Saturday, December 20, 2003

Two notes on sculpture today:

First, the children's hospital seems to have received a piece of statuary from stalingrad circa 1942. It's a statue of a group of children holding hands and dancing/running in a circle. It makes me think that a PzkfwIIIh or Sdkfz 251/10 is going to come throttling around the corner when I walk past it...

Secondly, there is an armless, lower-legless, headless female torso in bronze located outside of the medical school library. This torso was gifted with both warmth and modesty by an enterprising individual with a plaid scarf. I wish I had a digital camera...

Friday, December 19, 2003

We had snow today... however from my persepective on the 6th floor, it still doesn't look like there was any accumulation. :( Sad.
There were really nice sized flakes too! If this was wisconsin or even chicago, the snow that we had during the day today would have only intensified as evening drew near (as opposed to peter out), and presented us with a winter wonderland at around 10:00pm, perfect for a spontaneous snowball fight...

Unfortunately tennessee it seems believes only in taking on the temperature conventions of winter, and not her whiter livery of frozen precipitation. This is a sad, sad day...

On a brighter note, I get to have dinner with Di this evening now that the snow has stopped and she doesn't feel the need to drive home before the roads become covered in a layer of drivers who don't know how to adapt to a little bit of the white stuff... I think it shall be enjoyable! It's a celebration of her recent completion of final exams!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Lab Christmas party was last night at the boss' house. Nice place, actually pretty close to my apartment. Food was potluck and was quite good. We exchanged gifts (I got a spring powere fly shooter), and had a lab quiz. It was an enjoyable evening. Stopped by Di's lab afterwards for a few moments to say hi... she was quite busy... hopefully by this weekend she will be done and we'll actually get to see each other for more than 5 minutes at a time.

Well, love must be in the air... I've recently heard news of some friends getting engaged and some other friends finding new interests... congratulations to all those involved.

This recent capture of Saddam has helped me understand I think something of God's situation in a more visceral way. When I first saw the pictures of the guy getting prodded by the doc, looking like a wino after a night of cheap red, I thought, how pitiful... sad even. Wouldn't it be ok to just be gracious to the guy and send him into exile a la Napoleon?

But as I thought about it more, that really didn't seem to be a good idea... there are more people involved in the situation than just saddam. There are all the people of Iraq... all the people who lost loved ones on his order... all the people who lived in terror... it would not be gracious to those people to allow saddam to live... they deserve justice... they deserve to see that he is gone, totally, irrevocably gone, and that he cannot terrorize them ever again.

So to with God's interaction with us I guess... why can't god just let everyone by? Of course this ignores the effect that people have on one another... hopefully the analogy is clear...

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

I love it when I experience a "seinfeld moment" (or any other sitcom moment for that matter...

This evening I washed some rather large dishes in the shower...while I was in the shower. I think I may start washing all my dishes in the shower... save on hot water... course, I'll need to get that garbage disposal installed :)

So, now the the "world" wants Saddam to face trial in front of a "legitimate" "international" tribunal? Hmmm, let's think about this one for a moment. The nations that seem to be bleating the loudest are the one who prior to the war insisted that Saddam wasn't a problem and attempted to undermine US efforts... the same folks that would have preferred that the Iraqi people sit under his heel for another decade now want to try the bastard? The real situation here is that the various tyrants of the world as represented in the UN don't want to set the precedent of having the people be seen as legitimate judge and jury for their former rulers... and who can blame them? If you were a two bit dictator in some tin pot third world hell hole (courtesy of your crippling marxist economic policies and inovation stifling political terror) would you want "your" citizens to be able to put you on trial?

Besides, there's already precedent for the Iraqi people to be able to put Saddam on trial... and the French should know this, they executed their own tyrant (one much less tyrannical than saddam) over two hundred years ago... oh, what happened to "liberte, egalite, fraternite"??

Monday, December 15, 2003

Ok, analysis mode kicking in...

I read/heard a couple sources saying that DNA evidence had confirmed that Saddam was the guy they captured. What I can't quite figure out is what they were testing against... obviously they could get some DNA off the guy who they've got in custody, but... what were they comparing it to? Did we send special forces in to Baghdad in 1990 to take a swab of his cheek while he slept so we could have his DNA on file? Heck, the genome project hadn't even begun at that point... Did leaders we supported during the cold war have to submit their blood work to the state department?

