Matthew E. Harbowy's Blog

June 18, 2014

August 17, 2013

Reposted from Quora:

Q: How can I help cure cancer? I'm not a scientist. I don't have special skills. What's the best thing I can do to help cure cancer?

A: Matt Harbowy: The vast majority of people who die from an otherwise survivable cancer die for reasons that you don't need to be a rocket scientist to solve.

They run out of money. Most therapies are going to be expensive, because of the fine line between what a cancer ce...
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Published on August 17, 2013 15:45 • 102 views

April 30, 2013

There’s a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious ang...

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Published on April 30, 2013 20:42 • 78 views

December 6, 2012

We will never engineer the ability to suspend indefinitely, and subsequently reanimate people.

In order to justify such a pessimistic view of the future, a genuine analysis of the challenges involved must be performed to find criteria under which it might be possible. First, though, let's do a use case analysis on indefinite preservation or "reanimation".

Ben Franklin Use Case

For purely personal reasons, let's say we wished to store and reanimate Ben Franklin. The historical r...
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Published on December 06, 2012 11:13 • 65 views

How soon will we be able to cryonically suspend and reanimate people clinically and safely?

There are a few people being cryonically suspended already, however current methods cause substantial damage to many organs including the brain. Thus it is reserved for patients who are already clinically dead, which is itself a traumatic and unpredic...

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Published on December 06, 2012 11:12 • 49 views

October 9, 2012

A prediction: I expect that Prop 37 will pass, and as a result, almost all manufacturers will add a label stating "in order to comply with California law, this food may contain genetically engineered ingredients", and we can add yet another completely useless label to things. Kind of like the label on every apartment building with a parking garage: "this building may contain known carcinogens". You could have a garage with oil drips or a ceiling/ flooring full of asbe...

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Published on October 09, 2012 10:47 • 49 views

July 31, 2012

What's the difference between invention and discovery?

I'm currently meditating on two parallel publication streams. The first one is around the author Lee Cronin and the second is around Bartosz Grzybowski.

Lee has tremendous share of mind currently; his TED talk has generated a lot of front page news. Googling leads you to about 10^6 pages. Bartosz, on the other hand, only has about 10^4 pages.

Why highlight these? Why should you care?

Lee has applied the makerbot mentality to chemical...

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Published on July 31, 2012 12:17 • 84 views

April 19, 2012

I'm not the kind of person afraid to call someone out., it's your turn.

Sns Analytics is the work of Hailiang "Alan" Xing, a "entrepeneur" whose business is to "Create and manage social media 'campaigns' for maximum exposure and reach". This doesn't sound so bad: as your popularity increases above 150 fans, there's no hope to have a one-on-one relationship with all of your "fans" across the multitude of social networking sites out there. It seems reasonable that the process is going to be managed.

Some authors seem to have at least a realistic, one way output of content to fans- Margaret Atwood , if she's being ghost-blogged, is doing a bang up job. If you're highly influential, weeding through the dregs and the socially ingratious is a big problem, and causes most people to shut down. I was attending a mixer in 1992 with Kurt Vonnegut at his alma mater when someone started trying to bait him. Vonnegut just slumped and walked away, and I feel that each encounter like that took its toll on his psyche.

That said, I wish that every author had the same opportunities that I have- to engage in great conversation, for there to be cross pollination of ideas, authors helping authors. This is one of the real attractions of working with a small press like my wife, Gabrielle Harbowy, works with.

There's a disturbing trend on the internet. I first noticed it doing some editing of Wikipedia pages. There's a huge amount of content on the internet that is just cut and paste copy from other places on the internet, and while I'm not saying it should be banned, it doesn't seem like it's much to have achieved in life.

Now, I'm big on curating what I find out there, paring down my social media feed to a few select repostings and elevating "great content". That's the real power of social media- it builds on the time tested idea that a good experience translates into added sales through word of mouth. But if it got to the point where that's all I did- copy other people's work- I think I would begin to lose my sense of voice.

