Friday, September 30, 2005

Gentrification - A Softer Racism

For a while, I was going to miss Annie Spiro. Without her crazy articles to blog about from ISU, what was I going to blog about now that I'm in Evanston? Thankfully, the Daily Northwestern has not left me without something to write on.

The article linked above is about a proposed TIF district in Southwest Evanston. TIF districts are typically used to encourage developers to build in areas needing economic development (In St. Clair County, we had a bigger problem of businesses demanding them of city leaders as "incentive" to build in their city or they'd move on to greener pastures . . . but that's another story).

However, the article is not primarily about the proposed developments, but residents' reactions to them.

Apparently, the residents in these neighborhoods, mainly black and latino, fear that the developments will bring in white people. This, in turn, will lead to whites owning and using the businesses in the area.

The writer lists it as "destroying the culture" of a neighborhood. He calls it "gentrification." I call it "racism." Unfortunately, you'll never hear that in this liberal, PC town. Only white people are racist. Black and latino people are "culturally sensitive." Ugh.

Let's imagine a hypothetical for a moment: Imagine that a neighborhood was all white, and proposed developments were being argued against because they would result in black people moving in, owning businesses, and using the businesses in the area.

Can you even imagine the backlash that would result? We'd be hearing about this on the CBS Evening News! Jesse Jackson would be holding vigils on the aldermans' front lawns!

I'm just outraged by this. This is reverse-racism at its finest, and only in liberal towns like this would people actually be able to say things like this and get away with it. Absolutely sickening.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Fear and Loathing in Springfield

Well, shame on both of my Illinois Senators, Barak Obama and Dick Durbin, for voting against the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court.

I guess you both can show that there is nothing in this world that petty partisan politics cannot overcome.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Future of Electronics

Earlier this week, I heard a very interesting research presentation as given by a professor from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. I thought I'd share some of my thoughts from the presentation with you.

The professor's research was over nanomolecular electronics. For the unaware, nanoscience involves mechanisms and materials that are scaled in down in the nanometers. We're talking about what happens on the scale of a few molecules in size. What is so incredibly interesting about this area of research is that the properties of materials often change drastically when they're reduced to that level.

The idea of nanomolecular electronics is the ability to create electronic components (circuits, switches, etc.) on the molecular level. Imagine being able to fit the Pentium 8 chip inside a cell of your body, and you can see the potential that such things have.

Well, right now it's potential, anyhow. The field is in its baby steps of getting started. The professor's research was involved in self-assembling nanomolecular electronics. The same way proteins or DNA are "self-assembled" in a cell, the idea is to develop these electronics which assemble themselves. It involved using gold electrodes separated by carbon tube wires, using DNA as a scaffolding on which to build the pathways. There was also a portion about using bacterial phages bound to a semiconducting crystal as a switch of some sort, but I didn't understand this portion.

The consequences of such research could be incredible. Self-assembling electronics would be ridiculously easy to manufacture, although the conditions would be rather delicate. It could be cheap, provided said delicate conditions aren't expensive to maintain. Additionally, the potential for having powerful electronic devices on such a small scale means that you could possibly put incredibly powerful computers into increasingly smaller containers. Desktop computer in your wristwatch? It could happen.

Potential problems? Well, there is the issue of having to meld the nano to the macro. Because nanoscale devices will operate under radically different properties, there might be no easy way to connect them to devices which will make them actually useful. For example, eventually the processor would have to be able to connect to a power supply and to a display device. This might be mitigated if the devices were in solution, but that could bring in other problems. What solvent is in there? Is there a danger of it leaking? Is it dangerous if leaked? Does it need to be cooled in order to function optimally?

Another thought I had regarded using the phages as part of a switching component. While it seems there is a rather specific set of properties the phage can exhibit in order to act as part of the switching component, I still worry about the possibility of a viral weapon being disguised as a simple electronic device. Imagine somebody giving the President a watch that had Ebola swapped in for the usual phages in the switch, and they managed to crack the casing and let the virus loose. Absolute devestation. How possible is it? Probably close to none, but given how little we know about this emerging technology, the possibility must still be considered.

Will this technology be the future of electronics? At least some of them, yes. As this technology develops, it may find only a very specialized market, but there will be uses made of it. Could it potentially change the world? We shall have to wait and see.

UN to Control the Net?

This NRO article about the UN's attempt to take international control of the internet is a pretty good summary of arguments and collection of links on the issue. My major reasons for opposing such a move (and these are in the article as well) are:
  1. The UN has a tendency to treat tyrannical dictatorships on the same moral level as free democracies. This problem would arise in that China, among other nations, censors the internet (to the disgraceful cooperation of some American companies, such as Yahoo). Would an internet under UN control find itself without the freedom of expression that it currently has (more or less)?
  2. The UN is also quite famous for having officials who line their pockets from major enterprises such as this. I'd be quite ticked to find out that registering a domain name would suddenly cost me $50, with $40 of those going into Kofi Annan's pockets.

