Monday, March 27, 2006


And lo, the requisite "I'm back from that three day vacation thing" post. Which I'm never sure how to right other than being just a record of what the hell's gone on. So we'll do that I think.

Thursday: March 23, 2006:

I fell asleep at about 4:30, and woke up at something like 7:40, which is about ten minutes after I'd wanted to leave. We'll get back to why leaving at 7:45am (after throwing on what happened to be clean) for a 10:59 flight was hilarious in how ample a head start that is. So. Red line to Roosevelt, Orange Line to Midway. Sunrise, sunset. And, after making it through security, having a nice gyro and what not, I'm on a plane to New York City. I'm really not entirely clear why I'm not allowed to listen to an mp3 player during takeoff, but whatever. I'm glad I was eventually allowed to use it, such that I got to fall asleep to whatever the most calming music on there was, rather than having to either a) listen to nothing, which isn't fun, or b) procuring a set of headphones, which I'd have to pay for, to listen to the in-plane music, most of which seemed to be either top 40, Country, or an entire station of U2. And while I know that flying is remarkably safe, I'm glad that I get to listen to music of my choice while I notice that the wing really is moving up and down a lot more than I'm comfortable with for something that's called "fixed wing".

Arrive: LaGuardia Airport: 1:50pm. Relatively smooth flight, with little turbulence. I do have to note here, that while I've got pretty much nothing but positive things to say about this trip, LaGuardia ranks pretty damned low in my opinion of Airports. Maybe the gate I used was the only example of a crowded, broken, aging gate, and maybe the slashed seat covers and broken ceiling tiles happened that day. But it just seemed to, you know, show its age, which is another theme I'll be talking about in a bit. Anyway, less than impressed with LaGuardia. Whatever. Hopped on the m60 bus toward 125th St., felt like I was going to fall through a window on some of the turns on the way to getting to somewhere that I could catch the 6-train, just as Jenna directed. It's interesting, incidentally, re-experiencing that feeling of not knowing where one was, really. I've had it a few times in the rural bits of Pennsylvania in a car, though that's lessened because there's usually the option of driving until one hits civilization again and the only real worry is running out of gas, and then when I got to Chicago, though that was alleviated after about a week of exploring, which appears to be enough to get my bearings so that, even if I don't know where the hell I am, I've gotten better at looking for ways to figure out how to get somewhere that I do know. Anyway, yes. 6 train to Astor Place, then quick walk to Broadway, down to 4th St., then to Washington Square Park, where I sat reading the heaviest book that I think I've bothered to read for the sake of boredom and waited for Jenna's class to end. Met her, went back to her apartment, realized that I really don't like dorms at all, and put down my stuff. Good times.

Jenna and I, happily reunited, proceeded down past her school to look for something to do. We ended up at Yummy Village Sushi (I’ll be plugging these places when I deem them decent enough for mentioning, and when I remember). I had some sushi, Jenna had some spicy chicken because Jenna never remembers that she’s always overwhelmed by spicy food, and it was good times. I was somewhat tempted to go for their “Eat 52 pieces of sushi in 20 minutes and we won’t charge you” challenge, but as the upside is that I get to be sick for free and the downside is that I get to be sick and they charge me something like $70, I passed. We proceeded to Bleecker Bob’s to look at some records, including some hilariously decorated album covers for rather “rare” recordings before wandering around for about an hour, eventually ending up about where we started, at the Cedar tavern before heading back home.

End Day One.

Friday, March 24, 2006.

Late start. Left the apartment at about 2pm, and I have decided that even a one hour shift in time zone is pretty significant. We started with the required museum run, checking out Met, which I’ll have to say I was impressed with. The geography of the building is a bit confusing, and it took us quite a while to figure out where the Musical Instruments section was, but if you’re going to stare at Benny Goodman’s clarinet, that’s something you deal with, I suppose. We ate at a diner before going back down to Bleecker St., where we met up with Andrew at Le Figaro Café, which had moderate White Russians, bits o’ right-leaning French daily covering the walls. Leaving there, we returned to Bleecker Bob’s on Andrew’s suggestion, and eventually made it to a little café with a few chairs and some post cards. Good times. We met up with another of Jenna’s friends, Lisa, and proceeded to the smallest bar I think I’ve ever been in that wasn’t also in an airport. The V Bar looks from the outside as a standard dark bar where people congregate to have goatees. Lots of candles and black curtains being held back from the windows by stainless steel chain. Mediocre. Until, that is, it was revealed that they had a bunch of board games. I was pleased with that, but then I remembered Sorry! being a lot more fun than it is. Maybe it was the fact that I was less than ecstatic about the apricot flavoured “Magic Hat #9”. Either way, we departed, found a diner with overpriced undercooked mozzarella sticks and went back to sleep.

