Saturday, December 31, 2005


It's been a total of ten days since I posted on this thing (almost to the hour, as the last post, about the "We'll kill you, Mr. Damon" thing was another one of these things where I post because I haven't in forever and am awake. Anyway, I'm back in Chicago, had an enjoyable little break back with the families in Russellton and Trafford respectively, and have convinced Jenna to love "Dawn of the Dead", meaning that my goal is now nearing completion.*

Some observations:

Having Jenna be in Chicago for a week is awesome. Unfortunately, I'm still going to sleep around 10pm, though in this case it's more because I'm on medicine for some residual pain from dental work I had completed rather than because grading labs sucks the very essence of life from my poor, withered body. It's a trade off. But walking around downtown is amazing, and I'm going to be very happy whenever she moves out here following her own degree completion.

Related note: Jenna has no concept of spicy. Every time we go out, it seems, she keeps ignoring the warnings issued by the waitstaff and hillbillies with banjoes that dangle from the ceiling about how the "Shrimp Voodoo Linguini" is kind of on the spicy side. That's fine. People like spicy foods, and it's fine that she enjoys spicy tastes. The problem is that it's invariably too spicy and I have to ride home on the El holding my crab cakes or milder curry chicken while a crying, sniffling, bleeding-from-the-forehead Jenna who looks like she's been jumped sits next to me and holds my arm. Thus are anecdotes born.

I'm going to have to get used to having a new phone. I've traded in the old one, which was a hand me down from my mother, for a new one, which I believe has a button that cures cancer. I didn't realize how compelling it is to take crappy little pictures until I was capable of doing so, nor did I realize how walking through a room filled with abstract mobiles and yarn sculpture could be made altogether different by adding some radio station's top some number of songs of the year through my phone's earpiece. As a result, I have no money, though.

The Museum of Contemporary Art is smaller than I'd expected, but generally works. Jenny Holzer's "Truisms" is hilarious, though I'm not sure it intends to be. For some reason, many artists are linked in my mind to pseudo-revolutionary thinking that doesn't actually work or make sense, so I'm not sure if her exhibit of just that scrolling across a screen is meant to be taken seriously. Either way, I'd recommend the MCA (especially for the $6 student rate), and have discovered that Sarah Sze may or may not be on medication to lower her blood pressure. Goal accomplished there.

I'm going to have to write some popular chemistry literature once I get out of here. I've noticed this for a while, and keep thinking I should blog about it, but it was reinforced with the seven thousand hours I spent in Borders over the past few weeks trying to figure out which books would be good gifts for the family, considering my unyielding non-creativity. Try this out. Walk over to the science section of your local major chain bookstore (Borders or Barnes & Noble seem to work). Look for the chemistry shelf. Compare its size to the biology or physics shelves. I don't know why this is, but for some reason, I consistently find that there are maybe one or two shelves of books dealing with chemistry (the majority of which are aimed at getting the student to pass, allowing them to forget about it), while there are cases and cases dealing with biology and physics. Anyone have any ideas on what on earth is going on there? It seems that chemistry is right in the middle, between the more observable (in everyday) phenomena that make up biology and the remarkably abstractness of physics, and that that space doesn't appeal to today's book store shopper. Hm.

In transferring the numbers in my old phone to the new phone (a service that the salesman offered for ten dollars, and which I was able to complete in a little under a half hour, which suggests to me that I get a job as an automaton for $20/hour), I noticed a memo I left on my phone. I'd been on the El, and in the black sharpie usually reserved for pseudo-spraypainted graffiti and notifications of who one can call for a good time, the phrase "It dont [sic] take a lost dog" was scrawled. I have no clue what it means, but it seemed like it should be posted on here. Perhaps, ten years from now, you'll be walking down the street confounded that whatever it is you want to do is somehow blocked by the mandatory lost dog donation only to realize that you could probably get by without whatever demands the lost dog, or that it really means a toy dog which you have access to, or that you should focus more attention on observing the world around you so that when little Seamus’ lost dog pokes its head out of the alley, you can alert our little friend. Or maybe crazy people ride the El. Whatever. It’s there now.