Let's just agree that the UN shouldn't control this thing, okay? It screws up everything else it touches already. I like the internet. Don't take that away from me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Upcoming Posts

I swear, I'm not lazy. Just busy.

New posts coming soon. Should be interesting stuff, too.

It's So True

Incidentally, I hear that Reid is opposing Roberts because of his "questionable" commitment to civil rights. Not that he offers evidence that Roberts wants to take us back to segregated schools or anything, but it sure sounds nice in a press release, doesn't it?

Monday, September 26, 2005


Moments of "Duh" in Science

Moment number one.

Moment number two:

Today I had my first lab ever for which I was TA. I was in charge of 14 general chemistry students. Today we were preoccupied with lab check-in and going over general rules, so in the future I think I shall go over some of the finer points of lab procedure.

The "duh" moment comes from the experiment we were doing. We were measuring the density of diet and regular Coke®, and this required measuring the weight of three 10mL samples of soda using three different measuring tools: a graduated cylinder, a buret, and a pipet.

I can understand taring their glassware on the scale and then adding the liquid. Not wrong, although it does monopolize the scales they all have to share. No, the moment came when a student came up to me with a pipet full of soda and asks, "How are we supposed to weigh this? I mean, we have the liquid in there, but it doesn't seem like we can weight it now, because we have to keep our hand on it to keep the liquid in and we'll be pushing down on the scale. Won't that make for an inaccurate reading?"

. . .

*Insert sound of head banging on wall here*

Nintendo's Power

Sleep evades me for the moment, so in its stead I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about Nintendo's new controller.

If you're a video game nerd, you've been paying attention to the commentary taking place across the internet. Some people are convinced that Nintendo will usher in a golden age of gaming. Others think that they've completely lost it and will eventually become just another game-maker for Sony or XBox the same way Sega simply makes games for Nintendo now.

While I'm still somewhat skeptical about the controller, mainly for not having any real games out of it yet or having tried it myself, I'm inclined to give Nintendo the benefit of the doubt. I mean, they've pulled crazy stuff before and been all right for it. Let's look at some history:

Think of the many peripherals Nintendo has come out with in the past. On the original Nintendo, they had several: the Light Gun, the PowerPad, the PowerGlove, ROB . . . the Gun and the PowerPad were probably the best attempts. Do remember, Nintendo was really getting the whole industry going at this time. Yeah, there had been Atari and such before that, but the appearance of the NES took gaming to a new level. In any case, the Light Gun was a pretty popular attempt as far as peripherals go. The PowerPad was ahead of its time; unpopular back in the 80's, but if they'd come up with Dance Dance Revolution then, well . . .

Next came the Super NES. The premiere game sparked a lot of interest in me, but I remember thinking, "Mario rides around on a dinosaur with a freaking saddle? This is going to be dumb. They give him a cape? Lame!" Boy, was I wrong. The game was a smash. Mario Kart? "A Mario racing game?! Lame!" Wrong again, Hal. And yes, some of the peripherals for the SNES were failures; the Super Scope was just not as well-received as the Light Gun had been, but Nintendo was at least experimenting.

Flash forward to the N64. Nintendo brought in a rumble pack, and it's changed the way games have been played since (Although . . . did Sony do this first with the PS1? I can't recall . . .). And the games? When I first heard about Mario Party from a friend, I was in disbelief. "So, it's a board game . . . only on the N64 . . . and you play with Mario and such . . . that has to be so boring." Now there's a 6th volume of Mario Party. Smash Brothers? "It's a fighting game, only with Mario and Pikachu and other Nintendo characters? Nintendo must be out of ideas, because that has to be dumb and unplayable." I just didn't get it, apparently, because at this point I've wasted so many hours of my life playing that game it's ridiculous.

Even with the GameCube, there were reasons to be skeptical. The premiere title left Mario out of the spotlight and gave it to Luigi! What was Nintendo thinking?! Well, actually, probably something genius, because the game turned out to be pretty darn popular (and fun to play, too).

What's my point out of all of this? Nintendo has been doing this a long, long time. They've had successes and failures during that time, but they've been learning how things work. And often times, when Nintendo innovates, the rest of the industry follows suit.

In this case, a lot of people are skeptical about the Revolution because it is a radical departure from what we've expected from video game consoles. However, Nintendo has surprised me before with their innovations, and in many cases those have been incredible successes. I'm not making any predictions about how well the Revolution's design will do, but I am willing to give it a chance and see if the games that come from it will be fun.

And if it's fun . . . then I think the nay-sayers will be eating their words. While taking their Revolution home from Best Buy.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Shale We Talk?

Oh come on, you love my sense of humor.

Mark in Mexico has this fantastic post about the possibilities and science behind using "shale oil" for replacing crude oil at the pump.

It's an interesting read, and just continues to confirm something to me:

Chemists/Chemical Engineers . . . we rock. We rock hard.
(Hat Tip: Ace)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

McCoy's Latest

I was wondering when they were coming.

Fun with Science

So, here’s something fun.