Anyhow, I'm not suggesting that it is not Saddam... I'm sure they had something to test it against... it's just that I can't figure out what it was... and it's fun to sepculate :)

Today is a great day for liberty.

We didn't even get hitler alive...
but we got his late 20th century equivilant...

Nice work guys!

Long live the coalition! Long live free Iraq!

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Had dinner with Di at her lab... and then sat around watching homestar on her laptop while she worked on a final exam. Everyone at vandy is working on finals (which evidently start tomorrow).. this time of year makes me glad that I'm not a student.

I picked up chinese at the Hong Kong restaurant just up 21st street from my apartment. I guess I'm becoming sort of a regular there, what with the number of times I've picked up food for Di and I. The quality is generally pretty good, although Di has noticed that the meat they use sometimes fluctuates in quality. It seems to be a mom and pop joint however, and I'm sympathetic to that sort of thing... moreso this evening when a young lad who I will assume was their son was helping out by waiting on tables... he looked to be perhaps 12 years old? Certainly of that akward pre-adolescent age. I hope that the table of vanderbilt girls he was serving gave him a big tip... anyone at that age can use a self-image boost...

End happy activities description...
Initialize rant mode...

Ok, so thusfar I've read through Justice Scalia's dissent (it's pages 169-186 of the pdf I linked earlier). I don't know what the 90+ pages of majority opinion contain yet, but I have a hard time believing they will be able to counter what Scalia summarizes in less than 20. I'm going to try and tackle the majority opinion next despite its length and then move on to Justice Thomas' dissent.

The more I read and think about this, the more outraged I become... I mean it seems to me that the supreme court has the easiest of any judicial job. They have one manuscript which is both their first recourse and their object of defense. They really only have one body of precedent to have to wade through (that of the supreme court itself). How can they fuck up so badly? What part of "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech; or of the press" was so confusing to them?! Especially in light of previous cases as sighted by Justice Scalia dealing with much more "frivilous" speech!!

Here's the thing I don't get though... the five majority justices... why?! Were all five of them simply blind or having a bad day?? This doesn't even seem like a case of so-called "judicial activism" wherein "liberal" judges foist "progressive" policies onto the electorate (see the recent decision in MA)... can these five judges really think that less speech is better? There doesn't seem to be any way that they can benefit personally... they're not elected, they don't need to worry about "attack ads". So has judicial activism gone so far as to become despot-activ-ism??

Friday, December 12, 2003

Well, well... much of the "blogosphere" is up in arms about the supreme court's decision regarding the campaign finance reform law.

I think the situation is acurately summarized thusly (as pulled from Justice Scalia's dissent as sited by the interociter)

This is a sad day for the freedom of speech. Who could have imagined that the same Court which, within the past four years, has sternly disapproved of restrictions upon such inconsequential forms of expression as virtual child pornography, tobacco advertising, dissemination of illegally intercepted communications, and sexually explicit cable programming, would smile with favor upon a law that cuts to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the right to criticize the government. For that is what the most offensive provisions of this legislation are all about. We are governed by Congress, and this legislation prohibits the criticism of Members of Congress by those entities most capable of giving such criticism loud voice: national political parties and orporations, both of the commercial and the not-for-profit sort. It forbids pre-election criticism of incumbents by corporations, even not-for-profit corporations, by use of their general funds; and forbids national-party use of "soft money" to fund "issue ads" that incumbents find so offensive.

I haven't read through the whole 198 page opinion yet, but common sense says that this is not a good thing. 'Non-media' corporations can't purchase advertisements in the 60 days prior to federal elections!?!? Why stop at 60 days? Why corporations at all? A corporation is just a group of people pooling their money together... the legislation doesn't even limit itself to for profit corporations, so your favorite non-profit advocacy group is limited just as much as walmart. (not that I've ever seen political ads from walmart... it would be great if we could get that yellow bouncing dismembered head to cut federal spending like it cuts walmart's prices) Add to this the "soft money" provisions earlier in the bill, and already existing legislation that limits the amount that any one individual may contribute to $2000 (i believe) to any political party, and you've essentially censured the ability of individuals to promote any sort of political change in the 60 days before an election (which, I'm uncertain on, is most likely the time when most swing voters form their opinions on candidates which will actually decide the results of the election).

