Sunday, October 31, 2004

For you NU alumni readers... are there any "routes" that you can vividly remember from your days on campus? I was thinking about this idea this week, when I realized that I have a pretty good visual memory now of the route I walk to work everyday. This route doesn't have the same sort of fond remembrance associated with it as certain NU routes though. Here are my top five remembered routes.

5. Out the back door at Sargent and into tech across the alley, waving hello to the three cameras in the hallway.
4. Pre-nanotech building walk down the alley between tech and tech library towards the hedges outside of vogelback
3. Passing on the west side of the observatory and through the seminary complex, partcularly when snowing or raining. Making sure to hop over the large puddles that developed near the stairs there.
2. Coming up the hill past Sargent dining hall, through the basketball court, past CCI and back home to Kemper.

And the number one remembered route:

1. Past the east side of the observatory, through the lingering bad smell behind Swift, and through the trees towards the main library. At night.... always at night.

Please share your most fondly remembered route(s) on campus.
Man, of all years not to be living in Evanston!!!
First we beat OSU in overtime... then we beat Purdue...another victory I never saw during my stay at NU. There's still hope for a bowl boys!! Just gotta take out Michigan! (Oh yeah, and UIUC, Penn State and Hawaii) Actually... I guess we could even go to a bowl without beating Michigan... but if we beat Michigan there's a better chance of the 'cats coming to Nashville.

If we make it to the music city bowl, you are all invited to my place... seriously.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

There US government really needs to pass some legislation recognizing some basis for claims of ownership for land on extra-terrestrial bodies. I'd suggest that claims only be recognized for individuals who have actually gone to the location of their claim. I would also limit any individual from making a claim of greater than a given size. Why would this be a good idea?

Well... Let's take Mars as an example. Mars has a surface area of about 144,800,000 square kilometers. Say any individual who travelled to Mars could make a land claim of 40 square kilometers. Ahh, but how are they going to get to Mars you ask? Wait, I'm getting to that. 40 square kilometers is about 15.5 square miles. 15.5 square miles is about 9896 acres. So, almost 10,000 acres. If passage to Mars cost 2 million dollars per person, any individual could recoup the cost of their voyage by selling their land claim for only about 200 dollars per acre... and they could even keep 40 acres if they wanted. Now, here's where the market does it's magic. Rich folks could probably fork over 2 million for passage to Mars easily... Several individuals have paid ~20 million to simply fly into space with the former soviet space program. Richard Branson meanwhile already has thousands of commitments from individuals wishing to fly (admittedly sub-orbitally) into space for around 200,000 a piece. Given that getting out of Earth's gravity well is the major cost in any space endeavor, I don't think it unreasonable to suggest that were there incentive to get to Mars it could be done with essentially current technology for on the order of 2 million dollars per person. To be safe, let's say it costs 20 million per person... you need to charge 2000 dollars per acre to recoup your cost. Fine. Even people who don't have money on earth could get passage by signing away the majority of their claim to a company on earth that would fly them there. 3,620,000 people could do so before the planet would run out of 40 square kilometer plots. At that point, companies that had a bunch of plots would likely be able to start selling them for even more than 2000 an acre. Heck, if any areas of Mars became as trendy as Manhattan or Hollywood, they could sell them for 2,000,000 an acre. But even if they could only sell them for 4,000 that would be real economic profit... companies would be leaping at the opportunity to fly folks to Mars. And along the way, they would develop better, safer, cheaper, faster means of doing so, all in order to make Mars more accessible and thereeby increase the value of their holdings. This would also provide great incentive for companies to engage in terraformation, since that would also greatly increase martian property usablility and value.

This whole chain of emmigration and technological inovation could be set in motion by the government reconizing land claims of individuals who have actually gone to take possession of them on extra-terrestrial bodies. Basically every other country would have to recognize such claims as well if the US did. And this would not make Mars or the moon into American rocks either... the government would recognize property claims of people from any country on earth as long as they actually went to the location they were claiming. Heck, I'm certain that a company would spring up specializing in providing passage for folks from the developing world. Certainly not a lot of upper middle class folks from the developed world would want to go themselves, given the likely privations and risks inherent to the move... but Mars could become the 21st century equivilant of the New World in the 17th-19th centuries. Potentially fewer folks fleeing religious persecution... on the other hand, maybe more folks from sci-fi alien worshipping cults... who knows. But, it would probably have as great of a positive impact on human civilization overall as the settlement of America had. Perhaps in the 25th century, a martian fleet and army could come help out the United States of America against advancing fascist armies... who knows.

