Wednesday, November 23, 2005


So, the thing about travelling is that I show up four hours earlier than the flight is supposed to leave in order to make sure that I can actually get through security, and then have to find something to do for the three and a half hours that are left over after I've gotten through security and eaten breakfast. So to this then. First of all, let's do some news.

It's old by now, but something still needs to be said about the fact that everyone with a myspace account will eventually inflict horrible crimes upon their fellow man. That's evidently a requirement for having an account. I say this only because a week or so after they brought David Ludwig and Kara Borden back to Pennsylvania (whose Xanga and Myspace accounts have been deleted since), Dominick Maldonado of Tacoma, Washington decides to go on a shooting spree at the mall in Tacoma, where fellow R&M moderator Scott works at a Baskin Robbins. Even more incredible than the fact that this guy would feel the urge to put on a shirt and tie and go into a mall to shoot some people and hold hostages without actually having any demands and moreso than the mall he decided to do this to employs Scott is the response to the negative comments on his Myspace posts. He'd only posted twice in his associated myspaceblog thing, and soon after he was arrested, the a few dozen people descended upon his posts to tell him what a waste he was.

Fine. Whatever.

That's understandable, as he's got a little corner of the internet that people can interact with and that they would do so after he goes out and injures six (one critically with several gunshot wounds) and holds some children hostage in a Sam Goody is only natural. What's odd is the response of one of his friends that had gained access enough to the account to change the biography but not to delete it and chose to respond to those posts, asserting that everyone "was just reacting to what the media was telling them" and that "Dominic is the victim of slander." Not only is that entirely false (as many people who were responding were at the mall he decided to shoot up, and so were probably responding more to bullets whizzing past
their heads than any media coverage), but... well... it's not hard for the media to portray you as a bad guy when you shoot innocent people.

But whatever. The only reason I really mention that is because of my shock that Scott was somehow entangled in this (being shot at and whatnot) and that it provides further proof that myspace and Xanga are either inherently evil or that people are
starting to commit this horrible violence for the blog traffic.

Oh, while I'm somewhat on the subject, prosecutors in the Ludwig case are not claiming that Kara Borden was kidnapped, but that she went willingly and so kidnapping charges will not be pressed. It's an interesting turn as I believe it saves Ludwig from a possible death penalty, but as that's most likely what happened, that's appropriate.

I've been watching/reading Fullmetal Alchemist recently, which passes the time. I think my original rejection of the series was simply because 1) I'm not now nor have I ever been a fan of anime or manga of any kind, as it struck me mostly as a fad/cultural envy 2) Inuyasha's spot on Adult Swim makes me cry, as I hate Inuyasha and 3) I was initially skeptical of the way they were using the word "alchemy". I'm ignoring all of that now and it's actually a decent series. Good for them.

As for information you might actually use, here's a tip. If you're tired and still not entirely comfortable with relying on Bernoulli's Principle to make sure you get to Pittsburgh, don't listen to Randy Newman's "God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)," particularly if the next song your computer selects at random from the playlist is "Magical Mystery Tour," followed by "Break Ya Neck." You are not prepared for that kind of shift. Trust me.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

One Step Beyond.

Incidentally, Chicago Public Radio features a look at 2-Tone ska and an interview with the recently reunited Madness. Listen to that.

EDIT: It's tomorrow at 9pm Central Standard Time.


I hate National City, except for one employee named Laeticia who's the only person I've been in contact with there that can get anything done. In summary, my card's finally been activated for use as a credit card, my cable bill went insane but has finally been paid (though they still don't send me bills or statements or anything) and I've got that more or less under control. Incidentally, in checking that I was giving them the right zip code (as I gave them the address when I'd just moved here and the whole zip code system in Chicago was still somewhat mindboggling), I noticed that the USPS zip code finder requests that you put enter a zipcode. It's not an actual inconvenience, but seems as though something that shouldn't be.

Two tests next week (Monday and Tuesday) followed by Thanksgiving, and the quarter system is becoming more and more effective at giving me an ulcer.

I don't usually comment about the whole Iraq thing, because there are thousands of other bloggers that already do that and I'm really not that interested in trying to add even more to that. That said, the US Army said today that white phosphorus incendiary shells were used in the fight for Falluja as weapon against insurgents (as opposed to the original stated purpose, illumination), which the BBC is claiming runs somewhat counter to the campaign against Iraq's use of chemical weapons. The WP rounds aren't banned by any treaties to which the US is a signatory and it is generally regarded as less bad than most true "chemical weapons" unless aimed at civilians, though white phosphorus does cause pretty nasty burns if it comes into contact with, well, anything. Daily Kos is freaking out about this whole issue, some others aren't saying anything and I'm trying desperately to land somewhere in the middle. WP weapons were used in the Second World War extensively by the British (in the Dresden firebombing campaign and in premade Molotov Cocktails assembled in case of a raid by the Germans according to Emsley's The 13th Element), but if your campaign lists "use of chemical weapons" as part of its raison d’être it's probably not the best idea.