2H2O + 2N2 + 5O2 = 4HNO3 ∆G = -85 kcal/mol

If you’re a chemist, you know what this means. For those of you lay people, I’ll explain: The reaction shows water, elemental nitrogen, and elemental oxygen combining to form nitric acid. The value for ∆G is negative, which indicates that the reaction is thermodynamically favorable.

“Wait a second,” you might think. “Why don’t standing bodies of water turn into pools of acid?”

It turns out the kinetic barrier is far too high. Neat, huh?

And you thought science was good for nothing.

Start the Fires

So, yesterday I had this fantastic post written up. It was a nice summation of some thoughts I've been having since starting grad school.

The gods of the internet must not be looking favorably on me. For no sooner than when I sent my post off to be published did the great black maw of the abyss swallow my post, dooming it to non-existence in the realms of "Blogger errors."

It seems I may have to sacrifice a virgin from the Blogger IT department to regain the gods' favor. So be it.

So, that post that I wrote yesterday? It mysteriously appeared out of nowhere. Wasn't there at noon.

I guess the net gods were pleased with my burnt offering.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Science and Lawsuits

Lots of stuff happening in the news lately. I haven't had much time to wite about that stuff. But let's face it: If you're really interested in that, you're not looking to me for your source of info on that.

I've been busy lately getting settled into this whole "graduate school" thing. All this orientation, and yet I still don't feel very oriental at all. Maybe I'm doing something wrong.

Part of our orientation has been listening to professors discussing their research projects, informing us so we can decide who we would like to spend the next few years slaving away for doing research with.

The thing is, when I listen to many of the professors' research, I know that we're hearing about stuff that is the absolute cutting edge of technology. When the projects these folks are working on leave the laboratory, they will change the world. Some of them are working on things that will bring cures and instant analysis for diseases, or therapies for crippling conditions (paralysis, for example). Others are working on technology that will make solar energy not only marketably useful, but could transform it into a primary source of electrical energy.

These advances . . . wow. And when I do end up in one of these labs, or when I get to hear a professor discuss his research . . . how cool would that be to be one of the first to bring that kind of information to the world?

But this leaves me with some hard thoughts. What am I allowed to write about? At what point am I compromising the project that a professor is working on? Am I violating some rule or hurting them professionally if I write about a research project that hasn't been published yet?

Of course, any insight my readers can offer would be most welcome. But I shall have to answer these questions for myself in the coming years.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Too Funny

So, the new seasons of American Dad and Family Guy started last week. I must say, I've been enjoying them both, particularly American Dad.

Best moment of the night? This musical number:
Stan: Lava, acid, and your crotch. These are things you must not touch.

Rest assured your eyes will melt, if you drift below the belt.


Religious Conflict on the Front Lines

And no, I'm not talking about Israel or Iraq. We're talking Louisiana.

This man, a cardiologist named Dr. Stanley Tilinghast, has gone to Louisiana and simply started helping out as he's found need. What a remarkable story.

However, in the Vietnamese community he has found himself helping, there seem to be some borders that the people are unwilling to overcome. The community is deeply divided as "Buddhist" and "Catholic." Two separate aid shelters have been set up, one in the temple and the other in the church. If supplies go to one, believers from the other never see them, because they "belong" to the other group now.

What a tragedy. And what disgraceful behavior from people who claim to be representatives of Jesus Christ.

Okay, it's Mississippi, not Louisiana. The town is Biloxi, and I can't even get the stupid state right. You can clearly see the value of a college degree from ISU, folks.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Revolution Controller

Just thought I'd show the thing off.

Dean in General

I was reading Bench Memos and saw this post about some silly speech Howard Dean was making. It's nothing unexpected: President Bush is evil, he has opposed everything good and decent, it's his fault that black and poor people were hurt by the hurricane, so oppose John Roberts because he will make all these things worse.

You know, standard Dean crazy-talk that he can't seem to stop. (And yet one of my fellow grad-students can't believe that it's evidence of the Democrats being controlled by the far-left elements)

It wouldn't be anything unusual, but one thing in the speech caught my attention (emphasis mine):
He has argued that politicians, not individual women themselves, ought to control women's reproductive health care.

What has Bush argued for, exactly? "The government should mandate what sort of pre-natal care a woman receives! Sonograms? When we say you can have one, woman. Pap smears? You'll need your congressman's permission first, you hussy."

No, actually, Bush just puts forth a pro-life perspective. (Aside: I find it very ironic that the left complains about Bush because of his hostility towards "women's reproductive rights," and yet some on the right, liberal Republicans and the far-right, say that Bush isn't really pro-life at all . . . which is it, guys?)

What do we mean by "reproductive health care" anyhow? It's a catchphrase that people use so as to not say "abortion." But it's so very misleading. It's not like anyone pro-life is saying no to sonograms and pap smears. They're just arguing that you shouldn't be allowed to kill your unborn child, thus aborting your pregnancy.

