Monthly Archives: December 2003


I am now in Houston for the holidays, and will be here until 30 Dec. I will be in Connecticut from that point until 4 Jan, when I return to Berkeley.

I will be unavailable most of today, as I will be watching three movies more or less back-to-back. (I didn’t get tickets to one of the screenings of the trilogy, although there is one in Houston, so I will be watching the first two on DVD.)


I have a few thoughts on the Democratic primary which I may try to hammer into postable form. As a preliminary, here are my SelectSmart results, which will shock no one:

1. Your ideal theoretical candidate. (100%)
2. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT – Democrat (83%)
3. Clark, Retired General Wesley K., AR – Democrat (82%)
4. Kucinich, Rep. Dennis, OH – Democrat (77%)
5. Edwards, Senator John, NC – Democrat (69%)
6. Kerry, Senator John, MA – Democrat (65%)
7. Sharpton, Reverend Al – Democrat (61%)
8. Gephardt, Rep. Dick, MO – Democrat (59%)
9. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. – Democrat (51%)
10. Lieberman, Senator Joe, CT – Democrat (49%)
11. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol, IL – Democrat (41%)
12. Libertarian Candidate (33%)
13. Bush, President George W. – Republican (14%)
14. Phillips, Howard – Constitution (8%)

Ok, I might have a couple complaints; I don’t like Lieberman, but surely I like him better than Lyndon freaking LaRouche. However, it’s not as bad as when I took their CA recall selector and got 99% Arianna.


It’s inevitable that I’ll catch the flu.

Just riding the BART everyday should be sufficient to expose me to the virus. If that’s not enough, I’ll catch it from one of the guys in lab; two group members have spouses who are ill. Even if I make it to Monday virus-free… I’ll be getting on a plane for three and a half hours of inescapable exposure.

It may already be starting…


Today’s quantum computing seminar answered one of my burning questions: The noun form of “nukyular” is, in fact, “nukyulus”.

It’s jarring enough when the president says it, but when it’s a physics PhD


If you’re looking for last week’s updates, check the comment thread on the Locke v. Davey post. Aside from that, I found myself reluctant to spend extra time in front of a computer screen due to my activities at work.

So, since I obviously wasn’t making entries here, how did I spend my time?

  • In lab we still don’t have a working sample to study, but this doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. I’ve been doing theoretical calculations of one of our chip designs, and spent a good deal of time this week resolving a discrepancy whose origin turned out to be too trivial to mention.
  • Having fixed that, I turned my considerable computer skills to the task of… making a bunch of Powerpoint slides. For my advisor’s talk. (But they will be recycled for my talk in March.) This is what motivated me to spend my spare time away from the computer.
  • I picked up DDR Max 2 and plugged in the dance pad for the first time in almost a year. Fortunately my arrow-reading has not atrophied too much; I was able to pass my old nemesis, heavy Secret Rendevous. (By a hair, but still passed.) Also, it turns out there’s an advantage to having to hear that accursed dj sammy song on the radio over and over again – I knew the song well enough to full combo it on heavy. Unfortunately, that unlocked the extra stage, where I tried playing only one arrow and still couldn’t move that fast. No human could pass that…
  • I’m making my way through Legacy of Kain: Defiance, at just under a chapter per day. I seem to be enjoying Kain’s chapters better than Raziel’s, for a number of reasons (but they’re both good). At the moment I’m in Vorador’s Mansion with Raziel.
  • I finished watching season 3 of Buffy. The finale was a two-parter, which I watched on separate days; this caused me to have dreams about it in between parts. Specifically, I dreamed I was going to be assisting Buffy in battle, leading to another dream appearance of the katana. What’s that all about? Well, I know what Freud would say…
  • Farewell party for Sven at John’s house. John informed me that my wine consumption was not up to my usual standard. I reminded him that I have to drive home from his house these days. Also, a person who will remain anonymous asked how much wine it takes for me to get drunk. I don’t know why there’s so much interest in this. Besides, it seems to me that getting drunk at a party where my boss is present is one of those classic Bad Ideas.
  • The usual Sunday plan: long run followed by long drive followed by D&D.