Jason Bay agreed to a four year extension, which is...good. If the Pirates are actually going to try to build an offense, they'll need Bay.

New steroid policy, incidentally, which the players have agreed to which sets much harsher penalties for steroid use (50 games for the first offense, 100 for the second, set on fire for the third) which is long overdue. Pat of WHYGAVS is right in that it's only a start (as it doesn't include blood testing, which is the only way to detect Human Growth Hormone), but it's a good one. It shows that they're at least somewhat serious about trying to eliminate this problem.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What the hell, PA. What the hell.

Back again.

I've acquired the strangest sleeping schedule, which I hope to try to persuade to be a bit more normal today. It's not really that big of an issue, so long as I spend a sizeable portion (read: all) of my waking hours preparing for next week's "Two Exams Before You Go Home So That You Hate Life Before Cranberry Sauce Happens" Thanksgiving special. By far the more important is Monday's Inorganic exam, mostly because I'd like to improve my score in that class, and I've been doing well on the Mechanisms tests.

Things for today:

If you're like me, you often sit on the edge of your futon, wondering how it's possible that it's yet again time to do the laundry and thinking that everything would sort itself out if only you could have a way to simultaneously spend eight thousand dollars and give some poor UPS guy a hard time by making him carry 700 pounds of packages. If so, your dreams have come true. Available on Amazon, those Penguin Classics books. All of them. Every last damned one. 1,082 volumes. Why? I don't know. My favorite bit is where they suggest that it's the perfect addition to any "home, office or institutional library." Presuming I get into a lab, that's just what whoever my advisor will be is going to see. I come in on Day One with a computer, a bagged lunch, and seven hundred pounds of books.

I have fond memories of the Waterfront. From using it to find my way back home after oh... three hours lost in the suburbs of Pittsburgh to the dinner that Pitt bought when a few of us visited the Graduate school to my birthday with Jenna at Rock Bottom and Dave and Busters to watching Tim Burton's Big Fish in the Loews Cineplex and running into RJ at the screening. That good ol' Waterfront. Incidentally, while I'm going on about it, you should head on down to Loews if you're going to see a movie while you're in Pittsburgh. Huge place. Nice. Watch out for shootings, though. I don't know what to make of this. The part of me that says "video games and rap don't make people kill people, otherwise Corey would be in jail" thinks that this is probably unrelated to Get Rich Or Die Tryin', but then you don't see many shootings at Doom premiers. It's odd, anyway, if only because it's a place that I actually went to more than once.

Oh, one more thing.

They caught this bastard, which is good. They can't talk to the 14-year-old girl whose parents were killed in this incident because she's 14 and they need a legal guardian before they can talk to her. So they're not sure if she was going along with David Ludwig or if she was kidnapped. This stems from the fact that the 18-year-old Ludwig was out all night with the 14 year old and when the parents questioned him about it, he shot and killed them in front of a 15-year-old sister of the allegedly kidnapped. He's waived his right to an extradition hearing and will return to Pennsylvania (Lancaster County) to face charges on two counts of criminal homicide, one count of kidnapping and one count of reckless endangerment.

Warning: Pennsylvania has gone batshit insane.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Trains, Firefox, Psychopaths and Dave Littlefield

Andrea Yates gets another trial after having the first decision overturned based on false testimony by an expert witness of the prosecution; he claimed she patterned her crime, which if you'll remember was drowning her children in a bathtub, on an episode of Law and Order. No such episode exists. The defense is going to try for the "innocent by reason of insanity" again, the same defense that was rejected the last time through. It seems likely that she'll end up in a mental institution, which seems fine by me. She'd still be out of the public, she'd actually probably be getting help and considering her mental state and the fact that she's already tried to off herself in prison... an institution seems like the more appropriate place.

Every so often I remember how much I love the Greasemonkey extension. I've posted about this already, somewhere back there, but I wanted to point out once again that it's just really freaking useful.