And just how does that fall under the auspice of "reproductive health care?" I mean, if I get a nose job and a face lift, is that dermatological health care? Something my ENT specialist should be concerned over?

My point is simply that this isn't about "reproductive health care" at all, because abortion doesn't fall under such a title. But then again, I doubt we'll ever hear anyone from NOW or NARAL actually saying that the government should protect their "right" to kill their unborn children.

Maybe a little rhetorical honesty would be refreshing. Or frightening. I can't decide which.

Toll Booth Hell

Okay, just a note to the administration in Illinois:

Make certain the toll booths work! There is nothing worse than throwing your money into the basket, only to watch in horror as the arm doesn't lift up in front of you. It's a nightmare! You keep chucking change into the machine, as if you were trying to appease the appetite of some horrible monster. Yet the monster is no danger to you; no, it's the people behind you, waiting, wondering why this idiot hasn't thrown his money in and let us go through. And then the honking . . . oh, the honking . . .

So . . . do take care of that, okay?

Friday, September 16, 2005

More Glenn McCoy

I hate being too busy to post. Anyhow, here's some new strips from McCoy.

Nintendo Reveals the Revolution Controller

Well, it's different.

I can't say different is bad. But I'd lie if I said I wasn't skeptical. I guess I'll have to try it out before I can say anything. Hey, just as long as I can reasonably play a new Smash Bros. game, I'll be set.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Just a Tip

Hey, Chem. departments . . . a little advice:

If you're helping new grad. students get situated at the school . . . and you advise them on which courses to take . . .

Don't cancel one of the few friggin' classes they can actually take 2 days before registration and 2 days after you advised them to take the freakin' class!

In case you needed to know.

Monday, September 12, 2005

New Glenn McCoy strips

I've decided to start posting Glenn McCoy's strips. Every new one. Because even if you forget to go to his site, you won't forget to come here, right?

Safety Videos Gone Wild

So, today for orientation we had to take part in "safety training." This stuff is almost always about 90% common sense and about 8% sensible regulations, with the remaining 2% being details that nobody ever worries about until a disaster strikes. You know, what to do if you accidentally turn your lab partner into an unspeakable radioactive horror, that sort of thing.

As with all "safety training" sessions, we had to watch a safety video. And as with all safety videos, it was funny for reasons that just aren't right. This time, I swear we were watching gay chemistry porn.

I kid you not.

One of the first clips involved a man who accidentally sets his lab coat on fire and begins to wildly flail about. This really shouldn't be funny, but when you understand that it's staged for the sake of the video, it becomes freakin' hilarious.

Anyhow, he drops down on the ground and begins what I suppose he thought was "Stopping, dropping, and rolling," but instead looked like he was trying to play Dance Dance Revolution on his belly. This, too was amusing. However, the best part was when his lab partner rushed over with either a lab coat or a fire blanket and was "smothering" the fire. Or, as it appeared to us, was furiously hugging his horizontally dancing friends.

Minus clothing, it would have been obscene.

Ah, but that was what the next scene was for. The next scene involved procedures to undertake when you have to wash in a safety shower. So, we see the same guy at the fume hood suddenly pour some unknown liquid on his shirt and pants. Then, he begins his running and flailing (as before), while screaming, "Bill! Help! Help!" We see him run under the safety shower and begin rinsing off his front side, where all the chemical was "spilled."

Then it gets creepy.

"Bill," attempting to aid his distressed co-worker, begins by ripping the man's shirt off. Safety procedures don't let you take it off over the head, so Bill just grabs the collars and *rrrrrrrip*, right down the center. The man, in this case, is not really assisting, as he's too busy pulling down the safety shower valve. "Bill" then proceeds to drop down to his knees in front of our now wet, shirtless chemist.

Scene cut? You wish. Bill then starts undoing the chemist's pants and drops them, attempting to pull them off over his shoes. So now we have this mostly naked chemist, standing there in the shower. In tighty-whities, no less. "Bill" is down on his knees before him, trying to remove his pants the rest of the way.

Very thankfully, the scene cut away at this point. Any further, and I we were scared it would have been gay chemistry porn. And you know they'd have never filmed this scene with two women. (Note to safety video producers: If you film such scenes with women instead of men, you will make a fortune)

I think the film was titled, Safety Videos Gone Wild.

Well, it should have been, in any case.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

It's True

Glenn McCoy - Absolute genius.

A Proud Day

My blog exceeded 2000 visits today! Woo!

Estrada for Supreme Court?

Oh please, Mr. President . . . tell me it's true.

Strange Citings at Wal-Mart

I really hate going to the Wal-Mart up here. It's always crowded like I couldn't even believe a Wal-Mart could be. But today I saw some things that were just disturbing.

What is it about latino men that they don't want to wear shirts? I mean, I can't say this applies to all latino men, but the two standing next to me in line today (they weren't there together, I was just behind them both) created too much of a coincidence for me.

The first guy was an older man, and he actually was wearing a shirt. It was a buttoned shirt . . . well, the bottom two buttons were closed, anyhow. Otherwise, he had his big, grey, hairy man-chest exposed from the belly-button on up. Not something I needed to see.

