Friday, May 26, 2006

Moment of Silence

I keep regretting checking Wikipedia's "Recent Deaths", mostly because I'll stop in to see what minor author from Bulgaria has passed on, or to check on the status of someone that's notable and whose sickness is so widely broadcast that I feel some kind of duty. And it's quick. Just that one little link, and there you go.

Then, sometimes, I look and I'm actually taken aback by one of the deaths, because either I earnestly believed tha the person in question had died by now, or because it's someone that has actually had quite a bit of influence over the things I listen to, and their passing does more to accentuate what feels like an era coming to an end. It happened last year with Laurel Aitken and yesterday with Desmond Dekker.

That's not good.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Conquering Ayn

So, I've gotten into the habit of amassing what will comprise my reading for the summer. I've got this weird little habit, actually, of balancing a book which is perhaps less up there on the hardcore intellectual fare with one that actually does carry some weight so that I don't get weird looks from the cashier at the book store. It's dumb, but somehow, purchasing a comic book about zombies seems less dumb when it's paired with an introduction on Heidegger. Who knew.

This summer, I've decided via my last few purchases, is the summer I'm actually going to sit down and figure out what the hell Ayn Rand was on about. Having read Atlas Shrugged and not being able to force myself to read Anthem, I've got a taste of her ideals, but it always seems like any kind of moderate stance that's been presented has been taken to the extreme by some, particularly the Ayn Rand Institute, which, to me, seems to warp what could be reasonable philosophies into ultra-right nutjobbery. So, in an effort to finally come to an opinion on Ayn that stands up to intellectual scrutiny, I've gone and bought The Fountainhead and Philosophy: Who Needs It?. We'll see how long that holds itself together.

A bit about this development. I, for one, think that the Senate could probably be doing better things with their time than making English the "national language." I'm not confusing the terms there. The vote is to make English the "national language", not the "official language", which appears to afford it a similar status to the "national bird". I just don't see a need for it. It's already obvious that in order to attain much success in the United States, you're going to need to be pretty good with English anyway, and not knowing English is probably going to relegate you to a service role. Everyone acknowledges this. That said, I can't imagine what voting English "the national language" is meant to accomplish, as it doesn't actually do anything. Then again, I'm not a big fan of making English the official language (as I don't see the point seeing as how English is the de facto official language, will be for the forseeable future, and bilingual and polylingual states do just fine, it seems, even when they're officially polylingual) and can't understand why one should not know at least two languages functionally.

Similarly, this kind of stuff is nonsense. I actually dig on the metric system, but it's absurd to fine people for selling produce by the pound.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Northwestern Soccer thing.

I tend not to get around to posting about news stories until they've been thoroughly gutted by the press, and the backlash has already occurred. That's not purposefully done to try to somehow get the last word on a subject, as I'd much rather blog about this kind of stuff when it's still going on, but because I'm trying to get these syntheses to work and because I've got the attention span of something with almost no attentions span, it's somewhat difficult to get around to typing something out.

But here we go anyway.

As most of you know (as the people that read this blog tend to be people that know me personally), I'm doing my thing at Northwestern University, which has been, if you hadn't seen, in the news a bit lately for the actions of one of the sports teams. Namely, the girls soccer team. During some form of event about a week back, the girls soccer team apparently blindfolded and bound the hands of the freshman players, drew things on them in marker and evidently had them do vaguely sexual things while remaining clothed. Someone posted those pictures on the web, and since then have been the subject of most of the coverage of Northwestern sports. Said photos have sinced moved elsewhere, and the entire soccer team has been suspended.

My opinion:

Sure, no one got hurt, and, according to at least one player in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, no one was forced to do anything and in the pictures everyone's smiling and happiness was never borne out quite so perfectly as when one is trashed and has phalluses written on their cheek. Or something. The problem here is twofold, for me. First, they know there are hazing regulations that the University enforces. It enforces them for a reason and by agreeing to be a member of the sports team, they're agreeing to abide by the University's policies. So I honestly don't understand the shock at being suspended for this. If the policies had been voted on and never announced, or if they hadn't existed but the University decided to come down on everyone anyway, then maybe some shock. As it stands, they should have known at least not to post pictures of what they were doing where people that might care and punish them could find them.

The second bit is that i disagree with hazing across the board, and support zero-tolerance policies where hazing is concerned. Was anyone forced to get drunk and have stuff written on them against their will? Probably not. But hazing tends to have a way of forcing people to conform to what everyone's doing without saying much at all. It could even take the form of an event in which the participants are told they can sit out. People being hazed are simply more likely to go along with it to avoid looking like someone that couldn't handle the task in front of their friends and people they respect enough to be in a situation where they could be getting hazed in the first place. While in this case the hazing appears to be relatively innocuous enough to the point that yes, the hazed were probably fine with being given free alcohol, the practice itself has a way of transforming into something that not all of the potentially hazed are okay with over time. While that would seem to constitute a slippery slope fallacy, caution, in the case of enforcement, must be the rule. Some may contend that this is about political correctness. Not wanting to make anyone feel bad, and so banning the practice of hazing outright, while it still may serve a function of binding the hazed together as a result of their ordeal. I do think that organizations that make a big deal about having to be humiliated or beaten to gain entrance to things should be held accountable for beating people, this is something that's much easier to have be a self policing kind of thing. That is, either the organization can elect not to do it on their own and use that as a selling point (in the case of Fraternities, who are competing for members), or kids can wake up and realize that getting beaten up/running around naked in the cold is something they don't have to go through, and that the organization that's going to do that to them may not have their best interests in mind. Let me then personalize this, move it away from the realm of policy enforcement and get to why I disagree with hazing.

