Wednesday, February 25, 2004

For some reason, this site seems quite fascinating...
Convert Me
It's not proselytization...
Well... I guess it could be considered proselytization of measurements...

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

I'm almost a week late in noticing, but there is hope for the future of Professor Poopansuch as of the 18th of February!


Friday, February 20, 2004

Something is very wrong when you can go outside in the middle of February without a coat...

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Another small observation from my walk to and from work.

Every day I walk by a location which reminds me of the strict segregation we practice in America today. Certain people, simply because of a combination of biochemical predisposition and personal choice are excluded from normal civil society on a regular basis. In the case of the Vanderbilt campus, they have been allocated a segregated portion of the campus... that portion is in fact a small corner of the lower floor of the main parking garage. The floor is a couple feet below ground level, and black metallic bars seperate those sitting below from those walking past on the sidewalk. The only amenity present in this dismal setting are a few wooden benches. Othewise the area is exposed to the elements and the exhaust of parking cars.

The people sitting there are of course smokers.

Friday, February 13, 2004

I think that the dentist's office that I walk past on the way to work may be a front.

I've never seen a dentist's office with an outdoor walkway (a la motel 6) to a second floor doorway with the label "Private Dentist Room 2".
My first intuition is prostitution. Could be drugs though. Or gambling. Or numbers.

More thoughts on government and marriage.

I came up with one instance wherein there might be a need for a government definition of marriage. Child custody. Even in this instance though, I don't think that there's really a pressing need for the government to be involved in defining marriage. If a child is orphaned, or removed from a household due to abuse then the government might be compelled to place the child in the custody of someone other than the child's biological parents. Presumably however there are already mechanisms in place to determine what people are in line to be foster parents. From the government's perspective one would think that if a homosexual individual meets the requirements to be put on the roster of foster parents, they would indeed be put on it...

Even in this instance though, there's no need for federal or even state level judges to be making decisions about what relationship classifies as what. Presumably child custody is generally determined at the local level. If a given jurisdiction determines through the legislative process that partnership to someone of the opposite sex is a requirement for being a foster parent, then I think that that jurisdiction should be allowed that determination.

Course this gets back to what I think is the heart of the matter, too much federal (and state) involvement in local matters. Why won't people recognize the power of bottom up design? Top down control is so old school... they were doing that back in the pharoh's day... people need to get with the program.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

I've been doing some thinking about the recent court decision in MA. It's prompted a number of different thoughts. First, I wonder whether the court's ruling will allow same sex couples "married" in Mass. to claim married status on their federal 1040. If so, it would seem germane for pairs of heterosexual individuals not already so attached to enter into marriage with a same-sex friend or associate in order to reap the tax benefits. I don't know what a marriage license costs in the state, but if one assumes that the cost is amoritized over a period of at least a couple years (until one or both of the individuals decides to actually get married for the more traditional purposes) it would seem worthwhile. No love would need to be involved, and certainly sex would not be needed. Indeed, cohabitation, or even interaction with your spouse above and beyond what occured prior to the union would be completely unecessary. All that would be necessary would be some sort of no fault pre-nup that allowed each partner to retain all of their own property. One even has ready excuse for divorce when the time comes for one of the members of the business venture to get married "for real"... marital infidelity is grounds for divorce inany state (I believe) and these days most couples would be haivng sex before their honeymoon anyhow.

Now, one might think that the size of this loophole is being overstated. After all, nothing in the current body of law seems to prevent a man and a woman from entering into just such a business venture, and we don't see all sorts of "marriages of economic convenience" among heterosexuals, do we? Well, first of all, I don't know that there are any figures that exist on such unions. However, more importantly, I think it is inherently more likely that two same sex friends would be able to enter into such a business agreement without emotional involvement than would a male and a female friend. See Grace, Will and.

I want to come back to the implications of this later, but first let me bring up another objection to the court's decision. I don't think that this is an equal protection case, and yet they decided it as if it was. The analogy was that the state could not institute a contract by the name of "civil union" that was substantially the same as the other contract called "marriage" and only allow people of a certain sexual preference to enter into the "civil union". Shades of "seperate but equal" public schools, buses etc. etc. in the south during segregation... or so the court opined. It sounds pretty terrible when phrased in such a manner.

However... under the previous law regarding marriage, anyone, no matter what their sexual orientation, could get married. Homosexuals were treated exactly the same by the law as heterosexuals. Anyone of sufficient age could get married to someone of the opposite sex. They could do so for "love", for money, for security, for status, for children... any reason they liked. Simultaneously, no two people of the same sex, no matter what their sexual orientation, could enter into the contract called "marriage" with one another. They could not do so for any reason -- not for "love", not for money, not for security, not for status, not for children. That was simply the nature of the contract called "marriage" and it treated everyone under the law equally.

The problem seems to be that now the court in Massachusettes has deemed it fit that the government can declare not only that "love" is the "correct" reason for marriage, but also that the government can make a determination of who loves who. This seems implicit in the courts decision. The idea seems to be that since two homosexual individuals can't really in good conscience enter into the contract called "marriage" because of the reason called "love", that therefore the contract itself is discriminatory towards them on the basis of their sexuality.