The guy in front of him . . . well, technically he was wearing a shirt. If you can actually call it a shirt, that is. It was a tank top made of mesh, and not the acceptable "gym shorts" kind of mesh, but the fish-net "not even pretending to hide my rigid latino nipples" kind of mesh. Utterly disturbing.

But I guess it's not actually limited to latino men. On the way out the door, I saw a black man in a white tank top. This wouldn't be unusual, except his nipple piercings were sticking straight out. If he'd gotten cold, he could take someone's eye out.

Maybe it's just a strange region. I just don't remember seeing much like this back home.

Man, I miss southern Illinois.

So Where Is It Going?

I don't get envrionmental science/scientists.

Apparently, there is worry that the Himalayan glaciers are melting due to global warming, leading to a shortage of drinking water in that region of Asia.

Maybe it's just me, but if the glaciers are melting, wouldn't that lead to more water? I mean, isn't that what we're always told? Melting glaciers leads to flooded coastlines? If the glaciers melting leads to less water, where is the water going?

They're attributing the current droughts in the region to global warming, but yet in the same article:
"Global climate change has had an effect, but water has also dried up because agriculture in the mountains has increased," he said.

I see. So, which is it? How can agriculture increase if the overall water supply is decreasing? I mean, I doubt that they were using 100% of the water before the increase, but still . . . decreasing supply would seem to prevent an increase in usage.

It's hard to criticize this article, because they don't include any actual scientific reference, so it's hard to determine whether or not any of the conclusions of the "experts" are justified. But I do note that they always refer to other "indicators" of global warming in these articles as justification of the trend, yet such things can always be explained by other factors.

Example? They mention Summer temperatures in Southeast Asia which can go up to 122ºF. Global warming? I thought Southeast Asia was always freakin' hot anyhow. Worth investigating weather patterns, I suppose.

So, yeah . . . I don't get it.

Monsters Among Us

How utterly reprehensible.

Apparently, thousands of phony "charity" websites have sprung up in the aftermath of Katrina, and more appear faster than the FBI can keep them down.

These people aren't just trying to profit off of the misery of others. They are trying to profit off of the good will of others by siphoning off money that would go towards alleving the misery of others.

To those who perform such deeds: Do you sleep soundly at night? Can you look yourself in the mirror, or tell your children honestly how you make money? Can live with yourself, knowing you are literally stealing from those who have lost everything? Do you take money from the hands of beggars without a second thought?

I hope this is not so, because someday you will stand before the God of the universe and will have to account for everything you've ever done. If you repent of your sins and seek his forgiveness, then God will not hold your deeds against you. But if you just don't care, then no amount of money will keep you safe from his wrath.

I'm sorry, that's just the way it is.

This Just In: Other Countries Have Crooked Voting

If you've been paying attention to something besides Hurricane Katrina coverage lately, then you'd remember that Egyptians were to experience their first real democratic election in a long, long time. Then, the problem came that the current President, Hosni Mubarak, up for reelection, declared that independent groups would not be allowed to verify the vote counts.

So, it comes as no surprise to anyone that his opponents are disputing the results of the election (an overwhelming victory for him).

Well, overwhelming is a bit mistaken. According to CNN, the turnout was 23%. That is a ridiculously low number. I'm not familiar with social and political factors in Egypt, but what could have caused such a low turnout? Apathy? Resignation to the corruption of the current administration/regime? Suppression? I don't know.

But I can say this: The vote fraud is probably much greater than the 10-15% the "human rights groups" estimate. Not in Egypt.

Friday, September 09, 2005

No Duh, Dorothy

Okay, so it became obvious to me this evening that I'm just "not in Kansas anymore." It's one of the dangers of moving to a new city, really.

Some folk from the chem. department were having a party this evening, and I was to attend. The place was somewhere in south Evanston, and was to start at 9. I left for the party at 8:50.

Well, after driving around for nearly an hour, I finally made it back to my apartment at 9:45 after having completely circled the city, headed too far south-west, and then finally gone back north to my place.

I hate new cities. I hate getting lost. I hate it when Mapquest fails me. And, I hate sitting alone on Friday nights.

I'm guessing God didn't want me at that party. Why, I can't say, but I'm trusting his judgement on this one.

God in the Storm

Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote on his website a two part article about natural disasters, our fallen world, and the state of all mankind. I can't do much expanding on it, so read it yourself: Part I, Part II.

Recently, I've read some people discussing whether or not God used Hurrican Katrina to judge the people of New Orleans. I recall this question coming up, albeit in a much more careful way, in the months following 9/11. Pat Robertson found himself in some trouble based on how he responded.

Is it possible that God directed that hurricane in order to judge New Orleans? Absolutely. The Bible makes it clear that God is in complete control of everything, down to the last atomic particle.

Can we say for certain that it was his purpose? No. When God uses disasters to judge cities in the Bible, we know that He's done so because we have someone explicitly telling us so. A prophet, an angel . . . whoever it is, we know because we have the voice of God letting us know it is so.