For those of you who don't know me but are reading this blog and haven't been able to piece together from the links on the left side there that I was in a Fraternity in college, I was. It was good times and, if you can find a chapter that's worthy of having you as a member, I highly recommend it. And yet, because of the strict anti-hazing policy the Fraternity took, I never felt as though I was being pressured to do something against my will or in any way separate from anything that was being done by the seniors in the Fraternity. Bonds and brotherhood were formed, in the case of my class and those that preceeded and will follow (hopefully, that stance won't change) was necessarily left to discussion and the way any other friendship is formed, rather than through unification to get through an ordeal. I could never understand why, as a new member, being beaten with a stick or made to drink in a dark room (or whatever these kids are doing now) was something I would elect to go through to join a group. That is, possibly, a relic of the fact that my chapter had been recently reformed, and so there was a lot more pressure on the Fraternity to sell itself to prospectives, but I just can't understand why I'd elect to run around naked with a bucket of gasoline or something when I could just as easily tell this group of people that want my money or athletic skill to eat it.

To summarize, if you want to be in a Greek organization or soccer team or something, that's cool. You shouldn't have to jump through any crazy hoops to get there. Testing devotion of new members is pointless through hazing, I think, as it can be done in much more efficient ways that don't isolate the new members and beat up on them.

Then again, I must be missing something, as a lot of these kids seem very willing to undergo bodily harm for the organization of their choice.

Oh, addendum.

When are people going to learn to stop putting up pictures of being general schmucks up on the internet? I can't read a news site anymore without hearing about how so-and-so hazed their freshmen/did massive amounts of drugs/burnt down buildings/whatever, took pictures of it and then posted the incriminating evidence on their damn Myspace. Here's a tip kids. Just because you're posting something on your own private computer, in your own private dorm room with your private door shut or, alternatively, in your own private basement/apartment/account on an computer in a library doesn't mean that that content is somehow not available to the entire world now. Don't want to get caught for having thirty pounds of marijuana? Don't post pictures of it on your Myspace now that it's common knowledge that law enforcement officials browse it to find idiots that post pictures of things they shouldn't.?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Acid ate through my glove.

As I sit here waiting for my Reaction that Will Not Finish to come to an end, I get these incessant little popups on the lower right hand corner of my screen. I'm down with that, as they're mail alerts and let me know when to check this thing to see who we're holding a Meet the Speaker for (this week, it's K. Barry Sharpless, who won the Nobel Prize in 2001 and, incidentally, who I'm sitting down with tomorrow to chat about chemistry) or when I should respond to a comment that Rory's left on my blog. So that's all well and good. Except for the several emails a day that get through the gmail filters. Cutting the spam I actually see down to about ten a day is a pretty good feat, and it's mostly taking care of things that go on about the wonderful medicinal benefits of "V1@gr@" and "\/\/|-|@73\/3R D@mn Th!ng" they're trying to get me to buy, but I do have to register a complaint.

Dear Filthy Spammers,

Having a subject informing me that you've "acquired" my email does not make me want to open your email. It makes me want to break your things.

It's not so much the fact that the spam's getting in the way (as hitting the "Report Spam" button is easy enough), but that it's incredible the lack of creativity that's going into these things. Perhaps it's just that in order to get around the filter, it's better to have an email that actually seems like it could be related to some kind of business venture, or whatever the hell the good people at Google Labs think I do.

In other: My intramural Softball team "BSalsa" (playing in Northwestern's "White League", which is evidently a little more competitive than the Co-Rec league but less than the "Purple League") beat the No. 1 seed in the second round of the playoffs today. They were a team that was undefeated through the four game regular season and had not won a game by less than ten runs. So, though not expecting much, it was incredibly nice to be able to put them down, 14-8. Props to third baseman Jim on a spectacular unassisted double play in a bases loaded, no outs situation after two runs had scored in the inning. We'll be proceeding along to play in the third round, Sunday.

C&J, Spending, Pirates, Something


Being Chicago and Jenna. She's been here this weekend, and it's been good times. We tried to kick around Chicago looking for a compromise in living arrangements so that neither of us has to spend seventeen hours on the El, but I'm not sure that's happening. She's going to UIC, which is about center on that map, while I'm still whiling away the last bit of my youth at Northwestern (the Noyes stop on the map there.) As you can see, we will be working not quite at opposite ends of the city, but far enough away from each other that the living thing tends to become annoying. The only decision thus far is that we're not living in Uptown near Wilson. And while Wrigleyville and Lakeview are nice, both mean being around more Cubs fans than I'd like.