I'm pissed off, and yet I don't really feel like I can do that much... guess I'm going to have to pick up Mao-Zedong's book on guerrilla warfare again...
I was doing some thinking last night (uh oh). I was thinking about the possibility of running a political campaign that was blog based and focused on simply meeting people. What I envisioned was a campaign that would start the day after an election and run the four years until the next election. The campaign would consist of the candidate working his way around the the electorate, meeting new people every day, doing odd jobs to pay his way, and blogging about his experience, all the while using word of mouth and internet to spread the message of his campaign.

I wonder if such a thing would actually work, and how many people one would have to meet on a daily basis in order to actually have a chance in the election. Four years is (365) x 3 + 366 = 1461 days. I wonder what percentage of the population one would have to physically meet and converse with to reach "critical mass" and get people interested enough to read the weblog portion of the campaign on a daily basis. Would such a campaign even be able to influence voters of over a certain age? It would seem unlikely that such a candidate would be able to penetrate into the constituency that relies on Rather or Brokaw for their news. On the other hand, would people who the candidate physically met even be assured of voting for that candidate? I know that I would be quite likely to vote for a candidate who worked their way around their potential constituency for four years prior to election... and if wouldn't matter that much what their party affiliation (if any) was...

Maybe I'll check to see if "" is taken...
Well, I think I've found another new piece of reading material to go with the introductory C++ text I'm reading...

It's entitled Victory and is authored by Peter Schweizer. The sub-title is "The Reagan Administration's Secret Strategy That Hastened the Collapse of the Soviet Union". Having read the first three chapters it seems, perhaps contrary to the title, not to be pro-reagan, but rather more of a narrative of different players that the adminstration brought into power, and how they were operating with the goal of damaging the "evil empire". It's pretty interesting stuff, and new to me (since I wasn't too interested in politics or international relations at age two)... and it also goes to show how short of a memory people have for history, even history they've lived through. For instance, saudi arabia evidently matched dollar for dollar the funds that the US used to purchase weapons for the mujahadeen.. of course in 2003 that looks pretty foolish, but at the time, when soviet power and imperialism looked greatest after a decade of weak dealings from the US re the USSR in the 70's, it looked like a pretty good deal to put pressure on our number one opponent. I'll have to keep reading the book, but based on the first three chapters I would recommend it.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

After seeing this, I realized that I've been going on about my career as a researcher all wrong...

There's really only one formula for success...

Strong Sad + Caffeine = Science

And for a brief run down of my thoughts on today's top stories:

Countries that tried to stop us from enacting our foreign policy being denied prime contracts for taxpayer money being used to rebuild Iraq: Good -- Heck, we're still letting them act as subcontractors... that's more than generous.
Taiwan's president stating that referendum will go forward but will not directly involve declaring independence: Not good or bad, but I called it -- short term stability.
United Nations holding closed door session on how to regulate and tax the internet to death: Bad -- Nothing like the unelected cronies of unelected tyrants of the despotic dumps of the planet trying to limit the free flow of ideas and commerce through technology.
Gore declaring support for Dean: Unknown -- I doubt anything will change the results of the 2004 election, but it's interesting to contemplate whether this was done for more long term goals, and whether or not it represents a real or deliberately deceptive split in the DP camp.

Thats the headlines of the day and my two cents. All for free... since the UN doesn't regulate the internet.
This is craziness

Seriously folks... if we're not careful, orwell may be proven right, and we'll be left with a language that can't express any worthwhile ideas.

Would have expected this in SF not LA though...

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Last night there were gale force winds blowing outside my apartment... or at least that's what it sounded like. This morning there were the left overs of these winds, which were strong enough to induce my eyes to water as I was walking to work.