We don't have that for Katrina. We have guesses, opinions, theories . . . God hasn't spoken. And as Dr. Mohler points out in his article, sin in this world brought death. The natural order was broken, and creation itself suffers. The point is that Katrina is just as likely to be a natural result of a fallen creation. Everyone is going to die, and sometimes we're just not going to like how it happens.

Did God allow Katrina? Absolutely. Did God cause Katrina? A much harder question with a really complicated answer. If He did, why? We may never be able to answer those questions, but I don't think the answers will avail us much. Rather than asking "Why?" we should instead ask, "What now?"

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Deus Ex: Invisible War (P)Review

Yeah, this game came out 2 years ago and I'm just now playing it. I'm a slow adapter. Also, my old computer would never have run the game, so go easy on me.

It's hard for me to give the game a real review, seeing as how my total play time has only been about an hour. Still, after just that, I can already tell you what the game has ruined from its predecessor.

Deus Ex: Invisible War is a sequel to Deus Ex. In the first game, you were dropped into a highly detailed world where the UN was battling terrorists leftover from a US civil war in the near future. The plot was genius, and fun to go through as you discovered the vast conspiracies in the world you thought you understood.

The game was actually an RPG-FPS. As you accomplished certain events, you gained experience, and eventually levels. Levels allowed you to upgrade your skills in certain areas, such as hacking, lock-picking, weapon usage, etc. Other upgrades you could make were to your weapons with mods, or to your system with nanotech solutions that gave you abilities such as healing, night-vision, armor, stealth, etc.

Invisible War brings you in a few decades after the events in the first game. Now, I'm sure the storyline is actually just as brilliant as the first. Unfortunately, right from the start you're pretty much given some very obvious directions the game will take. And as the Gamespot review says, you're not given much reason to care about these things. Add onto this that the game gives much less of the deluge of information and detail that you received in the first game, and the whole experience feels smaller, less deep. I just didn't feel like I was in as detailed a world as I was before.

The RPG elements were also screwed up. Now, all that's left are the weapon mods and the biomods. And again, both systems became much less intuitive, much less useful. The same thing happened to the inventory system, which feels harder to navigate and is much less useful than in the first game.

In fact, the overall interface suffered this fate in Invisible War. My suspicion is that while many of these elements were brought in to make the game more playable on console (it is also available on XBox), the game just suffered too much in the changes.

Other factors that are odd include the physics. While they tried to make the game realistic in how objects reacted, the entire world is filled with things that seem to have no weight. When I walk through a room, I push big lounge chairs around as if they were nothing. You can pick up the bodies of fallen enemies and fling them about like toys. And seriously, the main character jumps like a freakin' olympic athlete.

Perhaps the game is fun to play and has a storyline that is compelling and innovative. I'm just not inclined to discover this, because the degeneration the game made in so many areas make the experience trying, at best.

The Gospel in Action

Who is the Gospel for? Everyone. Even "the least of these?" Yep.

This is a true picture of what living out the Gospel is: Helping those who cannot help themselves, loving the unlovely, caring for those who need it the most.

Desperate & Incarcerated
Katrina’s prison toll.
By Anne Morse

“Only the dead are lower on the list to be helped than the prisoners.” — Ron Dinnocenzo, Prison Fellowship Director, Louisiana.

Given what’s been going on in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina — there have been reports of looting, shootings, and rapes — one would not be surprised if many Americans held the view that the prisoners ought to get in line behind the dead. If one had relatives in New Orleans (as I do), one might even be tempted to suggest that if jail inmates are now going hungry, they might try nibbling on those fancy televisions they stole last week.

Richard Payne — a long-time Prison Fellowship employee who has spent the last eight days organizing relief efforts for thousands of New Orleans area jail and prison inmates — is used to this attitude. But the role of Prison Fellowship, he says, is to non-judgmentally help “the least, the last, and the lost.”

Also, the waterlogged. Ministry employees and volunteers have been heroically assisting Louisiana state correctional officials in the massive job of relocating the inmates of several prisons — more than 8,000 people — away from flooded areas where they lacked food, water, electricity, and staff. As water flooded the jails last week, inmates were left in the dark, both figuratively and literally. “Water was in the facility, and they had no information about what was going on,” says Louisiana Department of Corrections spokeswoman Pam Laborde. “It was a desperate situation.” But — contrary to what was going on outside prison walls last week — no rioting broke out. However, many prisoners — 60 percent of whom are from New Orleans — remain desperately worried about their families in the aftermath of Katrina.

So do prison staffers, some of whom do not know where their own families are, but who cannot leave prisoners unguarded in order to find out. Nearly a thousand sentenced and pre-trial detainees have been shipped to a tent city erected at Angola, a huge state penitentiary near Baton Rouge, where the bleary-eyed staff has been
working multiple shifts to prepare for prisoners who arrive hungry and dehydrated.

