Friday, August 31, 2007


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. Bad news for fans of The Office: NBC and Apple are bickering about the price Apple should pay for making NBC episodes available on iTunes. NBC episodes may no longer be available for downloading if something isn't worked out soon.

  2. Happy times in Thailand: YouTube is back after a five month embargo. Now they'll be able to discover why 1 out of every 5 Americans can't find the US on a map.

  3. How do you know if your programming code was illegally copied, especially when code obfuscating software makes it very difficult to detect? Try analyzing it's behavior instead with API Birthmark.

  4. Top 5 Myths About Girls, Math and Science:

    1. From the time they start school, most girls are less interested in science than boys are.
    2. Classroom interventions that work to increase girls' interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) run the risk of turning off the boys.
    3. Science and math teachers are no longer biased toward their male students.
    4. When girls just aren't interested in science, parents can't do much to motivate them.
    5. At the college level, changing the STEM curriculum runs the risk of watering down important "sink or swim" coursework.

  5. Yet another metasearch engine, this time for news: From the site: "search 1800 news engines from 200 countries".

Something encouraging (and something not)

This morning in chapel, Andrew Baker announced a Day of Encouragement to be held on September 12, 2007. From the website:
The idea for a National Day of Encouragement began in June 2007 with high school students at the National Leadership Forum in Searcy, AR. The students broke into groups and discussed what they believed to be the biggest problem facing today's high school students. The groups came up with the usual answers — alcohol, drugs and violence — but one group surprised everyone with their answer. They said that the lack of encouragement was the biggest problem, not just in their schools but also in society. When asked how they thought the problem could be dealt with, one high school senior suggested having an official Day of Encouragement. Since then, the Institute for Church & Family formed a committee to develop a Day of Encouragement. It is our goal the people all across the nation will spend a little extra time encouraging on this day. It doesn’t take much. It can be a kind word or a simple note to encourage someone. We are encouraging people everywhere to get together with friends from school, places of worship, community organizations and family to do something that encourages other people.
The Institute for Church & Family is also trying to get the day nationally recognized, and according to their blog, they may be making some progress. I'm not sure if encouragement would have changed the events of 9/11 or the VT massacre (maybe discouragement would have been more effective), but I admire the goal of getting people to encourage each other more often.

And not so encouraging... I caught a commercial the other night for the Cheaters Detective Agency for Little Rock. It featured a man in his office telling his wife over the phone that he was going to be working late; later he meets up with a cute blond, and together they laugh about deceiving his wife. Talk about a depressing commercial and a poor way to drum-up business.

Friday, August 24, 2007


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. When you make a closed system, you are basically inviting every hacker out there to break it open. Just a few days ago, some college-bound kid posted on his blog how to "unlock" the iPhone (use another cell phone provider besides AT&T). Wish Apple would have saved him the trouble in the first place.

  2. This is a little odd: The Perverted Justice group is calling Wikipedia a "Corporate Sex Offender". Apparently someone from PJ was getting a little out of hand on Wikipedia and got banned and is now overreacting. What in the world is a corporate sex offender anyway?

  3. Researchers at MIT have developed a clutter detector, a method for reducing the clutter from visual displays. My wife would love to have one of these for the house.

  4. Here's something my wife would really love: an automated essay grading system.

  5. Justice is finally served: Linux felon forced to install Windows. wink

Monday, August 20, 2007

No singles here

A single female friend of mine recently pointed me to this Oct. 2006 article in the Wall Street Journal: America, Up Close and Personal. The WSJ tabulated data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey to determine (among other things) the 10 counties with the most and the fewest singles.

According to the data, White County, home to Searcy, AR, tops the nation as the county with the fewest percentage of single men: 17.8%. Why so few single men? Here's a quote from the article:
Come high-school graduation, White County, Ark., -- where only 17.8% of the men and 17.6% of the women are unmarried -- sees a steady stream of young weddings, according to Mayor Belinda LaForce of Searcy, the county seat. At nearby Harding University, a Christian liberal arts institution, it is not uncommon for students to marry in the middle of their undergraduate careers.
Why exactly is Harding mentioned? First off, it is not common for students to be married. According to Marty Spears, Assistant VP for Academic Affairs, only 8% of all Harding undergrads are married. Second, a vast majority of Harding students are not from White County and would not be included in the White County census data. Sounds like a red herring to me.