Anyhow, this needs to get through the legislature quickly... cause I want to be on my way...

Monday, October 25, 2004

[Editor's note: My computer froze up on me twice during the process of writing this tome, necessitating partial rewrites both times. Perhaps it was an omen... in case you get offended by anything written herein, pretend I never finished writing it, and then forget it.]

Well, NU lost this weekend... I guess I should take some small comfort in knowing that Herron is the only back thusfar to eclipse 100 yards against the UW defense... that's pretty small comfort. All I have to say is that the Badgers better go undefeated all the way to the Rose Bowl now that they've beat us...

Since there was no joy in Evanston this weekend, I had to turn to the NFL for my dose of vicarious victory. Thankfully both Green Bay and Jacksonville dished up big wins on Sunday. Of course, if you buy the theory esposed by thegusbus in this thread, next weekends game will be even more important. Personally I hope that the streak ends this year, but barring that here's hoping the Packers take a dive.

And via that incredibly awkward transition I segue into politics.

Now, I could just tell you all who you are voting for, but that might be a bit strong arm... and the internet doesn't seem to be a medium in which arms operate stongly... So instead, allow me to outline the thought process that has gone on in my head culminating in a decision as to who will get my vote come election day.

But first, just so you know where I'm coming from, some background.

My parents were both democrats when they got married. Indeed, some might suggest that they a bit out there democrats, considering certain ideas that were tossed around regarding 'subsistence farming'. Somewhere along the way though, their views began to trend more conservative. I'm not sure if my parents could be considered "Regan Democrats"... certainly they didn't vote for him the first time around (and they still wouldn't have voted for him had they not been busy with me being born on election day) Certainly by the arrival of the 1996 election at the latest I think both my parents would have self identified as Republicans... indeed my father evidently even carried a card. So, there exists the formal possibility that my mind was forever poisoned to "progressive" thought by my upbringing.

I don't think that is the case... but perhaps it is. What I do know is that my political views have been influenced mostly by two factors: my faith, and my interest in history. These two elements combined give me the theoretical framework and the evidence for my most fundamental political belief: people are not naturally good. Or at the very least, there are enough people who are not naturally good, and they are good enough at disguising themselves so as to necessitate dealing with everyone as being not naturally good. You follow? Good.

The other fundamental political view I hold is that individuals are responsible for their own actions, and should be free to do what they like as long as they accept the consequences. (including externalities). These two beliefs combined with a healthy dose of strict constitutional constructionism comprise my core political beliefs.

As far as parties go... well... I wouldn't self identify with either party... my highly stylized view of the parties is that the democrats are evil while the republicans are cowardly and/or incompetent. Evil is definitely too hyperbolic in this instance, but what I mean is that it seems to me that democrats actively push for measures that are bad or harmful, while republicans generally end up going along out of incompetence of craven self-interest. So in the absence of any other information on a pair of candidates, I might choose the republican... or the non-incumbant. So while I may have a bias towards republican candidates, I'm not structurally averse to voting for democrats. For instance, if I was still living in the PRC, I would certainly be voting for Mr. Obama... because Mr. Keyes is quite mad. (I must confess though, that had Mr. Ryan not dropped out of the race, I would be hard pressed not to vote for the guy who got his wife Seven of Nine to bed him in public)

Anyhow, so there are my preconceptions and my guiding views (vote for politicians with hot wives).

Now, on to the two presidential candidates in this year's race.

Let's look at the issues. (Presented in almost no particular order)

Space Policy: Nothing too substantial here from either candidate, although I at least like the words that Bush has put out for the most part. NASA is still bloated and not too amenable to executive oversight no matter who the chief exec is. Bush sounds more like Kirk while Kerry is a bit too Jean-Luc for my tastes. Personally I think that space exploration and development should be the fed's number one priority after national security. That's not going to happen no matter who's in the white house come november. No points for either side here.