Before I head back to bed/watching Dawn of the Dead again, I'd like to comment that I'm not thrilled with the Joe Randa signing, but I'm not entirely angry about it, mostly because I don't really know all that much about how that's going to affect everything other than making Freddy Sanchez absolutely positively not play this year, which is a shame. Right now my attention's devoted to figuring out some hilariously complex scheme so that Littlefield doesn't make that whole rumor about signing Sosa come true. It'll involve a hangglider, I'm pretty sure.

Finally, I visited Ed's grave again when I was home. I'll not say anything as I'm trying to save that for a Jan 12/"my friend died six months ago" post, but I will note that he has a headstone now. Set in the ground (as most of the headstones at the particular cemetery that he's in, as with the cemeteries that my grandparents are in) with simply his name, his lifespan, a hockey player on the left and some kind of knight thing on the right and the phrase "Beloved Father of Ansley". I noticed that on occasion I'll still think to myself that he's out there somewhere setting up Burlington Coat Factories (or whatever the hell he claimed to be doing). But, enough of that sadness. Back to sleep.

*Goal not actual goal. Phrase used for comedic effect of scaring conspiracy theorists who have nothing better to do than form conspiracy theories about my blog. Meaning they are the worst conspiracy theorists of all time. For a look at conspiracy theories in a happy little humor/rating article, go here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I'm not a fan of the Boston Red Sox. I was glad they won it in 2004, though that was probably helped along by the fact that to win it they had to take out the Yankees and the Cardinals, who I'm not a fan of to a greater degree (the Angels, Dodgers, Astros and Twins I could not care any less about). Then, some of the fans started to get to me. First there was the fact that everybody on the face of the earth was a Red Sox fan. Then the whole "Fever Pitch" thing. I could deal with the Dropkick Murphys remake of "Tessie", but that's based more on the fact that it's a pretty decent remake.

But I don't have any real ill will toward the Red Sox, other than the jealousy (as that's what it is) that goes with the #2 payroll team in baseball.

Still. The Red Sox Messageboards on are, at this moment, incredibly hilarious. Calls for riots, assault, implementation of a salary cap (teehee? It's funny because the fans that are calling for it are fans of a team that would be strongly affected by it, what with the 2005 payroll at $124 million) and all around persecution complex induced by Johnny Damon's move to the Yankees for four years at $52 million. Some suggest boycotts (presumably because their front office wasn't the one that overpaid him by even more than the Yankees are overpaying him) and all out abandonment of the Red Sox.

I know. The people on are not representative of most baseball fans, and the forums themselves are downright scary in their current state as a mess of thoughtless moderating (the word "shirt", as in a garment worn on the torso is banned) and the worst trolling I've ever seen. But assault?

I know. A Pirates fan complaining about any other team whining about anything is hypocritical. To that, "tu quoque" is my only possible reply.


Twice now, in the span of about 12 hours, I've learned two lessons.

1: Always Read The Instructions-

Having finished my Christmas shopping for the year, I decided to spend around $4 on a CD that I'd once owned, but that I'd lost years ago and have wanted to get back since. The CD?

The Toasters' 1996 effort Hard Band For Dead. Those of us that were youngish in the mid-to-late nineties will recognize tracks 1 and 13 (Two Tone Army and Skaternity) as the opening and closing themes of 'Kablam!', a strange little cartoon/anthology series on Nickelodeon, though they were credited as the Moon Ska Allstars. Additionally, the album marks the last, that I'm aware of, appearance of Coolie Ranx (later of the Pilfers, then a solo artist) as a vocalist, adding to track 3 ("Friends") and 8 ("Don't Come Running").

But enough plugging the album. I get back to the apartment yesterday and the mail has actually been delivered. I presume it's the CD I've ordered, but note that it's mostly styrofoam. That's when I read the note that's taped to the back. In a move that parallels every chemistry test I've ever taken that has needlessly complex instructions that are designed not so much for the purpose of testing whether students can provide the information but whether or not they didn't gloss over the negation thrown into the instruction, I see the phrase "As listed on Amazon, case not included. Liner Notes and CD included."