Wikipedia was supposed to be about many voices working to improve the value of an article. Unfortunately, Wikipedia begins to fail at that when you have enthusiastic editors who google-war concepts to determine right or wrong; and it's often the most spammed ideas that are propagated. My personal bone to pick has been "tea tannins"- articles that try to justify why tea is bad for you because "tannic acid" is a "carcinogen" (it's not, but that's immaterial- tea contains no tannic acid). Tannin is a synonym for astringent, puckery- and before the late 20th century, taste was one of the only ways you determined chemical content. (if you want to be scared, check out the Merck Index: 13th edition: the taste and odor of many poisonous and corrosive things is described.) We have science and spectrophotometry, technology to do that now, but the old terminology lingers. Another nitpick: catechin and catechol are synonyms in the old literature, because they both pyrolyze to a sweet, antiseptic, phenolic vapor at roughly similar temperatures, even though they are not the same chemical. One is a fragment of the other.

There's an adage that's been on the internet since before the internet: "on the internet, no one knows you're a dog". If you start plagiarizing wholesale the content of smart, witty writers, you might fool a couple people into thinking you too are smart, witty.

So, you might ask: what's up with One of the trends I've seen is automated feeds of content that are harvesting tons of retweets and reblogging them through a link shortener to trace how effective the retweeting campaign is. Most link shorteners provide you with statistics, that's not a problem. The problem is when you let the automation get out of hand, and start using keyword searches to auto-tweet tons of added content, so that your tweetstream or facebook wall or tumblr looks much more fleshed out.

Because, let's face it: coming up with new content every day is hard work. I envy the discipline of writers like Jay Lake who blog an original(!) handful of posts every morning- and writers should seek to emulate or adapt his discipline to their own workflow.

Automation (spam, really), has leaked into the publishing world, with automated programs stripping tons of pages on the web and publishing them wholesale to the e.g. Kindle store. There's absolutely no intellectual added value to charging someone, even as a "concierge" or "curator", to repackage wholesale other people's content while not contributing anything of yourself to the endeavor.

Which is a regrettable place for me to be in, because I think there are some really great individuals and aggregators, like Brain Pickings Kindle Edition that not only curate, but tell us why they love the curated content and give us reason to buy. But I have to take a hard stance, at least for myself, and remove many of these excellent aggregators from my tweetroll.

So if you are a content promoter, or curator, and I have "unfriended you" recently, I think you can blame Alan. After seeing the curious "mexican" on post after post on some recent people who followed me, I realized they didn't love me for who I am, they loved me for my content. I can't stop them if I'm giving it away, but I can incite the few good curators out there to punish bad social media spam. The last straw was being added by Maya Angelou News (warning, This account is not affiliated with Maya Angelou. It really says that, go look.)

So goodbye, one and all, media aggregators. Automated tools- DO NOT WANT! If I suspect you're using a bot to boost your content, you're history. I only am consuming Organic Authors, grass fed, no hormones.
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Published on April 19, 2012 22:43 • 527 views • Tags: curation, social-media

March 10, 2012

Personally, I never thought I would be able to write this story down, and you might want to skip it if it is abuse flashback triggery. I've also kind of cut the full story in half, so you can just read the least personal parts about my tale and stop midway. Feel free to share with others if you think it would help.

I received a letter this evening, with a link to the above website, and realized that the real horrorshow that is the "Christian Broth...
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Published on March 10, 2012 01:25 • 152 views

December 18, 2011

Yes. Bison do get cancer.

This is a myth, one would assume, that exists because bison do not age to the point where they would more commonly experience cancer, and that it would be too expensive to maintain adult bison under laboratory controlled conditions to investigate whether or not the assertions are valid.

There are also multiple instances of bison having either carcinoma or papilloma at branding sites and the fact...
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Published on December 18, 2011 16:58 • 64 views