Yet where are those supporting the "right to privacy", those who abhor the idea of the government in their bedroom? The Mass. court has determined that because a homosexual cannot "enjoy" sexual intercourse with their opposite sex marriage partner under the current law, therefore the law must be discriminatory to them. What next? A man who finds his wife holding out on him will be allowed the right to a second wife? A woman who only enjoys sex with two other people at once shall be allowed to have both a wife and a husband? Of course it seems absurd, but it is absurdity that you get when the government gets into the business of the boudoire.

Both this and my first question lead to one inescapable conclusion: government shouldn't be in the marriage business. I mean, "marriage license"?? What the hell is that anyhow? It's not even on the same level as having a car license to help finance the public good of the state highway system. Certainly couples might stand to lose out if IRS just threw out all difference between filing singly or as married.. on the other hand, as we can see here, whenever the government gives something it also takes something away.

Historically speaking, from a Christian perspective, marriage is an institution of the church, not of the state. Just like most other matters of the church however, it seems that it's gotten intertwined in politics over the centuries. In other societies and religious traditions I'm not certain where marriage fell on the religious-political spectrum. However, I do know that even societies that were much more tolerant of homosexuality (at least among men) didn't engage in the business of marrying men to other men. The Greek system of erastus-eremenos coexisted with marriage, and one or both of the partners could theoretically be married to a woman. Obviously, the fact that no historical society has allowed such an institution doesn't a priori mean that we should not adopt it now, but it should give one pause.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Well, some potentially good preliminary news on the GRE front. I took the sample biology test today and scored an 800. Now, to my surprise, the subject GREs are evidently not graded on the same 800 max score system as the general GRE or the SAT subjects. It seems that a 990 is the maximum score for the biology GRE. In context, my score of 800 puts me in the 92 percentile, which seems pretty good. I also checked out my subscores for each of the three broad categories the exam is supposed to cover. They suggest that if your subject score is 1/10th of your total score, then your proficiency in that subject is equal to your proficiency on the exam as a whole. I got an 83 on "Cellular and Molecular Biology", a 72 on "Organismal Biology", and a 79 on "Evolution and Ecology". I'm somewhat surprised that the last two were not switched, but evidently that population genetics class I took winter quarter paid off.

This is encouraging for a number of reasons. First, I didn't study at all prior to taking the sample exam. This suggests that with two months of study I may be able to increase my score by at least a couple tens of points, perhaps moving myself into the 95th percentile. Secondly, it suggests that I did actually learn something in college afterall :)

Interestingly, there were several questions for which I could remember studying the answer, and in fact remember which class I had studied the answer in, but yet couldn't remember the answer itself. Another interesting observation deals with the last 1/4-1/3 of the exam, which was sets of 2-5 questions on "experimental data" that was presented. I essentially aced this part of the exam (I left one blank) which was a nice feeling while grading it. My wrong answers (and the rest of my blanks) were all concentrated in the first part of the exam which contained many more questions of the "What does this enzyme do?" or "Where is this hormone released?" type. In other words, questions that can't easily be reasoned around.

Anyhow, by this weekend I will have the biochem exam completed as well, and I'll be able to compare my scores and decide which one to actually take. And then the studying shall begin in earnest.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Looking at the pictures up on esthereggy makes me lament living in the south... sure it's only a couple degrees above absolute zero up in the northlands right now... but it's a good kind of cold... it builds character. Besides, it's cold down here now, and we don't even get the benefit of snow...It's even worse than NU... at least in chitown we could expect a couple of good enjoyable snowball-fight inducing snowy nights a year...

Anyhow, as an update on my last post, I'm posting my raw data and notes on my premier game of London's Burning. You can access them here. The numbers may not make a whole lot of sense, but then again, who knows, they might... all the numbers should be dr or DR or possibly drm or DRM. (If you can figure out that terminology, then you should have no trouble. I've also posted a .jpg of the game board to help you follow where the action is going on. You can access that here.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Ok, did ETS just put up subject tests on their website yesterday? I've looked at the GRE site before and never found them... but today they were there... Well, now I've got practice versions of both the biochem and bio exams. My thought is that I'll take both practice exams, and then score them, not looking back over my wrong answers, but just getting a score. That should help me determine which one I should take.

Speaking of taking the exam, it looks like I've got exactly 60 days to get ready (thankfully it's a leap year). I need to decide by the end of this month though which one I'm going to take. If I can get the same score on either exam I should probably take the biochem exam... however, if I score substantially higher on the bio exam I should probably take that one instead. Of course ETS makes the decision harder by qualifying that scores on different subject tests can't be accurately compared to one another... :(

In other news, I got a new AH game in the mail yesterday courtesy ebay... "London's Burning". It's a solitaire or two player game about the battle of Britain.. as a solitaire game you command two RAF planes against several weeks of Luftwaffe bombing, trying to shoot down as many germans as possible while minimizing losses and damage to ground targets. It's quite fast playing, and I played through the week long test scenario in less than an hour last night. Quite fun, you get to know the "personalities" of your pilots, and the emotion factor kicks in when you're rolling damage dice for an attack on one of your favorite (Almost) ace pilots. The game also lends itself to an after or during action report format, so I'm thinking about presenting one here in the near future.