I think the next two statements from the article indicate the primarily reasons for such a low percentage of unmarried men:
"We are a Southern community and a very faith-based community," says Ms. LaForce. Twenty-seven percent of the (White County) population has only a high-school degree, and just 6% of the population has completed a bachelors degree, which is 21 percentage points lower than the national average.
Although Searcy likely has a much higher population of college graduates than the national average, White County is primarily a rural area with lots of farms; a college degree is not necessary for a majority of farm work. And if a man doesn't go to college, he is more likely to start a family. Additionally, living together before being married is frowned upon in an area that is largely Christian, so there is even more of a motivation to marry.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. Have you heard of It archives the MySpace page of those who die. A little morbid, but interesting nonetheless.

  2. American Airlines doesn't like it that Google allows others to compete for the words "american airlines" when they do a search. I'm siding with Google on this one.

  3. Some Wikipedia entries were edited by users on CIA and FBI computers about topics that the FBI and CIA probably know more about than anyone else. Wikipedia says it violates their neutrality guidelines. I say give me a break.

  4. There's an interesting article in Information Week about the future of web search technologies.

  5. Who would have guessed? Swapping votes over the Internet is legal.

Friday, August 17, 2007

It's about to begin...

The 2007-2008 school year is almost here. The freshman have arrived as well as many upperclassmen, and the campus is starting to come alive. Monday classes begin!

I've spent the last couple of weeks getting ready for classes and re-adjusting to faculty life. Yesterday I attended the pre-session conference entitled "Our Vision for 2008-2013". After the conference, Becky and I joined the rest of the faculty and their spouses for an evening dinner where Don England and Nathan Guy gave excellent keynote talks. We left Ethan at home with his cousin Anna (it's nice having some family around) and enjoyed our evening out. Although I had being seeing all my old friends all week, it was the first time Becky got to see many of her old colleagues.

This semester I'm teaching two sections of Introduction to Programming (COMP 150), GUI Programming, and the senior capstone course Software Development Project. And I'm completing my dissertation which I'll be defending in mid-Oct. Too much on my plate? Yes, but it's gotta be done.

In my Intro and GUI classes, I'm doing something a little different this time: I'm allowing students to pair-up on their big assignments. But, they must work completely together on the same computer, each must write approximately half the code, and all of their time must be accounted for. I'm hoping this change will benefit some students who learn better in this type of environment as was seen in experiments by McDowell et al. It will be interesting to see how many students choose to do pair programming vs. working on their own.

For Soft Dev, I've chosen the 1970s game Blockade. This was a personal favorite of mine growing up, and the recent award winning game Quoridor is based on it. I haven't been able to find a computer implementation of Blockade, and purchasing the game is nearly impossible, so I developed my own game board which someone can print out and play on a piece of paper. I also modified the rules just a little... each team is given a single bomb that can be used at any time to blow-up a single section of a wall. The bomb enhancement is going to make developing an AI more difficult, but it also adds an interesting twist to the game.

How do you resolve marital conflict?

Becky and I prefer boxing, Wii style:

Thanks to Stacey and other friends for making us feel back at home. It's almost like we never left!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Back in Arkansas

We're finally back! It was a long, long way from Norfolk to Searcy, but everything went pretty much according to plan. We've moved back into our house, and I'm setup in Dana Steil's old office, Science 208. I'm writing this post from my new office using my new laptop... snazzy.

Here's a quick synopsis of the last couple of weeks:

My mom and sister came down to help us pack the weekend before we left. We closed on our condo on the 31st, and later that afternoon a bunch of friends from church helped us load the ginormous Penske truck:

After saying goodbye to our empty condo and spending the night at Andy and Stephanie's, we spent the next two days on the road with the Bean sitting between Becky and me (don't let the photo fool you, I drove most of the way wink):

Ethan did really well the first day. We stopped plenty to stretch and eat, and I even let him drive some:

But by day two, Ethan was a little tired of being on the road. I think this picture sums up the way all three of us were feeling on the stretch from Nashville to Memphis:

Finally we reached Memphis where Ethan got to see his great-grandmother and grandfather for the first time as well as his Uncle Andy:

I went on to Searcy and left Becky and Ethan in Memphis. They joined me the next day after I had unloaded the truck with the help of some friends.

This week I've been getting ready for classes, and Becky has been getting the house ready... seems like there are a million things to do. Becky's parents are also in town on vacation to work on their farm and see us, so we've spent some time with them. A few nights ago we ate dinner at the farm and got to see Bill's new tractor (it's behind our happy family):

I'm looking forward to re-connecting with old friends. Feel free to drop by my office if you are on Harding's campus... this is where I will be spending most of my time from now on. wink