Saturday, April 28, 2007

Ethan is four weeks old

Little Ethan is four weeks old today. This has probably been one of the most challenging times for Becky and me, dealing with very little sleep and not knowing what we’re doing half the time. But by the grace of God, we've made it this far.

Here are some photos from the past few weeks. If you're in a hurry, make sure you at least see this one.

Daddy time

I'm not sure what to do with this guy

What are you lookin' at?

Go Bisons!

Proud father

Doing push-ups together

Playtime on the sports rug

Proud mother

Chillin' in the swing

Comparing feet

Finally, some space to stretch out!

Fear of the Bath

Looking cool in his Nike outfit

It's tough being a baby

Bean burrito

Drying off

Dad, you better watch out...

You were warned!

Daddy’s Prayer for Ethan
Lord, thank you for this little boy that you have blessed us with. Please give me the strength and wisdom to raise him to be wild at heart, compassionate, courageous, strong, and passionate about you. Help me to be patient when I’m at my whit’s end and can’t get him to sleep, and help me to enjoy these times because they will soon be gone. Thank you for each day that you give us, no matter how few or many we may enjoy on this earth. Amen.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Proposal: HTML 5

Mozilla, Opera, and Apple are pushing the W3C to recognize their proposal for HTML 5, the first large upgrade to HTML since 1999. You can read more about it here.

The HTML 5 specification includes some really cool stuff: Web Apps 1.0 and Web Forms 2.0. Web Applications 1.0 adds new elements to HTML and DOM to provide a richer environment in which to build on-line applications. For example, Web Apps 1.0 will allow you to present a context menu when the user right-clicks on an element, and you can draw a line connecting two points on the browser screen. Web Forms 2.0 (not to be confused with XForms) adds some powerful features to make controlling and processing user input from web forms a little easier. For example, you can more easily specify what types of characters are acceptable in a textbox or indicate that the form values are to be submitted as an XML document.

HTML 5 is designed to be backwards compatible, so the billions of pages which have been written with previous versions of HTML will still display correctly in newer browsers supporting HTML 5. This is a very important and positive development from a preservation standpoint, and it will likely help HTML 5 be adopted more readily by the development community.

Of course the most important player to get onboard is Microsoft who still controls around 75% of the browser market. Microsoft is busy right now promoting XAML, so it may not be in there best interest to devote many resources to HTML 5.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Preserving the entertainment industry

Now that movies are increasingly produced without film, it should be easier to save them for the long term, right? Here’s an excerpt from David Cohen’s Variety article:
In what is being called the first commercial effort to address the movie industry's looming digital preservation headaches, Elektrofilm Digital Studios and Sun Microsystems will introduce a long-term archiving system built specifically for the entertainment industry.
Though digital filmmaking promised an end to concerns about fading dyes and unstable film stocks, it has actually exacerbated problems with movie archiving and preservation.
The Motion Picture Academy's Science & Technology council saw enough danger to warn the studios that some movies could be lost, especially "born digital" films such as "300" and "Miami Vice."

Well, I certainly wouldn’t lose any sleep over the loss of either of those two movies, but it is exciting to see pro-active archiving initiatives from organizations that are not backed with tax payer money.

Update 4/22/07:

David Cohen has written another article about preserving film footage which further elaborates on some of the problems:
More than one tech expert, including the Academy's Sci-Tech Council director Andy Maltz, told Variety they had found archival tapes unreadable just 18 months after they were made.

Feiner, the former longtime prexy of Pacific Title, says when he worked on studio feature films he found missing frames or corrupted data on 40% of the data tapes that came in from digital intermediate houses.

The tapes were only nine months old.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Down with the pink hotel!

The ugliest building in the Riverview business district was demolished (at least partly) today. Although I stood looking from across the water in my neighborhood (Colonial Place), I thought I heard cheering from the group of people who had gathered to watch the demolition. smile RIP Lafayette Motor Hotel.

Update 4/17/06:

Another Colonial Place resident took some great photos of the demolition and there's an article about it on

Bad news from Blacksburg

I stayed home today to help Becky a little with Ethan, and after returning from the hotel demolition, I returned home to discover there had been a shooting at Virginia Tech this morning. From what we can tell, it is the single largest school shooting in American history, reviling the Colombine massacre, with close to 30 students killed. This is the second time a gunman has been loose on their campus this year.

In the past few years at ODU, we’ve had a basketball player shot close to where I work out (he was ok) and a female student who was murdered in a mall parking lot by her ex-boyfriend. But nothing as crazy as a gunman going around campus killing kids. Now the media frenzy begins of assigning blame... Was it the administration's fault? Bullies? Parents? Law makers? Global warming? Everything will be rehashed endlessly while those involved try to make peace with it and move on. blah.

I pray God will ease the suffering of those involved.

A friend recently reminded me of what Jesus once said to his disciples:
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - John 16:33

Update 4/19/07

Now idiots all over the country, including one at ODU, are showing how original they can be. I got this email last night:

April 18, 2007

Dear Members of the Old Dominion University Community,

We just received a telephone threat which we are taking seriously. The caller said “There is going to be a shooting at ODU....”

We have increased security on campus and our police are working with the Norfolk City Police to insure safety and security on campus.

Please exercise caution and report any unusual activity to the campus police at 683-4000.

Students who choose not to attend class tonight will be accommodated.