I'm not going to ask what on earth the purpose of that is, but it culminated in lesson 1. Read the "comments" section of anything you buy from Amazon. It's not a huge deal; I used another case that was sitting around. But it's kind of like buying a blender, only to realize upon its delivery that the power switch wasn't included.

Lesson 2: If you come in early to the lab to get some reading done, don't leave the lab without your keys. Being locked out isn't productive.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Notes to Self

Note to Self 1:

When you bother to clean your apartment, in the sense of picking up all the laundry that's everywhere and putting everything in a place that's actually somewhat structured as something that doesn't resemble what I think the death of the universe will look like, it becomes magically enormous. I might take up some kind of aerobics that require thousands and thousands of square feet, because it seems I have that now.

Note to Self 2:

When you're planning on putting in some good hard apartment cleaning but need something in the background so that you'll stop worrying that every sound you hear is the living dead inching closer, it's best to throw on a movie you haven't seen before. Last weekend, I tried to clean my apartment, but put on a movie I'd just purchased and hadn't seen before. Result: Marginally cleaner flatware.

This week: American History X and Princess Mononoke, both of which I've seen probably a dozen times. Result: I now live in the most awesome place ever.

Note to Self 3:

Sometimes, face recognition applications will tell you you look like Bette Davis. Which, even though I'm not particularly female, is fine by me. Bette Davis is pretty attractive. I'd much rather be told I look kind of like Bette Davis than be told I look kind of like Larry Bird. But that's just me.

Note to Self 4: Kimchi Bowl Noodle=Happiness

Note to Self 5: When the sportswriter for decidedly non-sports magazine Slate starts slamming the Pirates organization, you know you're not doing well. Hopefully, they'll get a chance to prove Mr. Peters wrong this year. The article's good introduction if you're completely unfamiliar with how the Marlins seem to like things (win World Series, sell players to anyone with anything, wait a few years, win World Series, repeat) but nothing really new. The Pirates slamming bit is at the end of paragraph seven, if you're interested in what it is, but not interested in the Marlins. I laughed.

Note to Self 6: Go to sleep, Ryan.

*Edit: Props to Meera on the face recognition software. Indeed, I was bored enough to find out that I look like some decidedly weird celebrities.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

King Kong and 100

So I've gone to see King Kong. I'm not quite sure what to say about it.

So we'll do this.

Can you quickly adjust to Jack Black continuing to be Jack Black (a la School of Rock) with all the facial expressions and strong enunciation that implies?

Can you hold that up for the next three hours?

Really blatant tension between literary playwright types and the out of work vaudeville actresses: Do you dig it?

Are you happy when enormous primates are entertained by dancing, and then violence?

Can you pretty much ignore the tribe native to the mysterious island that's built a wall (inc. gate that Kong could, presumably, have smashed through at any given point) and that just kind of disappears after a while?

Can you pay attention to the screen through a solid hour of everything kicking everything else's ass?

Chloroform. Are you down with it vaporizing on contact with, well, anything?

Are you really into extended scenes with lots of bugs that are kind of unnecessary?

Do you like it when people are remarkably accurate with Tommy guns and airplane mounted machine guns?

Finally, are you ok with the explanation that, soon after its construction, it was possible to just walk the hell up to the top of the Empire State Building, stand there without being blown off by the wind or by the slight breeze that I imagine a 25 foot gorilla would create while he's falling?

If so, you'll probably enjoy King Kong. It's not something I'm probably going to watch in the three hour, seven minute block again, and I can't imagine I'll ever own it, but I wouldn't rule it out yet. It's entertaining. Meh.

Nothing else to say right now, and I need to get back to reading papers, but I thought I should point something out.

This post, right here, is the one hundredth post on Murphspot.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Back for a second.

I just keep putting this off.

But we're back, here at Murphspot, just shy of a week since my last post, with some updates.