So it isn’t as if I did nothing


As you all know, I am way into church-state separation. However, I can’t decide where I stand on the case currently before the Supreme Court, Locke v. Davey. (Brief summary: The constitution of Washington state forbids spending of public money on religious education. Joshua Davey receives a university scholarship from the state, but it is rescinded after he declares a theology major. He sues, claiming religious discrimination.)

Personally, I believe the state should not give scholarships to theology students. But I believe this because I think theology is a big steaming pile of crap, and it would therefore be a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars. And so if the state were to take my position on theology scholarships, it would no longer be neutral with respect to religion. I also believe that this neutrality is the most fair position of the state, and this belief overrules my belief about the crapitude of theology. I’m driven to the conclusion that the state should grant scholarships based on merit and need and regardless of the subject matter, whether it is physics or theology or underwater basket-weaving (as long as the course of study is at an accredited institution).

Well, what about vouchers then? Is it the same principle? I suppose it is: as long as a school is providing a decent education, the state should be blind to whether it’s a religious institution. (However, I would consider the fact of evolution part of a decent education. This is not in the same category as my opinion on theology; evolution is one of the best-confirmed theories in science.) I’m forced to conclude, as well, that voucher programs don’t violate church-state separation, however uncomfortable I may be with my taxes funding religion classes. (Vouchers may be constitutional, but I still think they’re awful policy for other reasons, like, oh, scalability.)

Ok, what about religious charities? (Usually called “faith-based”, but that term’s a bit cumbersome.) Apply the same principle: the state should give money to whoever wants to feed soup to the homeless, blind to the religious affiliation or lack thereof. Each successive application of this principle is ratcheting up my discomfort level. Now we want to give government funds to guys who are going to tell the poor and destitute to accept Jesus and everything will be ok? And you know he’s just going to bring them into the demon dimension as slave labor. No, wait, that was a Buffy episode.

So I approve of this one guy getting his theology scholarship and suddenly I’m giving Bush the go-ahead to funnel federal money to Franklin Graham’s proselytizing. (Not that he needed my, or anyone else’s, go-ahead – can it be a slippery-slope argument if we’re already at the bottom of the slope?) Did I go wrong somewhere?

Well, maybe the state does have a right to decide what is a useful expenditure of its money, and that, say, a theology scholarship isn’t in the public interest, or a religious school can’t be more efficient than a public school due to the expenses of religion classes and incense and stained-glass windows. No, that’s obviously bad, because when Roy Moore is elected governor of Alabama he’ll decide not to grant scholarships to biology students, because evolution is a big steaming pile of crap, and it would be a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars to fund the teaching of it. Or is that so bad? Maybe the state should have this discretion, and if the people elect ignorant morons who use it in stupid ways it’s their own damn fault. Given the frequency with which ignorant morons are elected, this is not such a comforting thought.

I’ve successfully tied my brain into knots with this issue. Any insights are welcome.


I’m not very good about updating from Houston, am I? That’s where I was for the long weekend, Thanksgiving with all the relatives. This was so much fun that we will never do it again, and I will be spending next year’s Thanksgiving in an undisclosed location (probably not the one the vice president uses).

There’s not a whole lot to write updates about when I’m in Houston, anyway. (Friday: Played Secret of Mana. Not that Secret of Mana isn’t interesting, but any commentary would be a bit dated.) Since I’m doing nothing more exciting than playing classic SNES games and I cut down on my news/blog intake, it’s as if I was hiding underground for five days. Not that this is necessarily bad every once in a while, but it doesn’t leave much to put in this space.

Now that I’m back in the real world, I may have something to say about Republicans, or the new Legacy of Kain game.