Sincerely yours,

Roseann Runte

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Tax time again

It’s tax time, and you probably hate the process as much as me. I spent around 20 hours using TurboTax, and I still have no idea if I got it right. Even though our income is nearly the same in 2005 and 2006, I owed the feds more than $1K in 2005, and this year they owe me over $1K! It’s a shame that someone with (almost) a Ph.D. can’t figure them out.

Some other tax tidbits that drive home just how ludicrous our tax system really is:
  • If you were to use some tax-savings strategies, you could be in danger of patent infringement.

  • According to a new study, loop-holes in California's tax code leave the poorest fifth of California households (average income of $11,100) paying 11.7% of their income on state and local taxes and the highest earning 1% of earners paying 7.1%.

  • Even though California created a system to simplify how many citizens paid their income taxes in 2005, the system has been stifled by companies that could lose money if consumers quit using their parasitic tax preparation services.

  • And you thought you had a pretty good personal relationship with your tax preparer? Well, he’d like you to know that he doesn’t want to hear about your personal matters, including what your kids are up to.

"Taxation with representation ain't so hot either."
-Gerald Barzan

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Honda's Tron commercial

I’m a huge Tron fan, and apparently someone from Honda’s advertising agency is too. smile

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Google Trends

I’ve been allowing Google to log my search history for almost a year, and now there’s enough data to give a good picture of my personal googling habits. If you’ve never taken a look at a history of your Web searches before, you should try it. I personally find it fascinating.

If you’re using Google’s personalized search, you can view your data from the Trends link on the Search History page. How do you know if you have enabled personalized search? If you see a Sign Out link (along with several others) at the top right of your web page when you visit, you have enabled personalized search, and all your search history is available. See Personalizing your Google homepage for more information.

Let’s start with my top queries, sites, and links:

Five of the top 10 queries are to conferences. I often have to check on deadlines, author guidelines, etc., so it’s no surprise to see them listed. I can never remember the cryptic tar commands or commands for R, so they’re also up there. Why do I search for “list” often? I worked on an experiment for the past several months where I was querying Google and their API everyday for multiple search terms (including list), and "list" just happened to be one of the terms I manually checked quite a lot.

It’s no surprise I clink on Wikipedia search results the most. They’re often returned in the top 10 search results, and I’m a fan. The tolstoy website houses R documentation. It’s interesting to note the almost one-to-one mapping of the top clicks with the top queries.

Moving on to monthly search activity, you can see I average around 10 searches a day:

Daily activity shows I’m not much for searching on weekends:

And hourly activity shows I’m typically not on the computer late at night... I’m more of a morning person.

Althogh the aggregated data is not made available via an API, Google does provide an RSS feed of your personal search history.

Check out this article which has more details about using personalized search.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Seeking high-quality Ph.D. students

If you live in Virginia and have a subscription to Time, US News, Newsweek, or Sports Illustrated, you may have seen this full-page advertisement for Old Dominion University (right) in this week’s issue (only subscribers receive regional ads). The guy featured in the ad is my advisor, Michael Nelson.

If you are looking to get your Ph.D. in computer science and want to work on some really interesting problems, I highly recommend Michael as an advisor. He’s got lots of good ideas and plenty of funding, and he will guide you to becoming an independent researcher. Plus you can live at the beach! smile

Here’s a little “advertisement” we’ve worked up to send prospective Ph.D. students:
Michael Nelson is seeking high-quality Ph.D. students for digital library and digital preservation research in the computer science department at Old Dominion University. Dr. Nelson has a well-funded research program focusing on object-repository interaction and alternative models of digital preservation. He has been PI or Co-PI on 9 grants (~$2.5M) from the NSF, NASA, Library of Congress and the Andrew Mellon Foundation. His most recent grant is a 5 year NSF CAREER award for "self-preserving digital objects".

More information about research projects, funding, publications and courses can be found at his website.

Dr. Nelson currently has 3 Ph.D. students, all of whom publish and travel on a regular basis. They also collaborate with colleagues at prestigious institutions such as LANL, Internet Archive and Cornell University. Dr. Nelson and his students welcome questions about joining their research group.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Ethan's first week

Those of you that have kids know how crazy the first week is with a newborn-- you feel a huge range of emotions, ups and downs. Although I'm rather tired and Becky even more so, Ethan has been a delight to his parents and grandparents. We just can't get enough of him.

I've had numerous requests for more photos, so here they are:

Tummy time

Mommy and the sleeping Bean

Baby on blue

Yes, I'm cute

Asleep in Dadd'y arms

Soon to be size 13

Grandparents Andy and Genia
see Ethan for the first time

Holding Dad's finger

Grandparents Debbie and Bill
see Ethan for the first time

Wow, this kid's heavy!

Aunt Sara sees Ethan
for the first time

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Ethan is here!

Little Ethan (the Bean) decided to come a little early. On Friday night Becky and I had ordered some pizza and were watching Rocky Balboa. She got through a few pieces before the contractions got so strong that she couldn’t eat any more. After timing them for hours, we decided they weren’t going away, so we hopped in the car and sped to the hospital.

At 5:11 am Saturday morning, Ethan made his appearance. He was 21 inches, 8 lbs and 7 ounces and the cutest little guy I have ever seen. Becky did fantastic.

After a couple of long nights at the hospital, they finally let us go home. Tonight is our first time to be a family at home. The eager grandparents (first grandchild on both sides) will be flying in tomorrow and Tuesday. We’re very grateful to God for our little blessing and thankful to all our friends and family for their support.

You might want to keep up with this kid... I suspect he’ll be doing some great things in this world. smile