Saturday, February 25, 2006

War Games

On TV tonight was the classic 1983 movie starring Matthew Broderick. It's the one with the negative affirmation: sometimes it's best to give up. My Russian flatmate had never seen it before.

Guess what?

I suppose it's obvious a whole uneventful week would not pass. CC and the workmen are supposed to come tomorrow morning. They will put insulation along the exterior wall, fix the drywall, and hopefully move the washer/dryer back to its cubby.

But wait! Another problem arises. There is a slow, steady drip in the heater's closet. Right now, there's a bucket below it, and much less drywall above it than once was. CI is attempting to reach our upstairs neighbor. Hopefully this will also be fixed tomorrow?!

Ol' Brauer

I ran across "The flat locus of Brauer-Severi fibrations of smooth orders" today. It reminded me of a problem I once found very interesting:

Given a quasi-compact separated scheme X, is Br(X) = H2(X,Gm)tors? There are some examples of non-separated (but even semi-separated) schemes for which this is not true.

Friday, February 24, 2006


What better honor exists for a French general than to lend his name to a kid's game? I went to the contest at Sheffield's yesterday. It was best 2 out of 3, and I was out in the first round with my first two throws: paper and rock. Aside from the contest, there was a Sierra Nevada tasting. The ladies nearby sampled all of the options, while trying to fend off a persistent suitor.

The place is rather nice. I watched Olympic skating on their 106" screen. They have a pool table, and supposedly it is free until 9 p.m. I didn't try it though. They have a large, reasonably priced selection of beers. I think Rob would've found himself right at home. I had a great time.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

CTA waste

So on the way home last night, I happened upon an unworking bus. I wasn't too talkative, but I tried to commiserate with the bus driver. She couldn't get the bus in gear. The CTA spent 34 million dollars to equip their buses with electronic data terminals. One can report trouble and delays and whatever from the data terminals. That's in theory anyways. It seems however that no one's listening on the other end. She said that no one has responded to one of her reports in the past six months. And the CTA refuses to pay for cell phone bills (and don't even want to see cell phones), so she indignantly uses their terminals.

That was her third bus yesterday. They all had different problems. Perhaps this is unavoidable with an aging, ailing bus fleet, and an underfunded (or so we are led to believe) CTA. But can't they reliably answer trouble reports?

Too late in the day to kill, or too early in the evening to die?

Having spent 8 or 9 hours on Monday dealing with that catastrophe, much of it in the company of CC, I didn't much feel like doing anything yesterday. Today, I still would rather not, but I have some Freudian issues with a washer/dryer in the middle of the kitchen. The workmen are downstairs, but CC said she wanted to be here when they fixed the drywall. I left a message. She hasn't called back.


The lint remover post was meant to be a private reminder. Have no fear. I found it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Lint remover

I had a lint remover. It was this little rolling wheel with tape on it. You could peel off the outside tape to reveal more tape. Very useful. I can't keep lint off anything in this house. But where'd it go???

Then died the glory from the west

I got an email from a prospective the other day. I answered it in good faith. I did mention that I may not be the ideal one to ask, but I didn't get into details. I'm not on the list anymore. Curious.

Disaster hits home

So remember the inability to get to the circuit breakers? Our dining room circuit was blown for a few days (this isn't any sort of emergency), but we were to get the key to the basement yesterday. All would've been well. The universe doesn't work like that.

Around 2 p.m., a pipe behind our washing machine bursts and water begins gushing out. The workmen in the basement notice the water cascading down their new drywall, and frantically come knocking on our back door. We try to shut off the water to the stacked washer/dryer, but to no avail. So the workmen, communicating via cell phone, try many of the numerous water shutoff valves in the basement. After a few minutes, success! With one minor hitch: water is shut off to the entire building.

I call two of our landladies, CI and CC. CC is in a meeting, so won't make it over for an hour. CI calls a plumber. Meanwhile our upstairs neighbors notice they have no water, and come down rather upset about it. They are really not happy. :)

So CC shows up at about 4 p.m., and CI calls and says the plumber is on his way. Not quite that easy: he's travelling from Harvey. That's a south suburb, around 150th street or so I'm told. So he'll be here in a little while. We wait for several hours, and we eventually find out there was an emergency of sorts at the plumber's other job site, so he was delayed. CC gets bored, so she goes to the store. When she gets back, CC and I watch the show House at its special time at 7p.m. in its entirety.

At around 8p.m., the plumber shows up. They first go downstairs to see if there is any way to isolate the leak and turn on water to the rest of the building (who are pretty furious now). There is not. The plumber then says we have to move the washer/dryer and he'll come back when we've done that. I start unhooking the washer/dryer from the wall when Q shows up to help. That was no small feat either; I almost lose the tip of an index finger... We succeed with that, but cannot move the washer/dryer.

CC calls the janitor from a nearby building she knows to help. He first sees if he can isolate the leak, but to no avail. Then he moves the washer/dryer out. Now we wait for the plumber to return! Around 10p.m. or so, the plumber magically reappears. He works quickly, removes the busted section of pipe, and turns on water to the whole building. Hoorah!

Of course, our washer/dryer is still in the middle of the kitchen, not hooked up, and there is a hole in the drywall behind where it should sit. The next goal is to have the hole fixed (with some insulation inside), and return our washer/dryer to its rightful place.


Strawberry Häagen-Dazs

Mmmmmm, good.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Oh, and did I mention our phone wiring is messed up? I think the contractors downstairs did it. Many times we'll get very short rings. The answering machine won't pick up. Grr!

Good intentions...

This place is so frustrating. When that interloper made his appearance, the landladies came over very quickly, and brought the contractors. They sealed up the basement, and the next day the contractors fixed the hole in the wall. A few days after, the landladies changed the padlocks on the side and back gates. They made sure to give us keys (but we almost never use these gates).