“Warden Burl Cain is taking in about 2,000 to 3,000 more inmates than he normally does, but they’re not giving him any extra supplies — pillows, blankets, soap, dry socks, or food,” Payne says. They’re not available because the Hurricane interrupted supply routes. Prison Fellowship staff and volunteers are working round the clock to gather up and deliver these items.

Paine also called colleagues at Prison Fellowship’s national headquarters in Lansdowne, Virginia and asked them to pass the hat for relief-supply funds. Within hours, more than $1,000 had been raised, and by early this week, Prison Fellowship supporters had sent in an additional $29,000 for prisoner relief. An emergency fund has been set up at the Louisiana department of corrections credit union to purchase food and supplies for detainees arrested during or after the storm. The money will also help the families of corrections officers who have lost their homes. “The whole
department is devastated, but they still have to stay on duty,” Payne notes. “What we’re asking for now is diapers, baby food, formula, nonperishable food, and clothing” for their families.

In the wake of the hurricane and flooding, there is no shortage of people with whom to sympathize: Frightened children separated from their parents, elderly people frantic for lifesaving medications, even homeless dogs and cats now wandering the soggy streets of New Orleans. Why should Americans worry about helping last week’s thugs and looters, and those serving long prison terms for worse crimes?

In part because, as Winston Churchill reminds us, a society is judged by how it treats its most helpless members. And partly because our moral tradition suggests it’s unfitting to attempt to determine worthiness when people need food, water, shelter, and dry clothing. As Prison Fellowship Chairman Chuck Colson put it, “The Coast
Guard members descending on cables with baskets to rescue people stranded on their roofs didn’t know if they were rescuing people living sinful lives or people living righteous lives. They just knew they needed to be rescued.” And he adds: “We should certainly condemn what these criminals have done, but at the same time, we need to love them and help them.”

Even if — after watching some of them commit their crimes on television last week — we have to hold our noses as we do it. And even if our own relatives are among their victims.

To help Louisiana detainees arrested during or after Hurricane Katrina and the families of corrections officers, send a donation to:

Hurricane V Fund
Department of Corrections Credit Union
504 Mayflower Street
PO Box 94304
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9304

For more information on how to help prison inmates, visit the Prison Fellowship website.

— Anne Morse is a senior writer at the the Wilberforce Forum, a division of the Prison Fellowship. Two of her relatives are still missing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Welcome, Slublog readers! My thanks to Peter for the link, and I hope you like what you find here.

Free at Last

Well . . . more or less.

The last proficiency exam is over. Hallelujah!

Major cranial decompression taking place today. Expect some blogging soon. Probably nothing significant until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Land of the Liberals

Oh, how I love Chicago-land. There is a never-ending supply of liberals here just dying to profess their creeds.

You'd think it were still August, 2004, the way John Kerry bumper stickers abound. People, please: The election was over long, long ago. Give it up. He will never be President.

Even better, one car had both a John Kerry sticker and a "Howard Dean for America" sticker. Classy. If there's one person who can help America, it's Howard Dean. By America, I mean Republicans, of course.

Maybe all these liberals are secretly conservative, then? Hmm . . .

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Northwestern Response to Hurricane Katrina

Earlier this evening, I received this letter from the president of Northwestern University:
To members of the Northwestern community:

I’m sure that all of you have been deeply affected, as I have, by the tragedy that has occurred inNew Orleans and the Gulf Coast region in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Our hearts go out tothose whose lives have been devastated by this terrible storm and the flooding that occurred in its wake.

Through the Association of American Universities, we have been in contact with the president ofTulane University, located in New Orleans. Like Northwestern, Tulane is a member of the AAU, aconsortium of the country’s leading universities. I am sorry to report that Tulane late last weekannounced that it would not be able to reopen its campus this fall. While Tulane’s campus was notflooded, the extensive damage to the City of New Orleans infrastructure will prevent Tulane fromreopening for some time.

Therefore, Northwestern will assist students from Tulane and other colleges and universities inthat area to the greatest extent possible. We will offer students enrolled at institutions inhurricane-stricken areas the opportunity to take classes at Northwestern this fall as visiting students.

Northwestern will waive tuition for those students, allowing tuition revenues to continue to go tothose students’ home institutions. If students have already paid their fall semester tuition totheir home institution, Northwestern will provide available space in classes at no additional cost. If the visiting students have not yet paid tuition at their home institution, Northwestern willcharge the home institution’s tuition and transfer those funds to it.

I also urge you to join me in making a contribution to the American Red Cross or the organizationof your choice for hurricane disaster relief. The Red Cross phone number is 1-800-HELP-NOW. TheMcCormick Tribune Foundation and many faith-based organizations also have established disaster relief funds. The phone number for the McCormick Tribune Foundation is 1-800-508-2848.

The effects of this disaster touch us all. I know that many members of the Northwestern communityhave families in the area hit by the hurricane. Our thoughts are with them as they begin the long,difficult efforts to recover their lives. We can help by offering an outstanding education to those students who now find themselves without an educational home. Therefore, I ask that all of you here at Northwestern be flexible, creative and compassionate in assisting those students as much as wepossibly can.

