizing" started when Bush announced his affirmative step of ending federal funding on new stem cell lines. The problem lots of folks have with Bush's position is the one Krauthammer lays out: in the course of every successful fertility treatment, embryos are created which are discarded. Under Bush's line, those embryos, which would otherwise by shitcanned, cannot be used in research. (Bear in mind that according to extreme right-to-lifers, every embryo has a human soul, and discarding an embryo is murder.) But I haven't heard GWB or any other mainstream Republican dare to criticize fertility treatment as tantamount to abortion (Alan Keyes doesn't count).

2. Krauthammer's "line" lacks moral consistency. What is intrinsically wrong with "embryos created purposely and wantonly for nothing but use by science"? How is a scientist working on a cure for cancer morally inferior to a woman who wants to have a baby? As Michael Kinsley says here better than I could anywhere, "How can you restrict embryonic stem-cell research because it encourages the creation and destruction of embryos, and yet praise the fertility industry that creates and destroys embryos by the thousands (and would supply the embryos for stem-cell research, if that were allowed)?"

3. Krauthammer wraps up with this:

There's nothing less compassionate than to construct a political constituency of sufferers (and their loved ones) by falsely and cruelly intimating that their disease is on the very cusp of cure if only the President would stop playing politics with the issue... When I was 22 and a first-year medical student, I suffered a spinal-cord injury. I have not walked in 32 years. I would be delighted to do so again. But not at any price.


Pot, meet kettle. That Krauthammer could conceivably benefit from stem-cell research gives his voice no special weight. Similarly, Ron Reagan, who spoke on the importance of the funding of broad-based stem-cell research at the Democratic National Convention, does not get an extra-large vote on this issue merely because his dad died of Alzheimer's. The difference is that Reagan's activism on the stem-cell issue is motivated by his family's experience with a devastating disease, while Krauthammer's injury does not bear on his stem-cell views, which derive from his more diffuse views on the sanctity of life, etc. So his relating his sad story is a mistaken attempt to run up his credibility.

4. And this isn't about Krauthammer's piece, but a frequent meme of anti-abortion folks is that embryonic stem cell therapies are unproven, and we're doing a lot with adult stem cells. This is pure look-at-my-thumb diversionary dopeyness. AIDS therapy has come a long way, with multidrug "cocktails" letting many HIV-infected people live normal lives. Does that mean we abandon other research efforts? Does that mean we don't look for a vaccine? Of course not.

UPDATE: I am once again late to the party--Kinsley deconstructed this whole issue better a long time ago.</a>
8/18/2004 02:47:00 PM
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THE MCGREEVEY THING. I'm late to the party, but, as always, have opinions.

First: he's gay, fine. Devastating to his family (including kids and wife #2), but his newly-public status certainly doesn't per se impair his ability to do his job. I have a problem with his cynicism. He's corrupt--he appointed his no-qualifications boyfriend to be New Jersey's Homeland Security director, when Louis Freeh would have done it for free. That's scumminess of the highest order, and if you buy the notion that the NJHSD is other than a sinecure, it meant that he jeopardized the safety of folks in New Jersey. The cynicism comes in when he outs himself pre-emptively, and by draping himself in the rainbow flag, picks up sympathy points (the whole "I have a lived a lie, and it has cost me my family, and my political career" thing).

Second: the decision to resign November 15, and therefore ensure that his appointed successor has a year of incumbency, is brilliant. As a partisan, I think it's brilliant. I hope McGreevey sticks to his guns on the date, because otherwise Jon Corzine might leave his Senate seat to run for NJ governor in a special election, and I like Corzine where he is.

Third: Golan Cipel is getting outed against his will, which serves him right, being an extortionist and all.
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Tuesday, August 17, 2004
 
SOME SAY I HAVE ECLECTIC INTERESTS. SOME SAY I HAVE ADD. It's not lost on me that if I ever wanted to actually generate mass readership for this blog, rather than aiming it only at Josiah and Eric, that I would have to specialize more. I could concentrate only on beers made in the Portland area, and write the definitive Portland beer journal, for example. Or I could start the only team ahndball blog based in the Pacific NW. Either of these could earn small but cultlike followings, which of course is the best kind of following to have.

I guess I'm not that hungry for attention--I think I'd do this even if I got zero page views. Of course, I never read my traffic reports, so maybe I am typing into the void. But without further ado, Browns rookie tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. has, after one week of training camp, asked his defensive coordinator to give him some pass-rushing snaps as a defensive end. I'll be drafting this guy for my Fantasy team for sure.
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ACTUAL TOPIC SUMMARY OF A BOOK I JUST PLACED ON HOLD AT THE LIBRARY:

* Puppets -- Fiction.

* Taxidermy -- Collectors and collecting -- Fiction.

* Television programs for children -- Collectibles -- Fiction.


mmmmm...up too late. Insomnia.
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Monday, August 16, 2004
 
I HEARD ABOUT I LOVE BEES FROM PENNY ARCADE. It is a rewarding and trippy time-waster--especially for those of us who wear our tinfoil hats while gaming.
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JOHN KERRY: MOST LIBERAL HUMAN BEING EVER? Most of us by now have heard the GOP talking point that "John Kerry is the most liberal member of the US Senate." This article contains an explanation and partial debunking.

Of course, he isn't nearly liberal enough for me.

UPDATE: link fixed.

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Thursday, August 12, 2004
 
THIS IS THE FIRST GMAIL INLINE AD LINK I EVER CLICKED, and I can't understand what the commercial motivation is.
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