Despite the noisy wind I was able to sleep quite soundly, and had some very interesting dreams. Last night marked a first in my known dreams, when I interacted with a person who was a real person, but not someone I knew personally. Characters in my dreams have always been either people I actually interact with, or made of archetypes. However last night I had a conversation with a twin cities' strib reporter whose weblog I read. In the dream he was evidently throwing some sort of cocktail party at his manor house, and while I mingled with other guests, I managed to ask him for his views on theology... very strange.

Meanwhile, the reason I was at the party in the first place was to avoid the foreign agents who were on my tail. Later in the dream, while eating breakfast at a diner, I decided to purchase a car. Conveniently there was a car for sale outside the diner on the street... a white Toyota Corolla... it was 198 dollars a month and I decided to buy it.

Anyhow... strange dreams.

Oh yes, one other thing. I've picked up programming again after having not touched it since sophmore year. I'm working on a text based rpg that aims to simulate the northwestern experience. We'll see how much fun a game that revolves around studying can be...
Holy Crap!

My boss just got tenure!! Woohoo!! Not only does that mean that my job is secure for the time that I'll be here, but it means we get champagne at lab meeting tomorrow!! Yay!

Man, he must be doing something right... last I heard of it, there wasn't going to be a final decision until after a myriad committees reviewed it... and then suddenly, this afternoon...

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Last night I finished playing a single player half-life mod called Heart of Evil. The name was no doubt inspired by Mr. Conrad's novel, and the story line is a cross between HL and Apocolypse Now. This mod was really well put together... it's the best single player mod that I've played that wasn't created by Neil Manke. It's quite immersive, features really well made new models, and overall has a story as interesting as the original half-life. I know the engine is old, but if you've got HL, you should try this mod.

Speaking of the new engine... I hope that some ambitious modder(s) decides to remake the HL storyline in the new Source engine... and while they're at it, they could do the two "official" mods too. The whole project could be called "Half Life Too", or something equally cheesy.

And now for something completely different.

This would have been a good post for Pearl Harbor day, but it's good to read any time.

Attitude of Foreign Governments toward the U.S. during the War of 1861-'65 -
Looking over my scraps, I find I wrote the following during 1864, or the latter part of '63: The happening to our America, abroad as well as at home, these years, is indeed most strange. The Democratic Republic has paid her to-day the terrible and resplendent compliment of the united wish of all the nations of the world that her Union should be broken, her future cut off, and that she should be compell'd to descend to the level of kingdoms and empires ordinarily great!There is certainly not one government in Europe but is now watching the war in this country, with the ardent prayer that the united States may be effectually split, crippled, and dismember'd by it. There is not one but would help toward that dismemberment, if it dared. I say such is the ardent wish to-day of England and of France, as governments, and of all the nations of Europe, as governments. I think indeed it is to-day the real, heart-felt wish of all the nations of the world, with the single exception of Mexico--Mexico, the only one to whom we have ever really done wrong, and now the only one who prays for us and for our triumph, with genuine prayer.

Is it not indeed strange? America, made up of all, cheerfully from the beginning opening her arms to all, the result and justifier of all, of Britain, Germany, France, and Spain - all here - the accepter, the friend, hope, last resource and general house of all - she who has harm'd none, but been bounteous to so many, to millions, the mother of strangers and exiles, all nations - should now I say be paid this dread compliment of general governmental fear and hatred?.......Are we indignant? alarm'd? Do we feel wrong'd? jeopardized? No; help'd, braced, concentrated, rather.

We are all too prone to wander from ourselves, to affect Europe, and watch her frowns and smiles. We need this hot lesson of general hatred, and henceforth must never forget it. Never again will we trust the moral sense nor abstract friendliness of a single government of the world.

That was a quotation from a piece written by Walt Whitman during the American Civil War . As the French say, the more things change, the more it's the same thing.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Implanted ID Cards.

Not sure about the veracity of that article, however, it does prompt thought on whether or not such a thing is a good idea.

Of course there are the potential eschatalogical implications of such a development, but ignoring those completely, I personally would never use such a thing. Think about it... nowadays, if you lose your credit card, you call the company and cancel the card, and are inconvenienced for a few days. Of course, if it's part of your body you can't lose or misplace it very easily. However imagine this scenario; you're walking home late one night and get mugged. Nowadays, you might hand over your wallet with your credit card, get lightly rapped on the head with a pistol butt and then call the credit card company when you get home to cancel your card. You're obviously inconvenienced, but what can you do? On the other hand, imagine being mugged when you've got your credit card implanted in your body... what happens then? I'm thinking mutilation and or murder and then corpse mutilation. Not that a mugger can't kill you now, but there's no outside incentive for a person to kill or mutilate you in such a situation... but if your money is a part of your person, thieves will likely try to take that part of your person...

