Monday, December 31, 2007

Favorites of 2007

In keeping with last year's tradition, here are some of my favorite things from 2007:

  1. Ethan's birth
  2. Moving back to Arkansas
  3. Completing my dissertation
  4. Attending the Cowboys vs. Redskins game
  5. Graduating with my Ph.D.


It was hard to choose just a handful... Ethan is one photogenic kid!

Urkel baby

  1. Nike Leave Nothing: Makes me want to put on pads and hit someone.

  2. Batman - Dark Knight trailer: Gives me goose bumps.

  3. Huckabee - Norris ad: "My plan to secure the border? Two words: Churck Norris"

  4. Dude and Bugger.

  5. K-Fed's Nationwide: Life comes at you fast.

Movies I saw:
  1. Amazing Grace: The true story of how God inspired William Wilberforce to help end the slave trade in 19th century Britain.

  2. 3:10 to Yuma: Great story of a father's determination to care for his family.

  3. The Greatest Game Ever Played: The true story of 20-year-old Francis Ouimet who faced his idol, Harry Vardon, in the 1913 US Open golf tournament.

  4. Spider-Man 3: Venom is one of my favorite bad guys.

  5. Glory Road: The true story of Texas Western coach Don Haskins who led the first all-black starting line-up for a college basketball team to the 1966 NCAA national championship.

Books I read:
  1. Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn: We used this book in the YMCA (Young Maturing Christian Adults) Bible class early in the year. The book had a strong influence on how I view and use money.

  2. The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey: Perhaps one of the best books about Jesus I've ever read.

  3. Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson: A very useful guide for a new dad.

  4. Sacred Parenting by Gary L. Thomas

  5. Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding by John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine: I haven't completed this book yet, and it's not exactly my favorite, but I've enjoyed learning more about James A. Harding from whom Harding University takes its name.

End-of-the-year lists:
  1. Wired News' 2007 Foot-in-Mouth Awards
  2. Time's Top 10 Quotes of 2007 (#1 is the best)
  3. Time's Top 10 Editorial Cartoons
  4. Wall Street Journal's Best of Ads, Worst of Ads

Friday, December 28, 2007


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. If you use MySpace, Facebook, or other social networking systems, you will appreciate this diagram of your social network. smile

  2. Kevin Newcomb at Search Engine Watch has compiled a list of the most significant search-related events of 2007. Any of my students looking for a seminar topic for the spring... here's a great place to start!

  3. According to a recent article in InfoWorld, Java is the next Cobol... used in many businesses internally but outdated by newer web programming languages like Ruby on Rails, PHP, AJAX, and Microsoft .Net.

  4. Perl 5.10 has just been released. It's the first major upgrade to the language in 5 years. Some new items: smart match operator, switch statement, more powerful regexs, state variables, and more.

  5. And finally, be careful next time you hit reply-all on that email. It's been estimated that interruptions at work and information overload in general cost the US economy $650 billion in 2006.

Benazir Bhutto assassination

I was surprised to learn yesterday that former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who had been assassinated earlier in the day, had visited Harding University in 1991 as a speaker in the American Studies Institute. This was her first trip to Arkansas. Jimmy Carr served as Bhutto's host while she was here, and he was interviewed yesterday by a local news station about Bhutto's trip. Dr. Carr said Bhutto was very interested in the South and showed a genuine interest in Harding. She also feared for her life, even in a small town like Searcy.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

This was Ethan's first Christmas and our first in Searcy. We've been really busy visiting family the last few days. My parents and sister came into town this past weekend to celebrate with us, and yesterday we went to Memphis to see Becky's grandparents and family. Becky's parents and siblings are celebrating with us the next few days... this will be the first time Ethan meets his Aunt Molly.

Ethan got a gagillion presents, but he gave us one of the best: three straight days of sleeping until 6:30! One of the best presents was the Wii my sister gave us. She was miraculously able to find one at a Toys-R-Us just a few days before Christmas. smile

Becky and Ethan

A Wii from Sara


Firetruck from Grammies and Grampies

The night before Christmas...

We'll be throwing this around in just a few years!

Posing with Aunt Sara

I can't wait to watch!

Romo jersey

Saturday, December 22, 2007


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. Thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, researchers using Zotero, a Firefox plug-in, can archive their research notes and data at the Internet Archive. My guess is very few researchers will actually make use of this service... although in an ideal world everyone would use such a tool to "further science", people are lazy and will usually do the minimum to get the job done (i.e., publish their findings). Putting your notes and data out there for public consumption means being forever responsible for it, defending it, answering questions about it, etc. Speaking from personal experience, most of my notes are thought exercises which often are scattered and ultimately useless to anyone but me, and putting them in an archive wouldn't do anyone any good.

  2. China Yahoo was successfully sued in Beijing for linking to websites that contain pirated material. Although steps should be taken to reign-in the pirating beast that is China, it troubles me that under newer copyright laws in China, a search engine can be held legally liable for the misdeeds of someone it indexes.

  3. 64% of Internet users between 12 and 17 are now creating some type of online content. According to one researcher, "New technology increases the overall intensity and frequency of their communication with friends, with e-mail being the one glaringly uncool exception in their eyes." Uncool email. Ouch.