Firearms: Kerry made some noise about the need to renew the assault weapons ban. Irregardless of whether I think that particular legislation to be pseudo-constitutional, I think it's a poor piece of legislation as to how it was written. However, since if he wins Kerry would no longer be a legislator, I doubt he'd be able to get a new ban through the GOP controlled house. Bush could have gained a few points had the renewal come up for veto, but it died on the congressional floor. No points for anyone.

Homosexual unions: Bush threw a bone to a section of his base with the gay marriage ban amendment thingy that was never going to get through the congress. Kerry said his position on gay marriage was the same as the president's. Seems they were both sucking up to the same perceived demographic. I wrote about my thoughts on the matter some time ago. Basically I think it's not a civil rights issue, the legislators should handle it, and we ought not change the definitions of words willy-nilly. Meh. No points for either candidate... not many to be had anyhow.

Taxes: A Nobel prize winning economist has criticized Bush's tax cut package for being to small. Kerry meanwhile has proposed raising taxes on households of married professionals and small business owners. Course if those people get taxed more, they'll just work and produce less so as to get into a lower bracket. At best revenue will remain the same... at the worst it will be less than pleasant for the ole' economy. No points for Bush here. Or Kerry for that matter.

Jobs and outsourcing: Ok, I really don't think there's much that either candidate could do in office to effect jobs or the outsourcing therof. Unless we want to nationalize the economy. (And people say Bush = Hitler now!) In the debates Bush mentioned education as the solution. Kerry made some vaguely protectionist sounding remarks about protecting American jobs etc. At least Bush's words made better sense economically -- capital investment is always a good thing (that's what education is for a single person firm selling their labor) Not really anything to give points for here.

Spending and the defecit: Bush failed to veto a single bill that came across his desk in his four year term. I find it hard to believe that there wasn't one bit of pork there that he could have vetoed. Kerry meanwhile is proposing various programs and initiatives that total in the trillions of dollars of increased spending. Now, as president, Kerry would no longer legislate, so there's some question whether even a dollar of that spending would get through the GOP controlled congress... but who am I kidding here... republicans are cowardly and incompetent... some sizable portion of that would be shoved through the people's r*ct*m. Minus 10 points for both candidates.

Health Care: Bush bribed the largest block of voters with the prescription drug plan. While I understand the politics behind paying off old folks with butter so as to send the young folks off with guns, that doesn't mean I have to like it. Kerry meanwhile voiced the idea that all 300 million + American citizens (and presumably the several million illegals and however many millions more are attracted by the program) should have the same health care as the members of the US senate. Now, besides being non sequitor, this proposal is patently ridiculous. People complain about flu vaccine shortage now... wait'll you have to wait several months for your allergy meds. Bah! minus 10 points for everyone!

Prior military service: Basically I don't care. No points for anyone. Oh wait... minus 100 points for CBS.

The War: Well, I must confess... this is it... the big kahuna. Not only because I think that foreign policy should be the primary concern of the federal government, but also because all of the proceeding issues will start seeming pretty unimportant if a suitcase nuke goes off in Manhattan. I'm dividing this part into several subsections.

Allies and the UN: Kerry claims Bush has given the finger to America's allies, and promises to restore our alliances... while badmouthing our new allies in Iraq, and our much older allies that went into Iraq with us. Right now we've got all of our allies from that great crusade, world war two, with the exception of France, Canada, and China. But we've got 2/3rds of the Axis on our side in the form of Italy and Japan. Yeah, American troops are bearing the brunt of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gee, perhaps that's because no other country on earth with the military resources of the US. Are we to be paralysed by the fact that our allies just don't have large militaries? Are we to forswear action that requires us to provide more that 50% of the personnel? Our military would be useless. I think we ought to do more to get other nations to bear their own defense costs, rather than relying on our umbrella coverage. Oh yeah, and as to France and Germany, besides support for the US being politcally untenable for the politicians there, it turns out a bunch of folks were getting paid off by Saddam with oil contracts via oil for food. Great...
In conclusion, Bush has sought allies to the extent that it helps our objectives, and our allies have helped us to the extent that it has helped their objectives... and those that weren't helped didn't help.