Following are details on how students should contact Northwestern to begin the process of attending as a visiting student. This information also is posted on the web sites of the School of Continuing Studies, the Graduate School and elsewhere, and will be updated as necessary.

Thank you for your assistance on this important effort.

Henry S. Bienen

Northwestern University Aiding Hurricane Student Victims

Yeah, I'm the only person in the world not posting about Katrina, but I'm adding this because it's a "public service announcement."

Northwestern University, where I am currently a graduate student, is admitting those students turned out of their schools by the hurricane for the fall.
Students seeking to enroll in the emergency visiting student program should contact Lesley Todd at the School of Continuing Studies at 847-491-5251, by e-mail at or go to

If you are a student victim of this tragedy, I would seriously urge you to not forfeit your semester. I'm sure Northwestern isn't the only university making such an offer, but do consider it.

Two Down, One to Go

Well, the Physical Chemistry profiency exam is over.

Yeah . . . I'm not sure I could have prepared for that. My preparation would have been entirely mathematical in nature, and there were maybe 3 or 4 questions on the test that required actual calculations.

So . . . yeah.

Incidentally, funny story about anti-Bush craziness (unrelated, yes). Today while I was in the cafeteria enjoying lunch, I saw this guy come from the book store and proudly display to his friends his new poster highlighting some of the President's more humorous verbal slip-ups.

Not that I'm defending Bush's bad grammar; people who say "nukular" drive me insane. But seriously, doesn't it say something about you that you would buy a freakin' poster to make fun of the guy? I mean, I get excited about politics. I can get worked up about that stuff just like the next guy. But I would never buy a poster that listed all the reasons "Blagojevich sucks," "Obama is a phony," or anything like that. I mean, even Hilary, probably the ultimate example of the weasely politician, doesn't have anything of that sort to her name.

Seriously . . . is politics going to get even worse than this? If so, I think I might start my own country.

Rules of War

This is just fantastic.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Comment Problems

I never thought I would have this problem, but it seems I've started getting some comment spam.

I turned on word verification to hopefully prevent this. If it doesn't stop, I'll also change the settings so that only registered Blogger users can leave comments. My apologies for the inconvenience, especially if I have to do the latter, but spam is annoying.

Reasons to Hate Tech Support

I'm not sure if it's my own computer, their software, or just a faulty unit, but I had to return a D-Link USB wireless network card. Great type of product, but theirs kept causing windows to reboot everytime it tried to load. Not a good feature for a product . . .

The thing is, I exchanged it for a card of another brand. However, when I plugged it in, it wouldn't connect to my wireless network. Netgear, the maker of my card, demanded that I go online to register their product before I could receive technical support from them.

Hey Johnson, I'm having problems with the device that I bought so I could connect to the internet. If that isn't working, then how in blazes do you expect me to go to your freakin' website to register the product?!

Of course, the tech support guy (Indian, too, to boot) tells me to hook my computer by LAN line directly to the router. Granted, this is a good suggestion, but still unreasonable. Maybe my house isn't set up for such a thing. Maybe I don't have 25 feet of LAN cable to connect these two devices (I do, but that isn't the point here).

I have to go on the internet in order to get help solving the problem with my malfunctioning device which allows me to connect to the internet. You'd think these companies would at least buy us dinner before they do this to us . . .

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Chief Justice Rehnquist Dies

CNN has the article, too.

You'll probably have seen this by morning, but no matter. Justice Willian Rehnquist has died of thyroid cancer.

I'll refer you to my previous thoughts on SCOTUS nominees here and here. In my mind, this is going to be a huge deal. With a second seat on the court up for grabs, I'm betting the ferocity and rhetoric on both sides of the aisle is going to surge. As much as O'Connor's retirement led conservatives to say, "Ah, now we can replace a (mostly) liberal judge with a conservative one," liberals will be saying the exact opposite now. "Ah, now we can replace a conservative judge with a liberal one!"

Prepare for partisan politics at its finest.
Chief Justice Rehnquist dies at home
WASHINGTON - Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died Saturday evening at his home in suburban Virginia, said Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg.

A statement from the spokeswoman said he was surrounded by his three children when he died in Arlington.

"The Chief Justice battled thyroid cancer since being diagnosed last October and continued to perform his dues on the court until a precipitous decline in his health the last couple of days," she said.

Rehnquist was appointed to the Supreme Court as an associate justice in 1971 by President Nixon and took his seat on Jan. 7, 1972. He was elevated to chief justice by President Reagan in 1986.

Other voices on the matter: Captain's Quarters, Slublog, Michelle Malkin.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Progress So Far

So, today was the Inorganic proficiency exam.

I did all right, but that test was freakin' hard. It was the 1998 ACS test.

Apparently I know that cis-Platin is a common anti-cancer drug. And yet I couldn't remember for the life of me how to calculate formal charge. Go figure.