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You can use Wubi to install it on a usb drive directly, if you want. Mount it in Daemontools, then run wubi.
Same can be done from the liveCD install process.

The alternate disc spins can be netbooted. Technically, should be available in the regular spins as well.

edit: here's how to netbook when you dont have discs underhand. A bit more trouyble than it's worth though. Get CDs, no other way. Or install on a USB drive from a mounted iso, from wubi. Install

Would this work by copying the files from my OS install disc to an empty partition and running the setup file?
At the core, thats the same as the PXE method (except not requiring inet or lan access). A local grub would need to be available (i doubt vista's loader would be usable to netboot an ubuntu install)
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