Iraq: At the current casualty rate, we would have to be in Iraq for a century of violent occupation until we reached the casualty level sustained during the Vietnam war. This is not your father's vietnam... indeed, it's not vietnam at all. Funny how some people can't get that war out of their heads. Talk about planning for the last war. Anyhow... was invading Iraq the right thing to do in 2003? Well... it may not have been the best thing to do, but it was certainly not the worst thing to do, and I think it was a good thing to do. It was bold, it kept initiative on our side. It eliminated a saliant in our lines. Could some other course of action have worked as well or better? No doubt... but... that's really only a determination that can be made in hindsight. Should we continue to stay in Iraq now? YES. Kerry is ostensibly concerned about allies... we've got 25 million new allies right there, as long as we stick around and help them clean up shop. Who would have thought in 1944 while fighting raged in the Pacific that sixty years later we'd be getting our unintelligible children's animation and school girl fetish needs supplied by the grandkids of the folks we were fighting. Just think what we'll be getting from Iraq in sixty years if we tough it out for three or four more years.

The continuing war: Kerry wants us to "get back to where we were" during the 1990's... when terrorism was just a nuisance. Bush has demonstrated a resolve to take the fight to the enemy and those who would support them. Two rogue states converted into (toddling) new republics is not a bad record for three years. Yeah, mistakes have been made... Tenet probably should have gotten canned long before he was... but...

How many attacks have there been on US territory since 9/11/01?
Oh sure, but there weren't any attacks in the three years prior to 9/11/01 either...

October 12 2000
August 7 1998
February 26 1993

to name a few...
and it's not like aq affiliates have just given up violence either.

October 12 2002
March 11 2003
September 1 2004

Perhaps all the terrorist energy is directed at our troops in Iraq?

Wonderful I say... it keeps our civillians safe, and the loss ratio (15:1 or more) is a lot better than our loss ratio from the 11th (~1:300)

Iran, Korea, and the atom: The one area I'm really concerned about... I don't see any moves being made right now to stop the mullahs from getting the bomb... however, I obviously don't have access to every piece of intel and every government plan. I do know that Kerry wants to give the Iranians nuclear fuel in exchange for the enriched waste. Yeah... that sounds like a great idea... no chance at all that a few kg of the stuff will just disappear... oh yeah, and the Iranians won't have it anyhow.

Conclusion: Like I said earlier... most of this stuff doesn't matter. I'm really only concerned about the war, and making sure that we don't have to make a lot of glass quick. I don't think that the Bush admin's handling of the war has been perfect... far from it... but then, neither was FDR's or Lincoln's or even Washington's. At least Bush thinks this is a fight we need to win. Kerry and foreign policy benchwarmers from the Clinton era want to go back to the 1990's. Trouble is, they don't have a time machine...

Bush has got my vote this year.

No matter who wins though, we'd better be praying that God has some mercy saved up for us all... otherwise we may be staring down some scrolls and trumps...

Monday, October 18, 2004

Well, I found another easy to make meal that only requires one dish to cook. This one takes a bit of time, but most of that time is just letting a pot simmer on the stove. This is my own take on the families secret chili recipie... well... it's not that secret... and since my family is from the midwest, it's not that authentic either, but it's darn tasty and filling.

So, let's get started

Take a pound of meat. You can use ground beef, ground chuck, ground pork, ground chicken? You can use my new favorite ingredient, bulk sausage. When I made this last night, I used a half pound of chorizo and a half pound of Jimmy Dean HOT sausage. You can use more or less than a pound of meat if you prefer, but I've found (after making the recipie once ;-)) that a pound gives a nice meaty chili without it devolving into a meatball with sauce.

So... you've got your pound of meat... it should be mostly thawed out. Take that pound of meat and stick it into a pot on medium heat. Brown the meat while breaking into small chunks. If you're health conscious or have had multiple bypass surgery in the past, you can drain the extra grease at this point. Otherwise, start pouring in the other ingredients.

Oh, you'll need to know what those are.

1 can tomato soup
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce (NOT TOMATO PASTE)
1 can cubed tomato
1 can beans (I go for the kidney beans... you can use another type if you don't like nephrons.) (Also, don't use "chili beans")
1 onion, chopped
chili powder (copious amounts) (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

If you're a particular fan of tomato, you could try adding a can of larger tomato instead of or in addition to the cubed tomato. In my case, I think the cubed tomatos disolved at some point in the cooking process. You can also add any other vegetables that you have around the house at this point. You can also try adding garlic or brown sugar.