Having spent the last week reading papers about zinc and trying to get all of my classes for next quarter in order, there's not been too much to report on the school front. My classes from last quarter, while they refuse to actually make good on the promise that my test is indeed in my mailbox, have been sufficiently rocked, and I'm feeling pretty good. If only because I can stop carrying around the twenty pound beast that is Modern Physical Organic Chemistry by Anslyn and Dougherty. I've not purchased books for Winter Quarter yet, but it's hard to believe that any of them will be bigger than this thing.

After 25 years, they've executed Stanley Tookie Williams, and many other blogs have covered this already, which you can be directed toward from Slate's blog survey. After watching some pretty persistent vandalism on Wikipedia's bio of Williams, I've tried to think about what I'm thinking about the execution, it's status as a cause célèbre and the specific debate this brings up about the death penalty, and I've decided it's probably just a lot safer to go on reading about zinc. But, since we're here, I'll say this. I'm not a fan of the death penalty as punishment and get at least somewhat repulsed by those members of the pro-death penalty bunch that seem to view it not as a simple punishment to be carried out in an ordered fashion after being mandated by the state, but rather as entertainment. While my opinion is that if California elects to have the death penalty as a valid punishment, their government should act accordingly, while persistently ensuring that, with such a harsh and irreversible penalty on the books, no one who doesn't deserve the penalty receives it. Williams killed four, the evidence has been scrutinized over 25 years by several courts, including the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and everyone comes to that conclusion. So the Governator's statement denying clemency is actually a rational argument.
Had he been redeemed? Possibly, though not for the murders, as he maintained his innocence of them, and it's not really likely to be considered redeemed for something without admitting guilt. Possibly for his involvement in founding the Crips, and it's beyond doubt that his efforts after 1993 have been at least minimally successful, but I believe that might be too little, too late.

So, in summary:

I'm not a fan of the death penalty still being practiced in the United States, but this is not, as many pro-death penalty bloggers are claiming is true of all who have a problem with it, a pathway through which I'm getting my jollies, deifying murderers and rapists. Some may be. Not me. Probably not most. I'm not a fan of it because there's quite a lot that can go ridiculously wrong, and it's safer, in my mind, not to take that chance.

Without being happy that execution is still happening in America, if that's what the people of California want, that's what they should get. I find it hard to believe that the entirety of California is just trying to kill as many people as possible, but the government can only do what the people want, as long as it is consistent with the Constitution.

Williams did some good, but he also did much more bad, so I'm not inclined to feel sorry for him.

Tookie, according to Williams, is not a nickname. It's a middle name.

I'm glad my middle name isn't Tookie. I'd feel weird writing that on official documents. But maybe not. I suppose I'd get used to it.

Dr. John's playing in Chicago! But it's $55! So I'm not going!

The Pirates lost out on Mueller, which WHYGAVS's Pat points out is probably best for the Bucs, and nothing's taken place today that anyone should be getting really excited about.


Thursday, December 08, 2005


Some quick updates:

I'm done with finals, and they went... decently. I guess I'll find out on Monday how they really went, but for now, the sheer joy of being done with them is enough for me.

Are you a nation state that would like to participate in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, but you're not sure you're down with the religious connotations that the symbols of Christianity and Islam respectively imply? Or, are you Israel's Magen David Adom, and you'd really like to hang out with those hip cats over in the Red Cross/Red Crescent Lounge? Your dreams have been realized, thanks to the adoption of a third symbol for the movement, the Red Crystal. Personally, I would have called that shape a diamond, and would have been more supportive of a red shaded diffraction pattern as a "Red Crystal", but whatever. Israel and Eritrea have indicated that they will use the Red Crystal, as opposed to the Cross or the Crescent.
Winner, Best Optimistic Statement Concealed In An Announcement On The El:

(Upon Arrival at Grand St., at 500 N.) "This... is Grand."