And sometimes I think "Wow, I really am not a big fan of the L", mostly when it's running a few minutes late and I've convinced myself that I urgently need to be somewhere like Borders. Evidently, I have no idea. Often it's happened that I hear the piercing *ding* and the louder-than-Krakatoa announcement that my train is being delayed due to signals ahead/workers on the tracks/spite, but it's never occurred to me that a response (not appropriate, but just possible) might be to just get off and burn the sucker. Evidently, the thought sprang to the minds of some commuters in Johannesburg. I just... wow.

Incidentally, it seems that the Metra got $30,000 for their assistance in making the soon-to-be-released Derailed. The Metra, you may remember, actually did have a fatal derailment two months ago.

And, on a related note, the CTA has voted to screw people that pay with cash and disabled riders increasing the former's fare by $0.25 to $2.00 and doubling the disabled rider fare (I believe restricted to busses, but I could be wrong) to $3.50 one way. The CTA does, actually, need more money, but doubling the disabled fare? Seriously? This doesn't affect me, as I buy the 30-day unlimited rides pass (and am keeping track this month of how much I can save like this, though it seems I'll be foiled by that whole "Thanksgiving" thing).
The Pirates seem to be trying to calm fans by noting, emphatically, that this offseason will be different. Hopefully, they're right here and Littlefield will be able to do something positive.

Oh, also, evidently, Dover PA voted to oust the board members that voted for including the inclusion of intelligent design in biology classes. I'm down with that, if only because, as I've argued before on this blog, Intelligent Design doesn't fit the necessary parameters for being a science. So it shouldn't be taught as a science. That doesn't mean it's not true, and I lack enough information to say whether or not it is, but it doesn't follow scientific requirements. I have no problem with directing kids toward Of Pandas and People and I would encourage parents to discuss the origins of life with their kids in the interest of getting as much information about the various theories as possible, but I just can't see how you can present it in a science class without turning it into a theological argument, which isn't the place of a public school science class.

That, and I don't like it when ID-ers (as opposed to simply "D-ers", I guess) try to portray the fact that Darwin's theory of evolution is a theory as something negative. It ignores the actual meaning of the word theory, and that just irks me.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Elections and A Kid

Incidentally, Ken Bartley, Jr. becomes the latest school shooting suspect (I use suspect here in the same way that the article I've linked to uses it; a way to avoid saying the guy that they wrestled to the ground with the gun shooting people was guilty before he's actually tried). I'm surprised, actually, that there hasn't already been a glut of commentators alleging that he's been influenced by this hot topic or that, but I'm sure it's coming. Before anything comes out, I can't really say his motives, but these cases have, in recent years, been mostly about kids that seem to take high school and reputation in high school far too seriously. More on this when more exists.

The NYTimes claims that the recent gubernatorial defeats spell trouble going into the 2006 elections. Democrats are playing the elections up as a referendum on Bush's job in the office, Republicans are claiming it has no national significance and is a result of purely local issues and the truth is probably somewhere in between. I tend to actually agree with the Republican viewpoint here (!), that most people going in to vote for governor will, hopefully, be doing so based on issues that are actually involved in the election. There'll be some that vote purely because they're a member of one party or another, but I keep thinking that maybe, somewhere out there, there are people that actually think about how their elected officials will affect them.

On the two articles themselves, considering that the NYTimes article's is commentary more than news reporting and FoxNews uses the term "crowing" to describe Democratic response to Bush's eleventh-hour visit to Virginia, they more or less even out.

EDIT: I've got to include this, only because it shows that this particular form of Godwin's Law works, and because I'm still somewhat bitter about a similar argument costing myself and my partner a debate in 10th grade. Jerry Kilgore, Republican nominee in the VA governor's race invoked Hitler in ads aimed against Democratic candidate Tim Kaine. I'm sorry, Jerry, but it's not relevant, and while it's not exactly the reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy (which is ridiculously "fun with Latin", isn't it?) as it doesn't actually say Kaine is Hitler, it implies sympathy with Hitler which is just appealing to emotion rather than trying to discuss facts. So again, I'm sorry Jerry, but that's game over right there.

Of course, this isn't to say that Kaine didn't release ads that were ridiculously fallacious that I haven't found yet, but the Hitler-in-debate thing strikes a nerve with me.

International Edition

Venezuela: So, I might not be the biggest fan of Pittsburgh pitchers. Wells can make me positively infuriated and the stupidity that leads to spending what, half your season on the DL because you couldn't keep yourself from breaking your toe on a laundry cart... you get what I'm saying here. That said, at least none of them have tried to kill anyone. Granted, he didn't actually succeed, and there's a chance he didn't do anything wrong and the charges are false, but there's also the chance that yes, he did try to light people on fire.