  4. European researchers are doing some interesting work on acoustic interfaces for computers.

  5. "All the published literature of humankind in the next generation will be in digital form." -- Brewster Kahle

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Advice for Romo

From the Cowboys vs. Eagles recap on Yahoo football:
Romo finished 13-of-36 for 214 yards, with a career-low rating of 22.2. It came in front of his parents and his newest A-list girlfriend -- Jessica Simpson, who tugged the front of her pink No. 9 jersey, then mouthed the word "Romo!" when cameras spotted her.
Romo-- have you seen The Natural with Robert Redford? If you haven't, rent it and watch it before it is too late.

Jessica is Memo Paris.

You've been warned.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Graduation 2007

This morning I graduated with my Ph.D. from ODU. Becky, Ethan, and I flew into Norfolk on Thurs for the ceremony (Michael Irvin was on our flight, but I wasn't able to get an autograph), and my parents and sister got into town on Fri.

Tony Snow gave the commencement speech and did a terrific job. He told the graduates that they needed to focus on two things: God and country. Everyone needed to answer the question of whether there is a God (Tony is convinced there is), what they're relationship is to Him, and what He expects of them. Second, they need to realize that we've got a fantastic country and find a way to make it even better. When hyping-up America, Tony said, "When there's a crisis, who does everyone turn to? Venezuela?" The guy sitting next to me thought it was one of the funniest things he'd heard in a while... he's Venezuelan. wink

After graduation we took some pics with Michael, my adviser, and then got some lunch a Fellini's. It's nice to be back in Norfolk... can't wait to see all my old friends.

Below are some pics from graduation:

On the flight to Norfolk

Walking down the aisle

Becky watching from a distance

With Michael afterword

With parents and Ethan

With Sara and Ethan

Celebrating at Fellini's

Congrats cake at Bayside

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

JCDL 2008 Call for Participation

The ACM IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL 2008) will be held in Pittsburgh, PA on June 18-20, 2008. I'm on the program committee this year and look forward to a great conference.

JCDL welcomes contributions from all fields that intersect to enable Digital Libraries. Topics include, but are not limited to:
  • Interfaces to information for novices and experts
  • Information visualization
  • Retrieval and browsing
  • Data mining/extraction
  • Enterprise-scale Information Architectures
  • Distributed information systems
  • Studies of information behavior and needs; user modeling
  • Insightful analyses of existing systems
  • Deployment of digital collections in education
  • Digital Library curriculum development
  • Systems and algorithms for preservation
A one page CFP is available on the website.

Ethan's first visit with Santa

Usually Ethan is really good about letting strangers hold him. But not this time. Sorry, Santa!

Ethan learns that's he's on the Naughty List.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Only one week of finals before the semester is out! My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. Good news for the CS majors: According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, computing-based jobs are expected to grow 24% over the next decade, the highest rate of growth of any "professional and related occupations."

  2. Maybe the grass isn't greener on Mac's side of the fence.

  3. Google has just released an impressive REST-based chart API. It allows 50K queries per day and allows you to create pie graphs, line graphs, scatterplots, bar charts, and Venn diagrams.

    Just for fun-- my Family League fantasy football record (8-5) as of today:

    Fantasy football standings

  4. The Heritrix 2.0 web crawler is here. I'll be using this crawler (most likely) in my search engine class next semester.

  5. The planet's latest enemies: divorced observers of Hanukkah. Wow... no one is safe blame these days.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Software development projects are complete

Three teams of seniors completed their Blockade implementations and installed them Sunday night in our Software Development Lab. So far I've had 26 user testers of various ages come by and tried out the games, and they've all been very impressed. You can see some snapshots of the games on our department website.

Sunday from 7-9pm in the Science lobby, we're having the Software Showcase. Each team will have a booth where they'll be showing-off their games. I'll announce the winner of the Acceptance Test and award plaques to the winning team. There will be lots of food, so come on out.

Update on 12/7/07:

Unfortunately, we are not having an AI Super Bowl this year as we have in past semesters. There was a small ambiguity in one of the rules that caused one team to implement their AI slightly different than the other 2 teams. This made it very difficult to pit two AIs against each other that made different assumptions. It's very unfortunately this ambiguity was not caught earlier, but live and learn.

Update on 12/10/07:

Congratulations to Nanosoft (Blockerman Redux) for their first place finish in the Acceptance Test. They placed first in the user tests and technical tests. All three teams did really well, and all the students are to be congratulated on their hard work.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. The academic community has shot themselves in the foot once again: Two researchers from UT Austin have written a paper showing how to de-anonymize the anonymous 100 million+ movie ratings Netflix made available to the public in 2006. While this is an impressive feat, it will likely make companies that have access to rich data sets much less likely to release them to researchers in the future. While this may be a positive thing for privacy advocates, it's certainly not for researchers. What these UT guys have done in effect is demonstrate why academia should not be trusted with data they desperately need to do their research.

    Update: A friend of mine emailed me about this issue and made some good points: Maybe Netflix should have offered some prize money to figure out how to properly release anonymized data. Also, researchers have an obligation to show how others might misuse "anonymous" data... companies making such data available to the public should show much more care in the future.

  2. We're all carrying ticking time bombs in our pockets... UPDATE: Or maybe not.

  3. More bad news for Microsoft: a recent benchmark test revealed XP was twice as fast as Vista. And in court, MS's marketing director was just as confused about what "Vista capable" means as the rest of us.

  4. Philipp Lenssen has written an interesting article about Abstract vs Realistic Icons, making some really good points about how making icons more photo-realistic doesn't necessarily improve usability.

  5. Colin N., a former CS student, emailed me about a new games contest sponsored by Microsoft for students. I'd like to change the was the CS software development class works by targeting this competition next year.