End Day 2:

Saturday, March 25, 2006

My last full day in NYC, but unfortunately, Jenna was scheduled to work four hours that afternoon. Which meant that I’d have to find something to do. We had lunch at a small Afghani restaurant on 26th St. and 3rd Ave, which was really quite a pleasant experience except for the fact that I couldn’t feel my legs afterward because of the floor seating and got bits of a chicken that had about twelve times the number of bones of an average chicken. But then I sound like a stodgy 22 year old, don’t I? Finishing that, Jenna and I walked to her place-of-employment and I was finally free of the oppressive gaze of Jenna, what with her unceasing er, alone. And what does one do when one’s alone? Why, walk 33 blocks south through Manhattan. Of course.

Fairly standard from there. Only got somewhat lost occasionally, and happened past some sort of Falun Gong thing in Union Square. A woman with a pamphlet asked me to stop the Communist regime in China, which I’ll get on the next time I have lunch with China. For some reason, despite my enormous sway with mainland China, I’ve just never worked up the courage to say “You know what? Enough with the human rights violations”. But more importantly, I eventually did make it to my destination, Forbidden Planet, which I was excited about only secondarily because it gave me a chance to pick up some enjoyable zombie comics. Primarily, however, it marked my visit to a landmark in 3rd wave ska, as Robert Hingley was asked in the early 1980’s to travel to New York to manage the store (including firing the entire staff and hiring new work), and it was from Forbidden Planet NY that the Toasters were formed. So it’s got that going for it. Another 40 block hike, two crossword puzzles, some Jamba and a few hours later, and I met up with Jenna again. After pizza near her house and watching any hope that I’d win my office NCAA pool vanish with Memphis’ loss, we proceeded to Union Square to poke around in the Virgin Megastore and what not. Unfortunately, I was once again unsuccessful in convincing Jenna to purchase a copy of William Shatner’s The Transformed Man.

Here’s where the old thing comes in. From this point onward, I’m not sure why, perhaps because I was tired, but I really felt very old. The Caliente Cab Co. bar was part of it, as I really wasn’t all that into hearing “My Humps” blasted over the soundsystem (though it was entertaining to watch Jenna deal with the Sno-Cone-cum-margarita she ordered), and we returned home.

I checked the computer.

I realized I’m incredibly bad at entering numbers into my phone. And as such, my night was not over.

Armed now with the proper number, I was able to get in contact with a remarkably energetic member of the Rum and Monkey forums who I’d threatened if I somehow left Manhattan without meeting him, if only because, dammit, if I’m going to discuss the relative merits of Land of the Dead as compared with earlier Romero fare, I’m going to meet them, damn it. So Jenna and I went back down, met up with Mani, and hit up a diner that was reasonably priced and actually very good. I couldn’t help but feel old, was the problem. Perhaps because it was 2:00 am and I was convinced that, given enough of a running start, Mani could very well have run headlong through the wall. Not that that’s a bad thing; on the contrary, it reminded me of myself about five years ago. Hopefully, my current state of slowmoving is a passing phase, brought on by just having gone through a week of finals and, more probably, having just walked about 6 miles. Which only goes to argue more strongly toward me getting outside more. Maybe if there were some sort of treadmill that made Dave Littlefield make better decisions.

Overall, the result is that I’ve got to thank Mani here for being a goddamn fireball and making for a very interesting 2:00-4:15 am.

Still, after some film discussion, a visit to another café (Esperanto Café) and resolving the complications arising from the apparent contradictions in most quantum mechanical systems (which I wrote on a napkin that, unfortunately, was left at the café and subsequently stolen by [insert the name of whoever figures out everything]), Jenna and I said goodbye to Mani and returned back to the apartment.

We fell asleep.

Damn it.