France: French bloggers have been arrested and placed under investigation for "inciting harm to people and property over the internet". The two bloggers arrested so far with the pseudonyms "sarkodead" (a reference to French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, criticism of whom has been a rallying point for French rioters after disparaging remarks about the rioters) and "hardcore" (a reference to being "hardcore") don't indicate that there's a coming sweep of French bloggers who are taking the side of the rioters, but it could be in the cards as the French government tries as hard as it can to get some semblance of order back after the thirteenth night of rioting. 6,400 vehicles have been burned, though the rioters appear to be trying to avoid causing damage to private buildings and looting. Personally? I'm somewhat surprised at how long it took Chirac to do something other than kind of refer to it in press conferences before finally calling for a cabinet meeting to declare a state of emergency so that curfews could be enacted on November 8, the thirteenth day into the ordeal.

Austrailia: In lighter things, Gregor's got a =>blog he's being paid for now, and which I enjoy enough to talk about here. He's Austrailian, so you'll have a problem if you can't recall where that is, but the recent posts have been relatively global in nature, as in they cover worldwide news. It's satire-y, so, you know. Expect that. Mostly, this inclusion is more of just a way to somehow associate myself with people who are actually good at writing and have a readership that's actually sizeable, and to express my appreciation for those of us that have jobs that involve either writing smart-ass remarks on the day's news or riding really dangerous things at high, high speeds.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Riots, Cartoons and Selecting an Advisor

Here we go.

So, ideally, I'd be able to strike a compromise between tedious rehashing of current events based on a few quickly scanned articles and frightening threats from crazies on the El. Ideally, and that's what I'll try for now.

In Ryan's Life:

This week has a few important meanings for my career as a first-year graduate student. Two of those important things are tests, which only matter so much in that I'd rather not fail them. One of them is a quiz which seems somewhat less like a graduate school exam and more like an extra credit assignment in high school chemistry, memorizing the Periodic Table of the Elements, minus the f-block metals. It shouldn't be too difficult, and I'd advise you to visit that link to play with the little html toy I've been using to study for this deal. More importantly by far is Friday's ceremonial "turning in of the advisor request forms", which demands that everyone settle down on a priority list of the people they'd like to work for. In the interest of bringing you up to speed on that, and without any order other than "alphabetical", the professors that will be on my list are:

  • SonBinh T. Nguyen, who does some remarkable catalytic work and, incidentally, got his PhD at the California Institute of Technology with recent Nobel Laureate Robert Grubbs, and which consisted primarily of developing Grubbs' Catalyst (I). He's currently looking at some surface supported catalysis, and, unfortunately, has no web page detailing his research, so I can only suggest that you look up the papers if you're actually genuinely interested in what I might be trying to do over the next five years.

    Thomas O'Halloran, whose work is perhaps the most removed from my research at any point as an undergraduate. Fairly bioinorganic and I'll direct you to the page for any specifics. There are Several projects of interest here, and my only hangup about working in the O'Halloran lab is that I've never really studied in-depth the kind of chemistry that's done there.

    Karl A. Scheidt, whose work is quite the opposite of O'Halloran's in that it's the closest to what I've worked on in the past. Scheidt's chemistry involves, primarily, methodology and reaction development, though his further establishment is leading to some diversity in projects in the field of total synthesis of natural products.

    Richard Silverman, whose work is primarily in the field of what they're calling "medicinal chemistry", he's responsible for Lyrica, which Standard and Poor's investment branch estimates could make $1 billion annually, which would bring over $60 million to Northwestern University in Royalties.

In Other News:

The Boondocks starts in a little under three hours, and I for one will be tuning in. Various sources, from the New York Times (which won't let me read the article online without actually having a subscription) and Chicago reader, a hefty, hefty, hefty free paper have expressed concerns that Boondocks on television will lose its bite in an attempt to avoid being "dated", but we'll see how that works out.

Chirac has gotten around to promising to restore order in Paris after the tenth night of rioting, which spread inward to Paris' historic 3e Arrondissement. An estimated 3,300 vehicles have been burned and ten officers were wounded yesterday by shotgun fire from protesters, two of whom required hospitalization.

I'm going to go study some more Physical Organic now.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Bad Side

In relaying this story about the wonders of public transportation and the people that use this service to someone at Northwestern, it occurred to me that I don't think I'd covered it on Murphspot. And as the whole Matt Lawton thing, while good for a quick chuckle and all forms of the "but aren't steroids supposed to make you good?" comment, it's over. Whatever. I'm not a Yankees blog, so I don't care what happens.