And losing an arm (or your life) seems like a much worse alternative than losing a piece of plastic.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Must be some sort of grand opening hoi-polloi reception at the children's hospital tonight. They've got two quad sets of search lights going at the south entrance, the whole roof structure is back lit in brilliant purple, and a bunch of suits and well dressed dames are milling around in the entrance area... just my luck it's the night I didn't shave before coming into lab, otherwise I might have been able to slip to grab some canapes.

Speaking of this lighting, it really is nice... it looks like something we should have on the NU campus, in addition to the clock tower. There's a lot of purple up there... really pretty.

In other news, there should have been something more substantial posted here, but... well... it just goes to show that you shouldn't compose long posts in a browser window. Bah!

Friday, December 05, 2003

I had some very interesting conversation with the two chinese grad students in my lab today about Taiwan. It was sparked by my asking some questions after reading this article about PRC threats in response to the ROC's presidential push for a formal nationwide referendum.

I was rather surprised by how vehemently they thought that taiwan was indeed part of china. Of course, one was quite candid about how all mention of taiwan in chinese media from birth onward refers to it as part of china, and therefore it is rather difficult to think otherwise. I was also surprised at the attitude that it would be ok for china to use military force to resecure taiwan and even that it would be preferable to wreck the island in lieu of actually 'letting' it be independent ('letting' is in quotes since the status quo is actually allowing taiwan to be de facto independent).

Of course from the American standpoint things look a little different. We have a proud tradition of the little guy standing up against the big guy. Our own nation was established via violent seccession from a larger nation. We've even had states that have tried to get out of the union and even though they did not succeed (thank goodness in hindsight) and even if their constitutional case for seccession was not airtight, there still exists some sympathy for the notion that it was at least their right to try to withdraw from the union. Add to that the fact that china still falls on the "commie" side of the old cold-war equation, while taiwan is has become a much more free society (since the demise of chiang) and it becomes understandable why we would likely guarantee taiwan's soveignity should it ever come to war.

My own analysis of the situation leads me to believe that this is a short term stable, long term unstable situation. It's probably more stable than the korea issue actually. Think about it... right now taiwan has everything they want except in name, and the fact that there are hundreds of SSM on the mainland pointed their way. Meanwhile, the PRC benefits from trade with the nation (more so than if its economy were directly subject to beijing I would imagine), and occaisionally get's to distract people (either its own citizens, or the US) by rattling the sabre.

Would anything be gained by war? Well, even assuming that the US did NOT become involved, I have a hard time envisioning a scenario whereby China could win a military victory. Clyde suggested that PRC strategy might revovle around saturation of the island with missiles, thereby demoralizing the populace and leading to the fall of the government. Maybe I'm projecting too many American values onto the people of taiwan, but i have my doubts that approach would work.
As to invasion and occupation, it really seems impossible. First, it would be difficult for the PLAN and PLAAF to establish uncontested control of the strait. I think the best they could hope for would be to contest it. Even if they did manage to control the strait, there wouldn't be enough shipping/air lift capacity for an invasion to succeed. The best I think that beijing could hope for (short of using nukes or chems) would be a bloody standoff, and that would not be in their best interests. And of course, if the US entered the conflict, a couple of carrier battle groups and some Los Angeles class SSN would render even a stalemate unlikely.

Anyhow, I think war is unlikely, because as I said earlier I think the situation is stable in the short term. In the long term, hopefully free market reforms and slow democratization of china will lead to a situation where taiwan would have nothing to lose by joining china. I can't be certain, but I would imagine that taiwanese aspirations for independence have little to do with cultural barriers, but rather more to do with what they would stand to lose in liberty and prosperity by tying themselves to the PRC. Maybe I'm wrong on that, someone who is actually taiwanese will have to correct me.