My flight was at 8:00am, and the plan was to stay up until 6:00, get a cab to LaGuardia and that’ll be that. Unfortunately, we got up at 7:00, which led to me forgetting my belt and phone charger on the way to grabbing a cab, paying the cab to drive really goddamn fast to the airport and being remarkably nervous as to whether it was possible to get through to my plane in time. It was. Good times. I read more of that pretentious GEB book, fell asleep several times, and, lo, I’ve returned to Chicago.

Read most of the Walking Dead series. Slept for a long time.



Thursday, March 23, 2006

Majoring in Florida

So here's the thing. I'm not a big supporter of Jeb Bush, usually. I'm not so sure that's the case in this specific instance. Quick overview, Jeb wants to start having high schoolers declare a major.

Schoolers? Is that right?


"You know what? There is no Easter Bunny! That over there's just a guy in a suit!"

Ok. Back to the task at hand.

On the one hand, this could very easily turn into a lot of stress for a lot of kids, mostly in pressure from parents who want their kid to be a doctor, and so force the young'n to major in bio or, if they're particularly awesome, chemistry. And that's not good times.

On the other hand, I think that students should be allowed to self-design their curriculum as long as certain minimum criteria are still being met. I like the concept of having to have a minor, so long as that minor is in a field disparate from that of the major. I really do support the concept of a liberal arts education, and think that I benefited from having to go through all of that German/Econ/Psych junk at Allegheny. I disagree with Jebuchadnezzar that this'll stop, or significantly decrease dropouts, but I'll let him have that. If implemented properly, I don't see how it would be much different than the already existing vocational programs, except that it would allow kids that are really into chemistry study more chemistry, those that are really into english focus on that and those that are really into machining work on machining.

Then again, college students can be really stressed out, and many probably don't need that extra pressure. Those that are really driven to study whatever are going to do that regardless of whether there's an actual system designed for them (and they shall weep when I fail them on their lab reports, and such), and they might be successful at that (e.g. R. B.) or they might have an anyeurism, but that's independent of what's going on here, I think.

Final Verdict: Interesting experiment. You Floridians tell me how you like that.

Monday, March 20, 2006


I don't think I get it.

Actually, I'm pretty sure I don't get it. It, of course, being the reason that I'm just not really coming up with much to write about in this blog lately. I try. Really I do. I'll get in little fits of ambition and cruise Fox News and CNN, only to learn that I really don't care about the Ports deal and think that, while natural disasters appear to occur more or less round-the-clock, there's not much to say about them. Yes. They're bad times. But more than that, they don't make for very interesting blogging.

I will say that I am excited that I'm finally done with Winter Quarter (though my grades aren't up yet, Northwestern. As you're reading this, you big anthropomorphic degree-granting institution, I'd appreciate it if you could let me know how I ended up doing in Bioorganic. Thanks. Now, if you'll remember, "I'm done".) So I've only got one class left, got out of this one alive, and can finally get some actual progress on the synthesis of these probes.

It just seems that I'd have something, not always witty, but at least something last summer, when this blog really took off in earnest. Maybe McDonalds is thousands of times more exciting than Northwestern (It's not. If you're at McDonalds, I'd advise you to instead move to Chicago) or maybe the diminished social interaction that goes along with working these damned hours is to blame (again, not likely as I'm a hermit at home too). Perhaps I just have less time recently to poke around on the internet until I find something worth commenting on.

But enough of that for right now.

On to the interesting things.

In fads, culturebox examines the appeal of Whole Foods, which, if you're not familiar, is an "organic food store" that is prohibitively expensive for, well, me, and is capitalizing on the craze over organic foods. Some reasonable points are made (Any ecological benefit derived from using a more earth-friendly fertilizer is effectively negated if the chemically fertilized stuff is from Jersey and the earth-friendly stuff is from Chile due to transportation, that if these foods really are better for us, increasing their price so drastically is akin to elitism, and that really, the claim that a vast majority of organic farmers are family farmers is playing with semantics), though for the most interesting point to my mind you'll have to go somewhere else. Namely, that you can call something "organic" if everything you put on it, in it, around it, or through it is found somewhere in nature.

So that quite a few of these additives are synthetic (not that there's anything actually inherently wrong with synthesized products).