Anyway, back to the CTA. This was...I believe, the day of the VIDEO TOWN post and I quite possibly was simply so excited to have a copy of Land of the Dead in my (albeit temporary) possession that it didn't occur to me to go over what had happened. So here, a review.

Deciding to bypass the local video stores, which I didn't believe would be carrying Land of the Dead, I walked to Thorndale (Red Line) to go two stops south to Berwyn, where the Blockbuster I'd been frequenting was situated. This in itself is a bit of a variation from the norm, as I use Granville for most of my platform-standin', mostly because it's been recently renovated and has relatively few boards that look as though they really shouldn't be able to stay up there. So, anyway, Thorndale. As soon as I get to the top, a woman comes up to me, slightly panicked. I tend to make others slightly panicked, so it wasn't really that much out of the ordinary. She proceeds to tell me the sad tale of her 7-day pass, which is now sitting next to the tracks, below the platform, and how the train that's coming in six minutes will most likely blow it away. Trying to calm her down, I press the button to summon assistance from the CTA attendant while she's trying to persuade myself and another young gentleman to jump down onto the tracks to get her pass. We'd established that the platform was probably too high for either of us to be able to reach the pass without getting on the tracks. Before the attendant showed up to tell us that someone would be by who professionally walks on the tracks getting stuff people have dropped will be by shortly, while myself and this other guy are trying to see if it's at all possible to reach this thing (incidentally, the track is a straightaway at that point, and we could see the approaching train leaving Loyola (one stop further north than Granville, which itself is one stop from Thorndale, just so you don't think we're sticking our heads somewhere at train is about to be), another gentleman (age about 40) shows up behind us.

He gets our attention.

He continues to indicate that his message is pertinant to me.

His message is (as close as I can remember):

"They're going to get me! They're going to take me to jail! And I hope they bring you to my cell when you get there. Because I'm going to rape you. You better hope they don't bring you to my cell, because I will rape you."


Completely unsolicited, completely confounding, probably not a compliment so much as a much less computer-oriented version of a troll screaming "U will B PWND".

Disturbing, but only if you view it outside the context of "crazy guy on the L". I just thought that, because I post about most good things that happen here, I'd include this. Plus, I want to see what comments this garners.

Incidentally, and completely unrelated to that, I made it back around to visiting Slumbering Lungfish again, and at the risk of sounding like a fan/hack, I'm glad to see that regular posts are, once again, being produced.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Juiced-Up Slaw-o

Remember that lazy guy that the Pirates sent to the Cubs (without much of Pittsburgh caring, though much of Pittsburgh didn't really care for Gerut, who was acquired in the trade and promptly spent the rest of the season not playing baseball), who were shocked when it didn't pan out (read: he wasn't that good) in the month or so they had him before shipping him off to the Yankees?

What was his name.


Oh. Right. Former All-Star outfielder Matt Lawton. Who, incidentally, tested positive for steroids and has been suspended for 10 days, which will, of course, take effect when baseball is played again.

How about that?

Riots, T-shirts, and Literal-ness.

So we'll try to get this thing pubished in the next few minutes, such that I can get back to "studying" for my "organic mechanisms exam" so that I don't fail out of "grad school" and have to return to "McDonalds" again. But I should post. Why not.

Blogs that are somewhat interesting:

Blog Of Death which, ok. It attempts to eulogize most of the celebrities that pass away and serves as a commentary of sorts (though less comprehensive, not that they should be criticized for not eulogizing everyone) to the Recent Deaths page on Wikipedia. Decent idea, and I dig it.

Literally, A Weblog, which chronicles incorrect uses of the word "literally" in public media. It's clever and has some good visual puns, though it's interesting that they chose to restrict themselves to the word "literally" alone.

In news:

Paris keeps going, in this case not referring to the infinitely irritating hotel heiress, but rather the rioting in Paris, France, following the electrocution death of two teenagers in a suburb after they touched a transformer in trying to escape from the police, who weren't (according to police) actually chasing them. They claim to have been chasing someone else. It's been escalating like mad following the initial backlash of gangs who blamed police for the teens' deaths and after a tear gas canister (which was the same type used by French riot police) was launched into a mosque.

Chicago's RedEye (an edition of the Tribune) suprised me today with an article on a "girlcott" (which is to say, boycott) by Schenley High School freshman against Abercrombie and Fitch in an attempt to get them to stop selling shirts which degrade women. You'll remember that Abercrombie and Fitch gets in trouble for this all the time and probably won't care. It appears Emma Blackman-Mathis is also a very young gay rights activist. Good for her.

I'm going to go do office hours now.