Anyhow, as long as both sides continue to act fairly rationally, I think things should be ok for the next couple decades... here's hoping.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Family Photo Album

Enjoy, with more about international relations coming later.
Oh man, I just missed a great opportunity to actually use my knowledge of korean in an actual conversation.

HW, one of our post-docs just asked me whether it was raining outside or not... and I could have said .

Oh well... maybe next time I'm asked whether it's raining by someone who speaks korean....

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

I'm all sniffly today... of course, I'm actually better than yesterday. Yesterday I was blowing my nose every ten minutes... today it's more like every half hour. Perhaps by tomorrow I'll be down to once every couple of hours.

And now I'd like to talk about something that has been on my mind for several weeks now. You'll recall my previous discussion of the statue I walk past on my way to work.... well, a bit further along my route, there is a camera mounted on an overhang. Think 007 for N64. This camera rotates 180 degrees over a period of time, thereby covering (assuming it can actually see several degrees to either side of the direction it's pointing) essentially the whole plaza area, with the exception of the little bit of space between where it's located on the overhang and the wall behind it that supports the overhang. This is hard to imagine, so I'll do my best to get some pictures.

Anyhow, this camera has been taunting me. It seems to be begging for me to attempt to sneak past it undetected. Not that I have any reason to sneak past it, but its mere presence demands some sort of daring exploit.

So I've been planning.

I need to time the period that it takes to make its full sweep of the area.
Then I need to find locations at either end of my route that can cover my approach.
Finally, I'm afraid that even if I time it correctly, I may not be able to simply run past. My reflection might be caught by the camera in the glass windows opposite its position. I may need to crawl under the cover of some planters, keeping my silouhette low.

The time will come...

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

So... Thanksgiving has come and gone. I think this is the first thanksgiving that I have spent entirely absent the company of my relatives. Thankfully I was in the company of friends, and the holiday was an enjoyable one. Cliff came down to visit me for the weekend, and arrived relatively early thursday morning. I got lost on the way to the airport (How could I have thought that it was off of I-65???), but still got there in time to not make him wait too long. He took a nap when we got back to the apartment (6:30 flights from OHare are killer) which allowed me to nip into lab to get a few outstanding tasks done. I popped in to Krogers (twice) before their 3:00pm closing time to get various ingredients and utensils, and then spent the afternoon cooking up some mashed potatoes and that midwestern holiday staple -- the green bean casserole.

At five, Cliff and I drove to pick up one of Di's coworkers from her apartment, and then we set off for Di's house. She had whipped up a veritable feast. We were the first ones there, and Di's parents immediately set me to pouring drinks for people. There was punch and soda, and later beer and various chinese spirits made their appearence. There was a turkey (which I discovered nearly caused a house fire), stuffing, apple pies, potato salad... all "good things" (a MS would say...).

Di had invited over a gaggle of coworkers from her lab. Rather unsuprisingly for a CS/EE graduate school lab, all of them were from Asia. There were 5 guys and 2 girls. It was quite an enjoyable group actually... I don't think I've ever enjoyed that type of social event before, but the evening was quite fun. I ended up being loaded down with three bundles of leftovers, mostly on the urging of Di's parents.

Friday I ended up going into lab at various times during the day. Cliff accompanied me, and did some work on his laptop. We stopped at Qdoba for lunch, which Cliff actually said tasted better than Chipotle (In case GDIV is reading this... I'm sure he didn't mean it). In the evening we ended up picking up Di, and heading to the Korean-Japanese restaurant that Di and I have nejoyed before. An enjoyable evening out, followed by watching a film called "Hopscotch".

Saturday Cliff and I faced off as the USMC and the IJA respectively in a Steel Panthers game. Lunch at lunched at Baja Fresh (sorry again george!) and I took Cliff to the airport, making sure not to get lost.

As to church on sunday... well... neither Di or I were too impressed with vineyard... :(
I hate looking for churches.

Monday, December 01, 2003

An in depth commentary on all of thanksgiving weekends wonderful activities is forth-coming. In the meanwhile, check out all the updated links.

Oh yes, and look for alt-text on the links for more info (Not all the links have alt-text at this time, but I know the ones near the bottom do).