Friday, September 26, 2008


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. Technorati has released their State of the Blogosphere 2008 report. Some interesting findings:

    • 1.5 million blog posts are created each week.

    • 57% of US bloggers are male, 58% are at least 35 years old, 26% are single, and 74% have a college degree.

    • The average US blogger has been blogging for 35 months (I've been blogging for 33 months).

    • The average blog has 18,000 unique visitors a month.

    • 83% of female and 76% of male bloggers (globally) have a personal blog.

  2. A recent study finds college students ignoring potential malware popup dialog boxes. Why am I not surprised.

  3. Dan Waters, a Microsoft Academic Developer Evangelist, writes an informative article for getting a job in the game industry. It's a little like going pro after college... it's very difficult to do, and only a few make it.

  4. Google is sponsoring Project 10^100. If you have an idea that you think could help a large number of people, submit it before Oct. 20. Google will be giving $10 million to the projects they think are the most deserving.

  5. Amazon is now selling a book entitled Lazy Preservation: Reconstructing Websites from the Web Infrastructure. The book has an uncanny resemblance to my dissertation. wink

The Office - Season 5

How did you celebrate The Office season premier?

3-Holepunch JimDwight, Pam, and Jim

Also present at the party but not pictured... two Prison Mikes, Jan, and pregnant lady(?).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dinesh D'Souza at Harding

Last night Harding welcomed Dinesh D'Souza as the first speaker in its ASI series. His talk was entitled McCain, Obama and the War on Terror. D'Souza is a popular writer and speaker and was once a Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

D'Souza presented a very articulate and well-thought response to arguments on both the Left and Right regarding the so-called War on Terror. His main point was that America will leave Iraq some day; the question is should it leave hastily and hand-over Iraq to extremist elements, or should it leave once it has maintained a stable Iraq. He also argued that a wedge must be made between the extremists in the Islamic world and mainstream Muslims. Only by separating these two populations can success really be achievable in the mid-East.

What really interested me was D'Souza's view that Muslim extremists are primarily upset by the threat posed to Islam by American popular culture. They believe the immorality espoused by our movies, television, and music are a danger to Muslim society. D'Souza believes that America could better position itself in the mid-East if we would do a better job promoting the positive parts of our culture (faith, family, freedom, etc.). The government ownes a number of radio and TV stations, but mostly we use them ineffectively, e.g., playing rap music.

During the Q&A period, I asked D'Souza if he thought sending such a message would be difficult for the government in today's age of the Internet where there is no central control over what types of messages and values appear to be espoused in America. He didn't address my question, unfortunately, primarily I suspect because there's no easy answer.

I've recently read a lot of positive and negative about D'Souza. He just started a fund to help George Obama, Barak's half-brother who lives in povery in Kenya. (To be fair to Barak, it doesn't appear George really wants his brother's financial assistance.) In his 2007 book Enemy at Home, D'Souza severely overstated his case against liberal American culture and got blasted for it. But his most recent book, What's So Great About Christianity, appears to be a well-thought response to recent attacks against belief in God.

Whether you agree with him or not, D'Souza is certainly a thinker with a unique vantage point who has put forth some ideas which merit listening to.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Warning to parents of toddlers

If you have a toddler and haven't heard of nursemaid's elbow, read on... this may save you a lot of frustration and money some day.

Two Saturdays ago I was walking with Ethan, holding his hand when he tripped and fell.  I pulled on his right arm to help him up and suddenly felt something pop. His arm went limp and he started crying. 

Becky and I had no idea want went wrong; he was inconsolable for what seemed like a long time. So we decided we'd better take him to the ER. 

While at the ER, Ethan continued to cry, especially if we moved or touched his right arm. When the nurse took his temperature, he fought it like he usually does, but a few minutes later he was acting like nothing had happened!

When the doctor finally saw him an hour later, he explained that Ethan probably had nursemaid's elbow, an injury which affects many toddlers when their extended arms are pulled. When Ethan was fighting the nurse, he likely popped his dislocated elbow joint back into place, and now he was fine.

Becky and I were happy it was nothing worse and went on home.

Flash forward one week. We left Ethan with a friend of ours and neglected to tell her about our little ER visit the previous week.

After a nice date in Little Rock, we return to pick up Ethan, and the babysitter tells us how she was swinging him around by his arms when all of the sudden he started crying uncontrollably. This time his left arm is limp and hurting.


So here we go again to the ER. This time it's 4 hours before we see the doctor, and the nurse doesn't take his temperature, so the elbow doesn't get popped back in by itself.

After X-rays confirm nothing is broken, the doctor wiggles the joint back into place, and Ethan is fine once more. We again return home, thankful it wasn't worse but very frustrated that we have spent two Saturday nights in a row in the ER.  I dread seeing the bill.

Take-away point: Don't pull your toddler by the arm until he/she is at least 4. Sounds like common sense, but I can't be the only clueless parent out there.

Friday, September 19, 2008


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. Google recently launched Google Audio Indexing (GAudi) which converts video to text and allows the videos to be searched. I wonder how long before Google begins to crawl mp3s and video on the Web and serve it up in their search result pages?

