Sunday, 24 September 2006

Not a joke

For real, from the Illinois legal code:

720 ILCS 5/11-7 Adultery
"Any person who has sexual intercourse with another not his spouse commits adultery, if the behavior is open and notorious, and the person is married and the other person involved in such intercourse is not his spouse; or the person is not married and knows that the other person involved in such intercourse is married." Adultery is a class A misdemeanor.

720 ILCS 5/11-8 Fornication
"Any person who has sexual intercourse with another not his spouse commits fornication if the behavior is open and notorious." Fornication is a class B misdemeanor.

Wow. This is the stuff I would expect to see on a "crazy American laws" round robin email. Unmarried sex is illegal here? I guess the laws aren't applied much but, er, wtf?

Thursday, 21 September 2006

The Bet

I gave Nick Smith his keys back - thanks for the loan of your apartment dude. Perhaps I ought to take this chance to record a bet me and Nick have. After a year of close observation (we shared an office when he was in Essex) I came to the conclusion that Nick was moving Rightwards. (Hurrah!) So when I was last in Chicago, at MPSA, I bet him that by 2020 [I think?] he would have voted Republican. If I win the bet, he has to buy a year's subscription to Socialist Worker - which by then will obviously be a huge punishment. On the other hand, if I lose, I have to buy the subscription - which is a huge punishment already.

Right now I'm pessimistic about my chances. Bush's strategy for reelection appears to be to use human rights as a wedge issue. That is, not only is he playing the terrorism card; he's also being extreme enough for it to be a defining difference between him and his opponents. They care about human rights for terrorists, while he's focussed on protecting Americans. Nice.

... and just one more.

No more Habeas Corpus for people in Guantanamo if the current administration gets its way.

The dangerous profession of software engineer

On a similar note to the previous post, but a little more clearcut, here's a NY Times story about a Canadian software engineer who, on false information provided by the Mounties, was detained by the CIA as he changed planes in New York, handed over to the Syrians and tortured. The most damning chunk actually comes from a US official:
"American officials have not discussed the case publicly. But in an interview last year, a former official said on condition of anonymity that the decision to send Mr. Arar to Syria had been based chiefly on the desire to get more information about him and the threat he might pose. The official said Canada did not intend to hold him if he returned home."

The Mohammed Salah case

After class I turned up to what seemed an interesting talk. Mohammed Salah is being tried in Chicago for racketeering. A member of his defence team, and his wife, came to describe the case. The headline was "Justifying Torture in American Courts" - the reason being that the prime evidence against Mr Salah was obtained by confession in an Israeli prison, after he was allegedly tortured.

I left the talk with no strong belief in Mr Salah's innocence, despite the defence lawyer's impassioned speech. (He was, incidentally, among several defendants found civilly liable for the death of an American citizen killed in Israel by a Hamas attack. The trial took place 2 weeks after 9/11. ) The question is whether the court will allow evidence gathered under duress. More worrying for me is that the judge has heard prosecution evidence in secret without the defence being allowed to challenge it, and that evidence that supports Salah's claim of torture has been ruled inadmissible. Is this how liberal democracies ought to do things?

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

I feel so manly

I just replaced the screen in my Portege R100 laptop. I used the instructions from Screentekinc - everything was much as described there. There are four screws under rubber pads at the top of the R100 screen, and six under small square pads around the bottom and the sides. All of these can be removed with a sharp knife - I used a Stanley knife. You'll need a very small Phillips screwdriver to unscrew the screws. (Or you can just use the Stanley knife. But you'll probably damage the screws and your blade. Yeah, that's what I did.)

After that I unclicked the plastic surround to my screen - it requires a bit of a pull and is best started from the bottom left, once you've got the first bit the rest comes easily. Then you are face to face with the screen. The rest is pretty much as in the tutorial. You pull out the data plug (having first removed any sticky tape holding it down), and the inverter plug which provides the power. (You did remove the battery, right?) To remove the inverter plug it's much easier to unscrew the inverter first (it's the long thin circuitry on the right hand side of the screen, held in place by a single screw). Then you have to pull hard and use your fingernails to get the inverter plug out.

Once that is all done you just replace your screen, plug the new screen back into the inverter and the data connection, sticky tape it up, slot your plastic surround back in and screw everything back in place. Pah! Child's play.

Monday, 18 September 2006

Party strategies tournament results

The results from Fowler and Laver's Tournament of Party Strategies (previously blogged) are up here. I was chuffed to see that my strategy (Raptor) came in 8th - just beating Hunter, the pre-submitted strategy on which it was based. They plan to rerun the tournament using only those strategies which beat Hunter. I'm optimistic that with the smaller set of strategies used, Raptor (which uses a predefined step size to recognize and cooperate with conspecifics) will continue to do well.

Interestingly, Fowler and Laver would also like to develop evolutionary rules that allow successful party strategies to evolve and mutate. They worry about how to parametrize party strategies. One option would be to use genetic programming (not to be confused with genetic algorithms): each party strategy is a parse tree of R statements, and each round, the parse tree is set to work on the inputs, and outputs a new location. Mutations could consist of prunings and duplications of the tree, as well as adding new branches.

Cosmic injustice

Term is about to start. Clemency just came on gmail chat and told me she's got a new job working for these guys. I do economic theory. Clemency eats organic chocolate cake. Go figure.

Friday, 15 September 2006


Madly busy - flathunting plus Maths class - but have found time to get Skype. If anyone else has it, drop me a line with your username.

Friday, 1 September 2006


Well, this is the first time I have a few minutes to spare. I arrived hot off the plane and crashed at Nick Smith's place - thanks Nick. The following Monday, Math camp began at Northwestern and my first discovery was that Evanston is a solid 90 minute commute from Southside Chicago - minimum. Often, 2 hours. So I began desperately searching for an apartment. I've found a couple of possible places and meanwhile, a kind couple has agreed to put me up a little closer to Evanston. They have two golden labradors, one of whom has the amiable habit of putting her head through your legs and staying there.

Math camp. As you may know, in Math camp you are not allowed to say your name, instead you have to say "this mathematician":


Math camp is quite hardcore. One class from 9 until 12 with a ten minute break, then lunch, then problem set solutions at 1 pm, then you spend the afternoon trying to solve the next day's problems. It's particularly fun when you then have to look for apartments and commute 2 hours home.

I thought that Kellogg would be full of ruthless MBA sharks (yay), but they haven't arrived yet. Instead, everyone is a PhD student, but some of them are kind of business PhDs - a concept that makes my head hurt. You mean, you're a PhD student, but at some point you might make actual money?

Met up with John O'Brien last night. Some of you may remember John from my 29th birthday party - think extremely loud American. We went out with 6 firemen from San Francisco.
Let me rephrase that. We went out heterosexually, with 6 heterosexual firemen from San Francisco. Whenever somebody said "what do you guys do?" they all said "WE'RE FIREMEN" and I just nodded vaguely. Great night.

This mathematician was late for Math camp this morning ("drop and give me 100 definite integrals!")

I've got a temporary office with a computer and (at the moment) nobody else in it. Booya!

APSA is here and I'm missing it. I want to know the results of the Tournament of Party Strategies. Me and Thomas Pluemper both submitted something. I really want to see the complete ranking....

Lucy Reid is getting married. W00t! (Please try not to screw it up like some people we know, Lucy. Thanks. Nothing personal, Tzvi.)