I kid. But not really.


I've spent quite a lot over the weekend, and so we'll have to go back to eating sandwiches comprised of whatever I can find in my kitchen. So wasabi and oranges, I guess. If you're in Chicago at some point and feel like heading somewhere interesting that knows a bit about wine, try Volo a wine bar that's nice if you're in to feeling pretentious, and somewhere I might be able to afford to go once every, say, five years. The rest of the weekend's purchases were mostly musical, as I found License to Ill for $8 at Virgin Mega, and threw in Del tha Funkee Homosapien's "Elektra Years: B-Boy Handbook" and Danger Mouse and MF Doom's "The Mouse and the Mask" in for good measure. Everyone knows License to Ill, so I'll just comment on the other two.

"Elektra Years" is a small compilation of some of Del's earlier works (most of the tracks come from "I Wish My Brother George Was Here" (1992), and from what I've been able to listen to in the few hours since I've purchased it, is pretty enjoyable. It's witty, flows, and is well produced. The only real thing that bothers me about it apart from realizing that it's fourteen years old, and I was nine when it was made is that that age tends to rise up in a few places, and I'm left with visions of the truly awful music videos of the mid 1990's. Lots of neon. Though I think that's because I hunted the "Mistadobalina" video down on YouTube. Perhaps it'll pass.

"The Mouse and the Mask" is being sold with at least some attempt to draw in on the success of Adult Swim, though for what it's worth, I'd be happier if they left Meatwad rapping off of the damn thing. A formidable record in its own right, it's incredible how the music twists around the samples from 1970's cartoon soundtracks. Still, if they eliminate the Adult Swim crew from talking over the beginning and end of most tracks, I don't think anything would be lost.


I'm really glad most things I own are books, and are therefore pretty resistant to me throwing things at them. The MARLINS? We lost a series to the MARLINS? I didn't get to watch Zach Duke's outing yesterday, but Ian Snell today... I... So here. I'm of the belief that Ian Snell will eventually come around and show the control he's shown in his previous four starts every time. I think the kid needs to play in the majors, and I really do believe that he's going to be a factor in the Pirates rotation at some point. Color me hopeful. But today's 1 1/3 inning start in which he gave up 7 earned runs isn't making it easy for me to keep that sunny disposition up. Magically, after he was pulled, Vogelsong put together two more outs, and then Cota was no where to be found, having been replaced by Ronnie Paulino in the top of the third. Why is it whenever Cota's in, we seem to stink with such force? It could be an artifact of his status as Perez' personal catcher, and the fact that Perez is terrible this year, but yeesh. I have no idea. It's getting really hard for me to watch this continually.

On the subject, I bought a book over the weekend in the hope that I'd somehow remember something of teams I'd never seen play, when Pittsburgh baseball wasn't such a joke as to be avoided by commentators as just too easy. The book in question is Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero, and while it's not nearly as suspensful as the things I've been reading (the things I've been reading being thrillers and sci-fi), it's very well written, and is an interesting experience for this fan who wasn't alive in time to see Clemente play by about eleven years.

I'm going to sleep now.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


So, I haven't been updating recently. The O'Halloran lab has moved from the dark confines of part of the K wing of the Technological Institute to a ground level crowded little spot in a building across the way. Unfortunately, this has meant that over the last week, all research has been forced to a halt, which I'm not a big fan of as I'd like to put something together to justify the fact that I'm in grad school. And that moving has been an enormous pain.

If I find a digital camera, perhaps, I'll get some photos of this place.

But, moving on.

I'm not going to be too upset when, as I'm leaving this place pretty soon for home, I'm not watching this Pirates-Mets matchup. Maholm has been getting out of jams through the first few innings, but has walked in a run and the best performance in the world isn't going to help if the opposing pitcher (Tom Glavine tonight) is throwing a perfect game through four. Sanchez got the start again, and though he did rush a throw to first on a Glavine chop and was charged wtih an error, I'm glad they've gotten him in to the lineup again. Necessary. Hopefully, they can pull something together to take away from the sting of the 12th inning loss on a walk off homer.

I've finally caved and bought the Da Vinci Code, and I'll be done with it tonight. It's certainly not the revolutionary (in the literary sense) masterpiece I've heard it called, but it's all right, and about up to my expectations for anything that I find in a supermarket at 2am for $8. Then again, a guy that owns Half Baked probably shouldn't be too critical of the media put before him, so I'll leave it at that. I do have two criticisms. 1) If you're going to have 105 chapters in your book, you're probably making the chapters too small. I can't help but feel that they're kind of forced. 2) If you're going to try to sell me a book using the word "since", I'm more impressed by "since the Second World War" or "since Dostoevsky's time" than "since Harry Potter." Nothing against the Potter books, as I haven't read them and so can't comment, but if you're using the word "since" in a context that's supposed to impress me, you're going to have to go back further than 1997.

I might comment on the Moussaoui thing later tonight, but mostly, I'm just going to go home now.