The Pirates no longer have Dave Williams (Reds), Mark Redman (Royals), Daryle Ward (denied arbitration), José Mesa (Rockies[!]), Rick White (denied Arbitration), Ty Wigginton (released) or Rob Mackowiak (White Sox). They've picked up Sean Casey (Williams), Jonah Bayliss and Chad Blackwell(Redman), Damaso Marte (Mackowiak), Victor Santos (Royals, Rule 5). As with many in the Pittsburgh area, I'm ok with the Casey trade, fine with sending Redman to the Royals for Bayliss and Blackwell, less than enthusiastic about acquiring Damaso "Need a heart attack? I'm your man" Marte, still less about losing Mackowiak in the process and reasonably ok with picking up Santos.

Freddy Sanchez is now our only option at third, but that might change.

I'm kind of sick. And need to clean my apartment.


RCN refuses to let me pay them. Sad.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Theremin Music Here

Two things before I get back to studying Inorganic.

1) Have you seen Big Fish? Nice little Tim Burton movie in which Ewan McGregor plays some guy from the South. Tall tales and lies and what have you. I realized yesterday that I am now in one of the first tales of the movie, which is essentially a rehashing of an old legend where the hero does something (in Big Fish, that something is looking into the fake eye of a witch living in an abandoned house) and is able to see how he will die. I've had the same basic experience, except that "witch's eye" has been substituted with "bicycle reflector." So how will I die? I'll be hit by one of these jackasses that feels the need to ride full speed down an ice covered sidewalk on their bike.

That isn't to say I'm against bicycling. Quite the contrary. Just... adjust for weather conditions is all I'm asking.

2) Damn Steelers.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


I really need to get better at this whole updating thing. Unfortunately, the next week is going to be the most like hell since I came to Northwestern.

Outline for Next Week:

Monday, December 5:
  • 12pm-Inorganic Final
  • 2pm-Chem 210 Exam Grading

Tuesday, December 6:
  • 9am-Chem 210 Exam Proctoring
  • 12pm-Physical Organic Final
  • 2pm-Chem 210 Exam Grading

Wednesday, December 7:
  • 7pm-Organic Mechanisms Final

Thursday, December 8:
  • Meeting with Thomas O'Halloran and Hillary Godwin to decide my fate

Last things first, I'm not technically in a lab yet. I've got some ideas for a project working with zinc probes and fluorescent dyes in O'Halloran's lab, basically going on with the project of one of the graduating PhD students, but I've also got another option in the form of Nicola Pohl, a professor that's perhaps(?) moving to Northwestern to do some carbohydrate chemistry, which would be more heavily synthesis and whatnot.

I have no idea what to do, but let's not go into that now.

Instead, let's do a quick rundown here.

Can we interest you in a new face? France performs a face transplant. Well, doctors in France do. Touted by its proponents as a breakthrough that would allow people that have been disfigured to return to a state of normalcy (normalcy being "I have a face"), but criticized for the possiblity of rejection of the face, they're elective (though I think that that's more of a criticism for people that are undergoing cosmetic surgery that doesn't... give them a face where they have none,) and because they pose risks of identity confusion, as pointed out by Slate.

Again from Slate, Lawrence Krauss continues to be a pretty awesome guy. For those of you joining us late, Krauss is the physicist/author of The Physics of Star Trek and Atom, the latter of which I recommend strongly. Anyway, in a story that does kind of seem like science sensationalism, Krauss criticizes string theory for not actually being testable, which is kind of a huge component in the definition of science (as well as being the primary reason that Intelligent Design doesn't fit the definition of "science"). Good for you, Lawrence Krauss. Again, Slate plays it up a bit too much as "When Krauss Attacks," but whatever. Decent read.

On the subject of Intelligent Design, Lore Sjöberg's got a new Lore Brand Comic up and has resumed posting in his blog at The Slumbering Lungfish Dybbuk Hostel and All-Night Boulangerie. That's good.

Ok. I'm going to go home and read about X-Ray crystallography until either

a) my eyes fall out of my head and roll comically across the floor, having become detatched from the nerves and all that at some point between socket and carpet


b) my eyes, having seen so much about X-ray crystallography, develop the nice, old-fashioned "X-Ray Eyes" ability thing, whereby I can find out what in my refrigerator needs has gone horribly, horribly wrong without actually opening any food containers therein.