  2. A new study by Pew Research finds that, believe it or not, almost all teenagers play video games.
    Fully 99% of boys and 94% of girls report playing video games... Older girls are the least "enthusiastic" players of video games, though more than half of them play. Some 65% of daily gamers are male; 35% are female.
    The most popular game teens play is Guitar Hero followed by Halo 3.

  3. Ten top Google scientists weigh-in on what the next ten years will bring on the Internet. None of them predicted that Sergey would actually start a blog.

  4. Sara Palin's Yahoo email account was hacked this week. Was she using her pet's name as her password? There doesn't appear to be any serious damage done except to her pride.

  5. Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day! Now you can even search Google using pirate language.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Wordle word clouds

Very cool visualization called Wordle that I found via Allan White's blog. Here's a word cloud I created using text from my blog:

I guess you could argue I'm a little fixated on Google.  wink

Friday, September 12, 2008


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. A new version of iTunes is out, and it contains Genius, a feature which magically creates playlists for your songs. Apparently some people don't think the feature works that well. I've only had a few minutes to play with it and haven't formed an opinion yet. I do wonder why Apple would name such a feature "Genius", thus putting a clear target on its head when it doesn't perform perfectly.

  2. ComputerWorld has a nice article summarizing Google's current dabble with enabling the masses to influence search results.

  3. Google is expanding their digitization efforts to news archives.

  4. Some researchers have built a "Facebot" application, a Facebook app which appears to be harmless but secretly performs a denial-of-service attack on an unsuspecting web server.

  5. If you've never seen Pirates of Silicon Valley, you can view the entire made-for-TV movie on YouTube, at least for a little while. This entertaining movie from 1999 shows how a young Bill Gates and Steve Jobs transformed the computer world, mostly by stealing ideas. The acting may not always be stellar, but if you're interested in how Apple and Microsoft got their start, you'll love this movie.

    Jobs: "You're stealing from us!"
    Gates: "Steve, we're not stealing from you. So don't tell me that..."
    Jobs: "What are you doing then? What is this that I keep hearing about you developing this... what do you call it... Windows?... to compete with us?!"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Harding enrollment numbers for Fall 2008

President Burks sent out the official enrollment numbers for the fall 2008 semester. There are 6,510 students enrolled at one of our campuses, and 3,940 undergrad students are at the main campus in Searcy. Essentially we saw an increase in graduate and professional program enrollment, but undergrad enrollment remained flat (I've been told that 1% is our target goal for undergrad enrollment).

PopulationFall 2007  Fall 2008  Percent Increase
Grad & Professional   2,1782,3226.6%

The number of students enrolled in Computer Science classes this semester (174) is also flat when compared to last fall (176).

Amazon ghost reviews

So I did an Amazon search for an upcoming book I'm interested in called The Future of Reputation and I get this result:

I thought to myself, "wow, five people have already given this book 5 stars! This is must be a really good book." So I visit the book's page and order a copy of it for the Harding library. 

Then I decide to take a look at the reviews out of curiosity. I can't seem to find them on the book's main page, so I go back to the search result and click on the 5 star rating. Then I see this:

So, is this just a bug in Amazon's software, or do they routinely award yet-to-be-released books with five 5-star ratings from ghost reviewers?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Culturally Savvy Christianity

On Sunday I started teaching a class entitled Culturally Savvy Christianity at the Cloverdale Church of Christ. If you are in town, I invite you to join us at 10:30 am this Sunday.

What does it mean for Christians to be savvy in regards to their culture? How does a Christian live in the world and at the same time avoid being of the world? Does living in the world mean I should be entertained by the same TV, movies, and music that the world listens to? These are just a few of the questions we'll be trying to answer in the next few months.

I'm referencing several texts which I have found to be very thought provoking when examining how Christians should interact with American popular culture:

1. Too Christian, Too Pagan by Dick Staub. Staub argues that Christians that fail to interact with the culture around them are in danger of being "too Christian" and not affecting the world as Jesus calls us to. Christians that engage their culture may be labeled "too pagan" by fellow Christians, but this is precisely what Jesus has called us to do: work to positively influence the world for Jesus.
2. The Culturally Savvy Christian is Dick Staub's latest book which explores our rather shallow popular culture and argues that Christians must not disengage or attack it, but instead transform it. "We are called to be culturally savvy Christians who are serious about faith, savvy about faith and culture, and skilled at fulfilling our calling to be a loving, transforming presence in the world."
3. Roaring Lambs by Bob Briner explores the positive effect Christians could and should have on popular culture if they would engage it fully and get off the sidelines. Christians can become "roaring lambs" within the workplace or culture when they excel at their work and earn the respect of their peers. Briner did just this working in the sports and television industries.

Hope to see you Sunday.

Friday, September 05, 2008


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. Google Chrome. It's fast. It's (mostly) secure. It's open source. It's all people are talking about.

    Personally, I really like it. Especially the Internets easter egg.

    The only thing I'm not fond of is how the Omnibar is used for entering URLs and search terms. While this creates a spartan interface, it also erases my search term after I enter it. Sometimes it's helpful to have it remain visible so I can quickly perform the same search in another tab.

