Saturday, May 24, 2008


It's been a long week painting the kitchen, and I'm still not done. But I did find some time to put together my pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. Despite what most Americans think about the Chinese government's censorship of the Web, 2007 survey found that over 80% of respondents said they thought the Internet should be controlled or managed, and almost 85% thought the government should be the one to do it.

  2. Watch out: Facebook's user interface is about to make a radical change. Instead of having everything listed on a single page, items have been rearranged under their own tabs. The redesign is going to force many third party Facebook applications to modify how they work. Let the whining begin!

  3. Would you still be interested in watching a football game if you knew all the plays were being called by a computer? Let's hope it never comes to this.

  4. What happens when you create a salacious news article that didn't really happen, just to get people to link to your website? You either get praised or pounced.

  5. Have you received your economic stimulus package yet? I hope you'll look past the shiny new whatever and give to someone who is really in need.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Rare sighting

I was playing with Ethan in the backyard yesterday when we spotted a very rare event. It only happens twice, maybe three times a year... our next door neighbor was mowing his yard!

Luckily I had my camera on hand to document this rare occurrence. If you look very closely at the photo below, you'll see the rare neighboritis lawnmoritis in action.

Friday, May 16, 2008


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. I forgot to mention this last week: Microhoo is dead. But... Yahoo may be serving Google ads very soon.

  2. What does Google know about spam? Matt Cutts recently spoke at Web 2.0 as one of the keynote speakers, and you can watch his 10 minute speech.

  3. Kudos to the Senate for unanimously passing a $1 billion bill that will help catch child pornographers online.

  4. Have you ever wondered what your old Atari 2600 looked like inside?

  5. Congrats to my old buddy Hank Bingham who is getting married today in Hawaii. Wish I could've been there.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Baseball and search engine queries

This is a really interesting visualization from Spatial Variation in Search Engine Queries, a WWW08 paper by Backstrom & Kleinberg (Cornell) and Kumar & Novak (Yahoo!).

What you are seeing are the "spheres of influence" for various Major League baseball teams. To create this graph, the authors mined the search engine logs from Yahoo! and plotted where the most popular baseball team queries originated from (based on IP address).

The result is a geographical break-down of each team's fan base. The authors point out that the boundaries even follow state boundaries closely: "For instance, in Michigan, across the lake from Chicago but far from Detroit, it is the Tigers, not the Cubs who have the largest following."

It's also interesting to note there are some places like Arkansas where there is no single winner. That's what happens when you live in a state with zero professional teams. Oh, how I miss my childhood years living in Denver... wink

Monday, May 12, 2008

Harding Graduation

Saturday, Harding graduated its largest class in history, somewhere around 650 students. For a crowd this large, the ceremony was held in the rather uncomfortable Ganus Athletic Center. This will be the final time spring graduation is held in the GAC; next year we'll be moving to two ceremonies that will be held in the Benson Auditorium.

This was a very memorable graduation for a couple of reasons. Many of you have already heard that Brian Luke Johnson, a 27 year-old senior health care management major, died unexpectedly on March 11 of an unspecified disease. He left behind his wife Mary Johnson who was pregnant and a one-year-old daughter. This tragedy obviously shook-up a lot of people, especially since he was a Searcy native (his mother is one of our department secretaries).

Early in the ceremony, Dr. Burks awarded Brian's degree posthumously to Mary up on stage. But as everyone began to applaud, Dr. Burks interrupted the applause and said he had a special announcement. Apparently Mary had around $41K of school loans (she is still a Harding student), and this became known to a Harding student who anonymously worked to raise some money to help pay the debt.

The student was able to raise enough money to pay off the entire $41K.

As Dr. Burks made this announcement, there wasn't a dry eye in the auditorium... even Dr. Burks had difficulty keeping it together.

After the usual fan fare of speeches, reading off names, and handshakes, Dr. Burks stood up to conclude the ceremonies. Suddenly the student body president bolted onto the stage and almost shoved Dr. Burks to the side. Burks hesitated but relinquished the podium, and Charlie told the audience something about wanting to give back his degree and no longer be a "bachelor."