Smoking cigarettes is really a disgusting habit that kills you, and I understand the importance of second-hand smoke legislature. Hell, I'll even go as far as to say I'm down with Chicago's recent ban on smoking in public buildings. Chicago's specific ban includes a restriction on smoking outside in one place, resulting in the bizarre march of the smoker, up and down the alley so as not to be in violation of standing outside a building and smoking, but Calabasas, I'm afraid I just can't agree. Sure, relegate cigarette smoke to a strictly private affair in one's own domicile or one one's property (so long as that property isn't right up against some public property), but this bit's a bit rich:

Smoking in one's car is allowed, unless the windows are open and someone nearby might be affected.

Nicotine addiction is a disease. Smokers are not within their rights to threaten the health of nonsmokers by smoking at them. But the fact that they're now forcing smokers to confine said deadly toxin (for slow release into the atmosphere through the ventilation of the car) in such a small space is just further damaging the health of the person who's smoking. Moreover, they're doing it in a big polluting metal machine. One wonders if they're not banning the smoking in cars thing such that the nearby person can enjoy the fresh, wonderful smell of car exhaust.

Friday, March 17, 2006


So then there's that.

Finals are, for all intents and purposes, complete, though I will have to turn in a report on my work. So it goes. More importantly, two things:

Following my last final today, Bioorganic Chemistry and grading for a few hours for the undergraduate sophomore organic chemistry course's final, I had the pleasure of not having to pay for dinner for once. That is, Northwestern picked it up for me, as I'd been given the nod to take the prospective graduate students out for dinner with NU picking up the tab. Sometimes, I can dig it. Burgers at Nevin's is a good time. But that's not what inspired me to write this post. What did was what I did afterwards, which was, unfortunately, not picked up by Northwestern as it wasn't at all related to the students. I saw V for Vendetta, and enjoyed what I saw. Without regarding what it maintains the line of the comic books or not, I found it to be quite interesting, and an exciting action movie. Good for that.

What I'd like to take a second to respond to is the amount of bloggers and message board patrons that are somehow twisting this into being a decisive attack on conservatives, others callling it an explicitly "anti-American" movie. Honestly, I have no idea what to make of that, mostly the second one. I'm not entirely surprised. Star Wars Ep. III was boycotted by some who viewed it as an explicitly anti-Bush film. Precisely the same sentiment appears to be popular now about V for Vendetta. I'll give them a bone here. At least V for Vendetta is actually somewhat political, and I believe it's mentioned somewhere that John Hurt's "Sutler" character was at one point a member of the Conservative Party of Britain (though two seconds later it makes it clear that he either left or was forced out, invented his own party which overtook both the Conservatives and Liberals in the UK, which is, if anything, a parallel to the NSDAP). Star Wars is Star Wars. But that doesn't justify the comparison. I know many really want this to be anti-American or anti-Conservative, as it then becomes another piece of the vast liberal plot to brainwash children out of making up their own minds, but it's just not. The big bad guys aren't conservatives. Or liberals. They're fascists. They're Big Brother. The Party. Singular and without distinction between conservatives or liberals or anything in between or outside of the relatively narrow conservative-liberal spectrum. It's Big Invasive Government. V's call for revolution against the militaristic, dictatorial and, here's the kicker, fictional government is nothing more than the demand that the citizens of a nation hold its Government accountable for what it's doing, not have to live in fear of being threatened or abducted by the government, and that maybe we shouldn't beat people with rods. The corrolary to that that I've seen in several places, that the movie is a movement for the Gay Agenda (now existing in a theater near you!) because it shows the beating and imprisonment of homosexuals by the government. Two points here. 1) Valerie's imprisonment is in the comic books, so it makes sense to include it here. 2) The point of the scenes with Valerie's letter isn't to convince people to flip their gay switch on, but to suggest that maybe we shouldn't beat people with rods and imprison them for digging on certain types of people.

The allegation that it's anti-American is just plain incomprehensible to me (unless one would like to make the claim that America is a fascist nation or that it should be and this negative depiction of fascism is clearly an attack on what America should be) or that V is a communist (mostly because the term communist has lost essentially all of its meaning because of its general application to people that one disagrees with. The interesting thing here is that I ran into a blog claiming this exact thing which attempted to use the posters as proof that V is a communist. Which is just ridiculous. They're propaganda type posters, but that's really more of a reference to the Big Brother type government. No. the fact that so much red is associated with the posters and imagery is not relevant either, as the V symbol and all the red and black is very clearly a reference to the symbol and colors of the general concept of anarchism. Which isn't communism.)