    Also it mixes my search terms with my URLs while I'm typing... that is going to take some getting used to.

  2. When you write a paper, you want others to cite it, especially if you trying to get tenured. And it turns out there are some not-so-obvious things you can do to increase your chances, at least in the field of astro-physics. My guess is this is true of other fields too. 1) If your paper appears in a mailing list, make sure it's near the top. 2) Write longer papers.

  3. Trivia: Which web browser was the first to display an image?

  4. Interesting article on cyber warfare.

  5. This week I updated my Introduction to PHP for C++ Programmers. It now includes regular expressions, exception handling, and OOP. Let me know if you see something I should change and/or add.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Google comic: Where are all the women?

Like every other techie out there, I was excited when I found out this week that Google was releasing their own browser, Google Chrome. And I was dazzled by the array of technical enhancements they outlined in their comic book, illustrated by Scott McCloud.

But as I thumbed through the comic, I couldn't help but notice the dearth of female characters. Almost every comic character resembled your typical twenty-something computer dude, like the Mac guy from those (in)famous commercials.

I only found three women in the entire 38 page comic, and only one of them was a main character, pictured below twice. (Racial diversity is also an issue, but I won't go there.)

Now I understand that the characters featured in the comic were members of the Google Chrome team, and so the comic just reflected the gender makeup of the team. Google wasn't trying to be sexist. However, it does underscore an important point:
Technical fields like computer science are badly hurting for women.
As I look at my roster of 60 CS students this semester, I count only three females. There's only 10 females out of 75 students currently enrolled in an our introduction to programming classes this fall (13%), so that certainly doesn't bode well for the future.

And if Google, the tech company everyone wants to work for, can't find more than one woman to put on their team, we're all in trouble.

Something else about the comic that got me wondering: How is a comic book of young guys talking tech going to convert Internet Explorer users to Chrome users? The comic will only be interesting to guys that like comics and/or tech, and those guys are all using Firefox.

Perhaps that wasn't the point of the comic, but you have to believe Google wants the IE crowd to trade-up. The only browser marketshare I see Google capturing is from the Firefox crowd which is at roughly 18%. IE users, people like my parents who don't even really know what a browser is, are going to remain with IE. (That is unless Google figures out a sneaky way to put Chrome on their desktop through a "software update".)

Monday, September 01, 2008

An assessment of Churches of Christ in 2008

Our resident church statistician Flavil Yeakley has recently compiled a report entitled Good News and Bad News: A Realistic Assessment of Churches of Christ in the United States 2008. Yeakley presented his findings a few months back to a group of church leaders, but I don't think many church members are aware of his report. Unfortunately, Yeakley has not put his report online, but you can purchase it from the Harding Bookstore. I did find some slides online that detail much of the report.

In the report, Yeakley attempts to correct some misinformation that is circulating about the church using statistics from other published sources and from several surveys he has recently conducted. The surveys were completed by students and alumni from Christian colleges and universities and by church leaders about members that have graduated from high school in the past 10 years.

Here are some of the more interesting points from the report (good and bad news), in no particular order:
  • In 2000, the Churches of Christ was the 12th largest religious body in the US (1.6 million adherents).

  • In 2000, only the three largest denominations (Catholic Church, Southern Baptist, United Methodist) had more congregations in the US.

  • 87.9% of congregations in the Churches of Christ have less than 200 in attendance, 5.5% have between 200 and 300 in attendance, and 6.7% have more than 300.

  • The 5 states with the most Church of Christ members and congregations: Texas (22.4%), Tennessee (13.2%), Alabama (7.2%), Arkansas (5.3%), and Oklahoma (4.9%).

  • The Churches of Christ are more evenly distributed throughout the nation than any other religious body.

  • From 1980-2000, the Churches of Christ have grown by 45,407 adherents (2.8%), ranking 6th in growth of all religious bodies.

  • From 2000-2006, the Churches of Christ have lost 0.3% of their adherents.


What makes young people continue to be active in the church once they leave college?
  • A young person who attends a secular university but is actively involved in a local congregation is more likely to remain a member of the Church of Christ after graduation than a young person who attends a Christian university but is not actively involved in a local church (i.e., sending your kid to a Christian college is not going to necessarily ensure they will be a part of the church when they leave; they must personally decide to be involved while they are a student).
  • 30% of Church of Christ high school graduates later attend a Christian college, and 50% attend a secular college.

  • Retention rates are highest for those Churches of Christ who see themselves as relatively similar doctrinally to other Churches of Christ (i.e., churches that see themselves as very liberal or very similar tend to lose more members).


Divorce is a serious problem affecting the church, but the numbers are quite as bad as some have assumed.
  • Among young people who graduated from high school within the past 10 years, 4.2% of those who are members of the Church of Christ have divorced. Compare this to 8.1% of the general US population who graduated high school within the past 10 years and divorced.

  • The divorce rate for current members of the Church of Christ who graduated from a Christian college is 5.4%; alumni who currently are not affiliated with any church have a divorce rate of 20.7%.