Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wind storm in Searcy

Yesterday the temperature dropped by about 40 degrees in less than an hour. Heavy winds came in and tore up roofs all over Searcy. My house got hit hard, but not as bad as Harding's Reynold's Center.

In the video below, you can see a huge chunk of copper being ripped off the Reynold's roof. (No idea who filmed it, but they did a terrific job.) Thankfully, no one was underneath when it happened.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Internet Archive and censorship

Just yesterday, an anonymous Wikipedia editor using the IP address claimed that the Internet Archive had "censored" pages from around the 9/11 time frame. To prove their point, they provided a link to a snapshot showing the gaps in the Archive. They cited no other external source that discusses the issue.

I'm sure there is a good explanation for the pages not appearing in the Archive... most likely Alexa (who supplies a majority of the archived pages to IA) just didn't crawl those sites on those dates. The Web is a very large place, and Alexa doesn't crawl every website on the same schedule.

I've changed the wording to read "missing pages" instead of "censored", but I suspect will be reverting the edits back sometime today. This anonymous editor obviously thinks there is something sinister going on.

Update on 1/30/2008:

Sure enough, the conspiracy theory will not die. Someone at added further "evidence" that IA has yanked the pages, and apparently agrees. is apparently Victoria Sachs, or at least that's the name given in this Internet Archive forum posting which asks about the missing pages. Brewster Kahle, founder of the IA, responded to her post:
There was nothing special happening before 9/11/2001-- the attempt is to crawl every site ever 2 months. sometimes things would be more frequent, but mostly 2 months.

with 9/11 events, the crawler team tried to archive things much more frequently. the news sites had trouble staying up, so that record is a bit spotty.

I hope this helps.

Sorry, Brewster, but that explanation will not appease Victoria and There are other websites that were archived in the weeks before 9/11, so it must be a huge conspiracy to keep the world in the dark. Victoria also wrote:
Yet the Internet Archive's records clearly show the major sites listed above have never before experienced such an enormous 'missing cache' gap in the history of the Internet Archive.
Of course this is not true. Here's one counter example where is missing all of July 2000, a 50+ day gap. I could give number other counter examples, but alas I have students to teach. (BTW, Victoria, the IA doesn't cache pages, they archive them. There is a difference. wink)

Victoria's Wikipedia article edit concludes:
Unfortunately, future generations will never be able to read what,,,,,,,,,,,,,, and, published during the weeks preceding September 11th, 2001.
With this I do agree... it is too bad IA doesn't have those pages archived. But I seriously doubt they purposely removed those pages from their Archive; it completely runs contrary to what they are attempting to do.

I am visiting with some folks at IA in San Francisco next month. I'll bring up this matter with them and report back what they say.

Update on 2/12/08:

I think the controversy has finally subsided.

On Feb 10, a user from (Victoria?) removed their posting and signed off with
OK, censorship wins.
The Talk page basically outlines the rambling (and unsigned) thoughts of and how other editors tried to reason with him/her. It makes for some interesting reading. Even Mr. Wikipedia got into the action:
This guy has been emailing me as well. It is an unsubstantiated crackpot conspiracy theory that doesn't pass the basic sniff test. Even the links he sends to show he is right, thoroughly refute his claims. (As said above, the gaps, while regrettable, are normal for that era of the archive.)--Jimbo Wales (talk) 17:39, 6 February 2008 (UTC)
I think that about sums it up.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Three day weekends at Harding?

At last night's faculty meeting, the student association president brought up an interesting proposal: add two holidays to the academic schedule which would give students and faculty one day off in the fall and one day off in the spring. The suggested holidays: Labor Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Most universities take these two days off, but traditionally Harding does not give any holidays off; instead, the days are put together to give students an entire week off at Thanksgiving. While it's really nice to have that entire week off, it also seems odd to not have off holidays that most everyone does. Also, not taking off MLK Day makes a negative statement, regardless of how unintentional it is.

The SA president brought up an interesting statistic: Harding meets classes an average of 9 days more than most of our sister institutions, and our schedule is several days longer than most universities in Arkansas and the nation. The problem is that many classes meet only on Mondays, and not meeting that day would set the class back the equivalent of a week. If they could be rearranged at other times during those weeks, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't take Labor Day and MLK Day off.

BTW, I asked if anyone at the meeting knew if this would affect accreditation issues, and no one thought it would.

We'll be voting on this proposition at our next faculty meeting. I'll let you know how it works out.

Update on 2/28/08:

MLK will be observed.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Becky, Ethan, and I are in Natchitoches, Loisiana for the weekend, visiting Becky's parents. We're only one week into classes, so we figured this would be an ideal time to get away. This is our second visit out here. Ethan took three naps on the 7 hour trip which made it much easier for us than anticipated. I'll update this posting later when I get more time... I'm using a dial-up connection which is just a little slow.

Update on 1/21/08:

We're back in town. Not much to report; it was good visit. Ethan did great on the trip until the last hour when Becky and I had to sing church songs to keep him from melting down. Also I got to listen to the AFC and NFC championship games on the radio... stinkin' Giants.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Disappointed with Dallas

Two QBs, both behind by 4 points, both given 2 drives to score the winning TD in the final minutes.

Two big disappointments.

Instead of Colts/Pats and Cowboys/Packers, we've got what will be two likely blow-outs in the AFC and NFC championship games. As a Cowboys fan and Manning fan, I'm pretty down about it. As a season ticket holder, my dad would have had tickets to the Cowboys vs. Packers game, so you can imagine he's a little down too.