Furthermore, the "War" that the movie charges America with starting... I'm not counting that as an "anti-American" bit in the film or the book, nor am I willing to give credence to the conclusion that it is the current "War on Terror", more likely deferring to the fact that it more or less makes America a non-factor (which is important to the focus on why the UK is alone in all of this) and adds to the dystopia by tying up the US in civil war.

Good movie.
Action. Some knife throwing. Natalie Portman's in it.
It's not anti-Conservative or anti-American. It's pointing out that totalitarian fascism probably isn't awesome. Essentially, 1984.
V's not a communist. He doesn't propose any other system of government, just that it'd be nice to be able to walk around without a curfew, and that citizens have a duty to hold their governments responsible for their actions.
I don't believe that anarchy is a viable system of government. Don't do it.
Proposing that beating homosexuals probably isn't cool doesn't make this a Gay Agenda (TM) piece.

So that's that.

Now. The important thing:

How the hell is the US out of the World Baseball Classic?! We're not supposed to lose. We did, essentially, everything we could to rig the damn thing, putting ourselves in an opening pool with Mexico, Canada and South Africa and structuring the tournament such that we wouldn't even have to think about facing any of the really threatening Latin American teams until they'd killed each other off. I just... what the hell.

That said, this thing is amazing. I'll be watching it until the end, and loving it.

Friday, March 10, 2006


It seems it would be a decent time to post about not being able to post. Unfortunately, finals are upon us at Northwestern which tends to lessen the time I've got available to write here, so, while I'll try to keep this updated, it might tend to fall behind until at least next Friday.

Some points before I get back to bioorganic:

I'm firmly convinced that a picture of this gentleman on one's desktop is good luck when one's giving a presentation. Moreso when the professor for the class gets a kick out of it and gives one a decent grade on the "15-percent-of-your-grade" presentation.

And who says soccer games get to start all the international incidents?. I've actually found the World Baseball Classic strangely compelling, if only for the Canadian upset so far. I would not at all be averse to this continuing, especially if it's on a four year cycle.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sony. For You.

I've finally submitted to the inevitable, though to my credit I held out for nine years after its inception in 1997. Mostly because for the great majority of that I've been much too strapped for cash to actually afford to submit to this particular inevitablity.

That's right. I've finally bought an mp3 player. Or rather, ATRAC player.

The player specifically is this kidney shaped thing. I caved for the 1GB model,and as yet have not had any trouble with actually using the thing (it's relatively intuitive). It's a nifty little flash-based player, and I've yet to actually use the thing enough to test the claim of 50 hours of battery life. I'd rather I could change the playlists without plugging the thing into the computer and cracking open SonicStage, but I'm willing to live with that. Overall, something that should make it possible for me to forget I'm surrounded by hundreds of carcinogens at most times. More when I'm at work rather than eating fast food.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bonds and Crossdressing

I usually don't login to post about one topic, and I can't actually say why that is. But this, this I can't pass up.

If any of you are regular readers of this blog or know me ("but then I repeat myself"), you'll know I'm from Pittsburgh. And being from Pittsburgh, I've been, since about 1993, been carefully conditioned to disapprove of everything Barry Bonds stands for. He's pompous, he's got that ridiculous martyr complex thing that doesn't make any sense, and he won't stop whining about how people hate him for being an all around jackass. He's become emblematic of a very real scandal in baseball, and I can't get behind his fan's assumption that it doesn't matter whether or not he's on 'roids, because "power's not the only thing that hits home runs". That's true, but if all we're talking about is accuracy and ability to judge a pitch, Jason Bay might have broken the "zero" barrier in last years HR Derby.

But right now, in this moment, that's ok. Why? Because for the first time in quite some time, Barry Bonds showed he had a sense of humor at Giants camp yesterday. I still don't like the guy or what his playing means and has meant for baseball. But good lord, Barry Bonds-as-Paula Abdul is just comedy gold. I've no doubt that this reaction is exactly what they were looking for from the public.

But Barry Bonds in a dress isn't' something you see every day. If you're lucky.

So yes. That said, good for Bonds for showing a bit of humor once in a decade, and I think we'll all be happy to just go on with our lives, trying desperately to block that image out of our minds forever.