Now that the whole mess is in the pot, cover and let simmer on low heat for an hour... or more.... I went for one and a half hours to let some of the extra volume evaporate since I don't like a really thin chili... don't go too long though... you want some tasty volume to stick around to soak into the crackers you're going to mix in. Also, if you've added additional veggies, you may not want to go much over an hour.

So, now you just add the aforementioned soup crackers, and a large amound of shredded cheese (I went for a cheddar/jack blend last night) and enjoy.

This recipie makes enough for for not so hungry people, or enough for about two of my dinners...

So, enjoy.... but enjoy responsibly...
Ok, here's another probability question...

You've got a box of rubber gloves that is known to contain 100 gloves by weight... theoretically the margin of error is the weight of one glove, so you could occaisionally have a box with 99 or 101 gloves, but usually there will be 100. Since they are gloves, and you generally use gloves on two hands at once, usually gloves are taken out in pairs. Occaisionally though a single glove will be taken, or a pair will be taken and then a third glove. But generally gloves are taken out in pairs.

The question is, what is the probability of having an odd glove left over when the box is finally emptied?

My thought is that given the circumstances described, there should be an equal chance of having either an odd glove or of finishing the box off evenly.

Then why the heck do I always seem to have an odd glove when I finish using a box of gloves?!?!?!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Huh... I just found out that Tony Randall (RIP) was an NU alum...

I saw an episode of The Odd Couple on tv a couple weekends back... Felix Unger reminded me of a cross between Major Burns and Major Winchester on M*A*S*H.

I guess perhaps not as famous as the original motion picture duo...

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Hmm... I wonder if this whole flu vaccine shortage will have any effect on the election....

Thursday, October 07, 2004

I just got an email from someone in the alumni association.

Here's the relevant excerpt:

"ESPN2's telecast of Northwestern's 33-27 overtime victory over then-sixth-ranked Ohio State Saturday, Oct. 2 was the network's most-viewed college football telecast ever, averaging 2,028,000 households and a 2.3 rating." (emphasis mine)

As our fight song says:

"Spread far the fame of our fair name, go Northwestern, win that game!"

Ok, this isn't required reading by any means, but it's darn funny...

Know thy Enemy: Halliburton

An excerpt:

"* In Iraq, Halliburton has a couple people instructed to bang a hammer against pieces of wood to pretend they're constructing something while the rest of the employees work on stealing all that sweet, sweet oil."

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Go read Deterrence.

History is important... even recent history.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

And you thought Kerry mispoke during the debate when he mentioned submitting US foreign policy to the "global test"...

He didn't mispeak... the test has been on the internet for quite a while.

(Thanks to Rand Simberg)

Monday, October 04, 2004

What a weekend!! What a Monday! Great things happening all over!

First of all...


This is huge! While OSU is not a rival in the sense that UIUC is, we had never beat them in my tenure on campus. Indeed, I find out that we hadn't beaten them in thirty-three years!! They always seemed like the one victory we could never get! I have to concur with Carl when he states his regret about already being graduated and not being in the student section for this historic night. I mean, look at what happened! I'm not usually one for bacchanalian public debauchery, but were I two years younger, I would have made an exception in this case.

So, being all excited about our win, I come into work to find out that there has been another great victory...
SpaceShipOne won the X-prize!! This is great news! There's hope for me getting to Mars in my lifetime!

Finally, there was another victory announced today, by some other olfaction researchers... Richard Axelwon the Nobel prize...
Great, now my boss will want one... ;-)

Anyhow, back to football... despite the 3rd toughest lineup of opposition in college football, we're still in contention for a bowl game... of course we've got to win the "win-able" games against Illinois, Indiana, Penn State and Hawaii... plus we need another OSU style upset against at least one of the Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan triad. Having watched the Purdue-Notre Dame game on Saturday I can say that we stand little chance against their QB. Assuming we only manage one more upset win this season, I hope it's against UofM a la 2000. Perhaps UW can have a perfect season this year... of course, if we can become the spoiler of the Big Ten this year and upset all three, I say go for it! After this win, anything is possible!!!