Then Charlie called up his girlfriend on stage, pulled out a ring, got down on one knee, and asked her to marry him. I guess she said yet because he gave the thumbs-up and walked off stage with a huge smile on his face. Ah, young love. (Someone posted the whole thing on YouTube.)

Finally, the ceremony concluded with everyone's favorite: Climb Every Mountain (OK, it's not everyone's favorite, but whoever's in charge of organize the ceremony sure must like it). Usually a female sings the song and rattles the room with the high note at the end. This time a guy sang the song: Dr. Monte Cox's son. That's a first.

A little bragging: Four of the 13 students graduating this spring with the highest level of the Honors Program ("Honors Graduate with Distinction") are Computer Science students. This is by far the highest number from any department (about 2.5% of Harding students are CS majors, but CS majors make up 31% of the highest level honor grads). Very cool.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Hope all you moms out there feel especially appreciated today. My mom is in Germany today, her first visit to the European mainland. So in her honor, here's one of my mom's favorite YouTube videos... enjoy!

Saturday, May 10, 2008


My pick of the week's top 5 notable items:
  1. Ye-haw! They brought it back! (Kind of). Google stopped supporting their SOAP-based API for obtaining search results back in Dec. 2006. It was a huge disappointment to many. But now they have released a REST-based API which should be sufficient for many researchers like myself that need an automated way of querying Google. I'll give it a try soon and report back. (Thanks, Michael and Olena, for the tip.)

  2. Joel Spolky rants about architecture astronauts, Windows Live Mesh, and Google paying fresh CS graduates too much money. (Thanks, Alan, for the tip.)

  3. Viewzi is a new metasearch engine (a search engine which combines results from many different sources) which shows some promise. They have many different "views" of the search results which are extremely different than what Google might give you. As you can see from the screenshot below, they are still experiencing a few technical problems (they can't seem to display Harding's home page), but overall I am very pleased with the results.

    Currently, you have to sign up for an account to use viewzi. You can use the code "gio" to get an account. (Thanks again, Alan.)

  4. A new computer game involving folding proteins could allow a 13 year-old to someday win a Nobel Prize.

  5. And finally, a 17 year-old has developed a multi-touch table running Mac OS X for a science fair. Maybe we should get him to play the "folding proteins" game. (Thanks again X3, Alan.)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Los Alamos, here we come

This summer the family will be packing up and driving out to Los Alamos, New Mexico. (Actually I'll be doing the driving... Becky and Ethan are taking the plane.) I'll be doing some summer research at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) with the Digital Library Research and Prototyping group starting in June.

Los Alamos is a small town, approximately 45 minutes northwest of Santa Fe. It wasn't even on the map back in the days when they were developing The Bomb. As you can see from the map, it's pretty much a straight shot west from Searcy.

We're really looking forward to going out west, especially since it's unchartered territory for Becky and me (I'm from Denver, but I've only been to New Mexico once). And from what we hear, Los Alamos is a beautiful place to live. Some friends from church lived out there for several years, and they have nothing but good things to say about it.

So, if you're in the neighborhood, please look us up. Or if you have any suggestions of places we should go while we're out there, let me know. We're already thinking Denver and the Grand Canyon are 2 possibilities although Ethan hates car trips.

Friday, May 02, 2008


Today is the final day of classes at Harding. Next week: finals.

My listing of this week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. Last week WWW2008 was held in Beijing, China. This is the annual conference that draws the top research papers from the Web search community; Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft usually contribute several papers apiece. I attended WWW2007 and loved it. I haven't had time yet to browse through the papers posted online, but I hope to report on some of the gems next week.

  2. Iron Man is opening today (you can never have too many comic book movies wink). If you're into CGI (computer-generated imagery), you'll enjoy this article which discusses many of the challenges faced by the movie's graphics team.

  3. What happens when the bad guys make AIs to break your CAPTCHAs or use inexpensive foreign workers to do it for you? More spam. Blah.

  4. This is why I tell my students to be very careful about what they put in their Facebook page (and who they befriend).

  5. I enjoyed reading about Michael Buckley's "socially relevant" computing. He pushes his students to use technology to help their fellow man. Not only does it create more interest in computing, it's just the right thing to do.