At some point between then and now, they replaced the door (and locks) to the basement. All nice and good, except we don't have access. Our circuit breakers are in the basement. Since we run space heaters constantly (because it's so drafty and cold), this presents a serious problem. Our first circuit has already paid his fare to Charon. (OK, that's over the top.) Let's see how long it takes, and how many circuits die before we get keys to the basement.

The great affair is to move

I want to go bike riding down by the lake, but my computer keeps reminding me that it's right around 0 degrees, with a wind chill of 15 or 20 below. Seems like I'd regret the idea pretty quickly. I think I'll have to wait a few days.

Friday, February 17, 2006


I know it's sacrilege to talk about anything but chocolate. However, I've been into the strawberry cheesecake ice cream lately. I also discovered the cherry vanilla. Yummy.

The vanilla fudge is not so good.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Any other me's?

87 percent of Americans can be identified by knowing only their date of birth, gender and 5 digit ZIP code. Any other men in the 60615 area born on August 14, 1980?

(The statistic comes from research of Latanya Sweeney.)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Music that gentlier on the spirit lies, than tired eyelids upon tired eyes

A friend is going to be playing at the Double Door on Thursday. You should come. :)

Man, being reasonable, must get drunk

My flatmate arrived home at 1 a.m., a little bit intoxicated. Scratch that, very intoxicated. Speaking of such, did you know that the National Women's Christian Temperance Union headquarters is located in Evanston? I just learned this.

(Oh and the post title is from Lord Byron. In the interest of fairness, let's also give Seneca his say. He said, "Nihil aliud est ebrietas quam voluntaria insania." Translated, that reads, "Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness.")

Unwashed masses

Hmm, I still find "hoi polloi" weird to read in English. I think it was that semester on classical Greek. In Greek, it's ὀι πολλοι. Seeing the "h" seems off.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Meet the Honorable Pat Roberts

On "Meet the Press" today were the former ranking members of the Senate and House Intelligence Comittees. (Daschle was defeated in 2004, so he's currently at Georgetown.) I'm sure you all know who I'm talking about: Roberts, Daschle, Harman and Hoekstra. The topic for the day was the NSA domestic surveillance program, and the banter ran down party lines. Everyone agrees that catching terrorists is good; only Democrats think you need to follow the law in doing so.

The administration has given at least 4 reasons for its authority: first, that the President has inherent constitutional authority, second that Presidents have done this before, third that the Act signed on September 15, 2001 gives him this power, and fourth that FISA is outdated, onerous and doesn't apply.

The first excuse is the one I understand least, but it seems to stem from his position as Commander in Chief and the oath he swears to defend the constitution. This has been interpreted as giving the President extralegal powers especially in a time of crisis. It's disingenuous not to remember this in context. The "domestic spying" program was begun very shortly after 9/11. No one knew what happened, or what else was going to happen. There was a palpable fear of another attack and an unmistakable grief. All the Congressmen (forgive the gendered pronoun) on the show unremarkably agreed that the surveillance program was necessary. And it has been argued that even in its current incarnation of murky legality, it was ok for a little while. When it was begun, it was an emergency. A very sad emergency. So the better question is why it continued. If the extralegal powers are intended for critical situations, and there is no imminent threat...

Regarding the second excuse, the example cited by Roberts was Roosevelt. Unfortunately this isn't as supportive of the Presidential power claim as Harman aptly pointed out the Truman-era Supreme Court decision that clearly stated Presidential power is "at its lowest ebb" if Congress has already acted. And here Congress has acted in the form of FISA.

The third excuse is very interesting. The Act gave the President power to track down those responsible in other nations. The administration specifically requested adding a phrase giving them power in the U.S. and Congress did not agree.

The fourth excuse is also questionable. Harman pointed out that the PATRIOT act updated the FISA in 8 different ways. It has been modernized, it is not onerous, and even if it were, it can easily be further modified. Daschle kept returning to the fact that this could've been done lawfully. If FISA was burdensome, Congress would have dutifully changed it.

What's so wrong about going to a court? The FISA court rubberstamps warrants. (There were a total of about 8 denied of thousands.) Russert played campaign footage of Bush from 2004 where he said that in wiretaps, he was seeking court approval. He flatly lied.

All this being said however, I feel my ideology clashing with reality. I feel like a guy I saw on Nightline or Dateline or some other indistinguishable nightly news program recently. He had lost his house, and he needed government money to rebuild. He was a doctor, obviously educated, and ideologically Republican. He had voted for Bush, and was a fiscal conservative favoring small government. He noted how helpless he was, and that despite his ideology, he needed the government and the government should act. The irony seemed to be missed by him, that there are others who struggle everyday with poverty and illness. A little bit selfish to think the government should help you when you build your house below sea level in Hurricane alley, but they shouldn't help someone who (maybe through their actions, but maybe not) has no access to health insurance or food. (Watch me turn into a socialist here...)

In my case, I'm ideologically something other than a Republican, but Roberts was the only one who could speak with some emotion. That gutteral appeal does contrast with my desire for social programs and civil liberties, but the irony is not lost on me. The Democratic party is utterly lost. We will not have a Democratic president in 2008. Of that I am certain.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Pure irony

Congress wants to hold hearings on Internet companies in China and their compliance with Chinese government censorship.

Meanwhile in the U.S., the Justice Department is trying (with subpoena) to get various information from search engine companies to reprosecute their pornography law. Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft complied. Google decided to protect the privacy of its users by fighting the subpoena.

If you want a potentially onerous law, why can't you do the research yourself?

Thursday, February 9, 2006

No one reads this

I need to find a replacement for the pool team. Anyone up to it? :)

Thursday, February 2, 2006

The ties that bind

My parents are unhappy.