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Writer's Block: Big Debates


Do you think stem cell research is good, bad, or dangerous? Should it be funded by the government?

First question listed was submitted by srkfanatic15. (Follow-up questions, if any, may have been added by LiveJournal.)

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No research leads to anything purely good, bad or dangerous. The same expertise that landed rockets in British population centers during the Second World War led to manned exploration of the moon. The use of science is what lends it whatever moral dimension it has, and that is more a political or legal question than a scientific one.

As something which has the potential to improve the quality of life of Americans generally, stem cell research should be funded.

In 1974, there was a movie called The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, about four armed men who hijack a subway train in New York, demanding one million dollars for every hostage aboard. There were lots of wide ties, topiary-like sideburns and racial stereotypes. It came down to a battle of wits between two incredible character actors: Walter Matthau as the transit cop, and Robert Shaw (the gangster from The Sting and the shark-hunter from Jaws) as the senior hijacker. If you've never seen it, you'll realize where Tarantino got his names from, in Reservoir Dogs.

They remade it in 1998, with Edward James Olmos in the Matthau-analogue role, pitted against Vincent D'Onofrio. This summer, it'll be Denzel Washington against John Travolta, directed by Tony Scott and written for the screen by Brian Helgeland.

This is absolutely one of my favorite set-piece thriller movies. I can't wait to see what gets done with it.

McCain's most enthusiastic supporter


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The comments manage to improve on the hilarity.

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Oh, this is rich


Bristol Palin's pregnancy is of equal importance to stories such as 'Gustav: Live Updates,' 'U.S. Returns Control of Anbar,' and 'Fossils Shed Light on Genes,', if font size on the Post's website is indicative of a headline's relative value.

I love seeing articles like this, wherein the author rightly points out that this is a struggle for many middle-class (read: 'white') families in America, and hopefully everyone (read: 'Democrat operatives who will burn the midnight oil trying to sow discord between McCain and the fundies who still don't embrace him') will have the grace to let this go.

Honestly, I don't care, except that the noise of this overwhelms whatever signal strength the McCain campaign has in, you know, actually sharing its plans to deal with American problems. Problems massively more significant than a previously unknown 17-year-old conceiving out of wedlock.

But it's curious to see a party, which collectively made such a big deal ten years ago out of a sitting President's sexual contact with a willing adult female, go to such lengths to explain this little boo-boo as being something to forgive, and much more importantly, forget soon.

Pardon me for laughing as I watch the election machinery of this same party try desperately to make this a non-issue for a large segment of its own base.

Writer's Block: Checklist for Eternity


If you could live forever how would you spend your time?

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If I'm living forever, it depends somewhat on how, right? If I'm a wrinkly, feeble thing whose legs failed him decades before, then I'll be in bed thinking my great thoughts for the stenographers' benefit, and waiting for the nurse to change my bedpan.

More likely, if it occurs, it'll be because Kurzweil was right. My brain, such as it is, will have been captured as a disk image by some machine not yet invented, and long after my mortal body is gone, I'll be alive in the RAM of some repository of human minds. It may even provide some sort of virtual sensory experience to benefit me during the seconds in any year when my mind isn't being harnessed with millions of others to work on solutions to some problem or issue, out in the world of the living.

Of course, this would put me in a terrible position to negotiate with my employer for anything, but if I'm a ghost lingering in electronic storage, I guess my needs will be small.

This isn't abridging civil liberties at all


This sheriff's deputies and this chief's officers are there to make sure that the Fourth Amendment doesn't get in the way of a good time, in St. Paul this week.

Read more here. It's amazing how ordinary police procedure - you know, knock on the door and show your badge at the same time as your warrant - just doesn't get it done in America any more.

PITTSBURGH -- A Pennsylvania medical student told a classmate he was trying to recruit a New Zealand woman and her 4-year-old daughter to start a society of sex slaves that would live on a farm or island, the FBI said.

The FBI said in an affidavit filed Aug. 13 that it began investigating Jeremy Noyes, 30, of Erie, after someone tipped them off about his efforts to recruit the New Zealand woman and girl to come to the United States. They said he also possessed child pornography.

The tipster, using a pseudonym, submitted a complaint on an FBI Web page in June in which she wrote, "Noyes has threatened to kill me and my family ... (and) will not rest until we are dead. All the evidence you need is in his computer and that little girl's mind. Please save her."

Investigators got warrants to search Noyes' two e-mail accounts and found "images of prepubescent minors engaged in sexually explicit activity," the FBI wrote in the affidavit.

Learn the rest after the jump.

The cover of this month's Wired


Shai Agassi and his company are the key forces behind Israel and Denmark getting entirely off oil in their non-aviation transportation sectors within ten years.

Click on the first embedded video and listen to his plan.

If it costs twice as much as he says, it's still a bargain.

First day findings


For one, I neither needed nor wanted my laptop. That saves about seven pounds, including the case.

My father wrote all his notes while reading down one side of a sheet of 8.5' x 14' paper, with almost half the page left open for annotations during class or rereading stints. I've done sorta the same thing, only with a Pages document because I really can't write for extended periods any more.

For another, I didn't feel that confused or lost, in discussions of the subject matter. I could sense the direction in which the professor was trying to take us, and even if I wasn't always ready to blurt out an answer, I had already pulled most of the substance from the assigned reading.

I decided to postpone getting my license and registration transferred until Friday, the logic being that (a) I have a week's worth of work ahead of me and (b) fewer people will ruin their Friday afternoons at the DMV than their Monday afternoons.

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If you could pick any TV show that has been off the air to come back for one more season, which show would you pick and why?

First question listed was submitted by idle_kid_city. (Follow-up questions, if any, may have been added by LiveJournal.)

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Hands down, it would have to be Firefly. Somebody should scan the entries to see what percentage chose that, because I see a lot of wistful Browncoats at a glance.

It's not likely that it will happen, because the movie didn't break even until DVD sales were considered, but the direct sales model of webisodes (e.g., Gemini Division, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog) might point the way towards that.

It might be that the viewer base is too diffuse and atypical to make advertisers happy - yes, more than 50% of the show's viewership are women, but can we sell them protective undergarments and weight-loss regimens? - but the direct sales model sidesteps that. Either a show has what it takes from week to week and makes its money back, or it doesn't.

I hope to be proven wrong about what Fox will do with Dollhouse this spring, but the pessimistic half (okay, nine-tenths) of my brain prognosticates much better than the optimistic half.

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