The only upside is that Tank, the only Harding alumn to play in the NFL, is going to have the opportunity to play against Farve at Lambeau field... that's got to an incredible experience.

We'll get 'em next year, Romo...

Update on 1/21/08:

I've got to hand it to Eli and the Giants... two huge upsets on the road. Maybe they can pull out one more.

I received this email today:
Harding's own Torrance "Tank" Daniels will play in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 as a member of the New York Giants. Tank (#52) played yesterday in the Giants' 23-20 overtime victory in sub-zero temperatures at Green Bay and had a tackle on a kickoff return. He will be the only player from Arkansas playing in the Super Bowl. For more on Tank's season, see the story at

Update on 1/25/08:

Tank Daniels was interviewed by KTHV. You can see the interview on YouTube.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. What if Google lost your data? I think most of trust Google enough that this is very unlikely to happen, but it certainly is not outside the realm of possibility. Google Operating System offers tips to Creating a Backup for Your Google Account.

  2. According to a new study of IT managers, more than 50% of respondents described the Millennials (employees between the ages of 18 and 31) as the "toughest generation to manage." My generation faired a little better: Gen X (ages 32 to 42 years old) placed second with 17% of respondents saying we pose a management challenge.

  3. According to the Department of Homeland Security, open source code is just as vulnerable to security holes as commercial software: approximately one security exposure for every 1,000 lines of code.

  4. Joel Spolsky has written an interesting essay on the need for undergraduate programs for kids who love to program but who aren't as excited about computer science. I think our program at Harding isn't too far-off from what Joel is envisioning, although our faculty is a little light on industry experience (most of us have worked in the industry for just a few years and spent most of our time in academia).

  5. Finally, which is more dangerous: surfing or skateboarding? Google knows.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Search engine class, Nutch, and Wikia Search

This is the final week before classes begin, and I'm frantically preparing for my Search Engine Development class. There are just a handful of courses taught like this that I'm aware of, and thankfully most of the lecture notes are available online.

I've really been really struggling with how much development work to give my students... do I require them to write the complete engine from scratch or use existing components? There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, so I'm shooting for something in the middle.

I've decided that we're write a few components ourselves, but we're also going use Nutch, an open source search engine written in Java. I hope we'll be able to make a major contribution to Nutch, although I'm not sure exactly what that will be yet. By using a somewhat mature open source project, my students will get to experience what it's like to learn a large pre-existing code base and understand how software is developed in the open source arena.

Just a few days ago, Wikia Search (alpha) was launched to less than stellar reviews. Wikia Search is Jimmy Wales' attempt to create an open source search engine that uses human feedback. Wales expects Wikia Search to compete with Google and hoping it will some day capture around 5% of all searches. Wikia Search is using Nutch although they don't make that clear on their website. (I wrote a little about Wikia Search [or Wikiasari] about this time last year.)

I've tried out Wikia Search myself, and the results are pretty poor. But, as Whales points out, this is an attempt to build a search engine, not the final product. And had people judged Wikipedia's quality when it first launched, they would have thought it useless.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Clarion# comparison

I just saw this today: a C#, Clarion#, and VB.NET comparison by Mike Hanson based on my C# and VB.NET comparison. Clarion# (or Clarion .NET) is a new version of the Clarion programming language for the .NET Framework. Thanks, Mike, for the citation.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Harding grad on Wheel of Furtune

Deborah Bone ('01) will be on Wheel of Fortune tonight.

Macaroni and cheese considered harmful

Last night we fed Ethan some Gerber macaroni and cheese. Five minutes later he looked Rocky Balboa after a fight (I would post a photo, but Becky thought it was too gruesome). We rushed him to the ER where he got several doses of various meds. He got more and more hives as the evening progressed, but thankfully he looked back to normal in the morning.

I guess Ethan is allergic to something in it, but maybe we shouldn't have been feeding him that stuff in the first place. We bought it while in a nostalgic mood (it was one of Becky's favorite meals as a kid), but the stuff is totally nutritionally devoid. Why is Gerber even selling this junk?

Friday, January 04, 2008


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. Google announced a few weeks ago that it has decided to take-on Wikipedia and at the same time give authors a share of the advertising revenue. They propose authors create knols, articles of expertise on a variety of subjects. This article on Wikipedia does a good job of summarizing the potential problems faced by Google's proposition.

  2. Researchers in Israel have created the nano-Bible, engraving 300,000 words in Hebrew on a chip the size of a grain of sugar.

  3. In the world of digital preservation: "Mike Wash, chief information officer at the Government Printing Office, expects GPO to have more than a petabyte of content available in five or 10 years." That's a lot of data to ensure long-term access to.

  4. A story on CNET says that Microsoft's latest Office 2003 service pack blocks older file formats from being loaded. Microsoft did this supposedly for security reasons, but they didn't tell anyone until just recently. Hope you didn't have any old Word 6.0 and Word 97 files sitting around that you might need access to someday...

  5. Life imitating art: Did you see The Office episode where Michael drove his car into a lake because the GPS told him to? Just a few days ago, a NY man drove his car onto a train track on the advice of his GPS. Thankfully he was able to escape from the trapped car before an on-coming train smashed into his car going 60 MPH.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Welcome to 2008

2007 was a very eventful year. Ethan was born in March, Becky quit her job at Regent University to stay at home with Ethan, we moved back to Arkansas in August so I could teach again at Harding, and I completed my Ph.D at ODU. It's hard to imagine more change being introduced in a single year. All the while, we have felt God's presence in all that we have done, and we give him the glory.

I hope this year will be a blessed one for all of us.