Tuesday, November 28, 2006

28 November 2006: Commentary

So it occurred to me that "Deal Or No Deal" has quite the fanbase following. And it also occurred to me that it's a very simple game. Probably too simple: the fact it has got the ratings it has for so long is quite amazing and probably down to the minor differences each game brings - the character of the player, the characters of the contestants opening the boxes, even the occasional appearance of a random spider on the set or the lucky tea-bag. But all good things must come to an end and, like Millionaire before it, the sun must surely soon begin to set on the DOND phenomenon.

Well, maybe. Channel 4 have commissioned the series through 2007, at which point they'll probably take a look at the ratings and see if people have lost interest yet. Already, though, thoughts are turning to ways to spice the game up and keep folks interested. Noel Edmonds has already said he won't touch a 'celebrity' version of DOND - quite rightly, since unlike Millionaire or Weakest Link, this just features people opening boxes ('ooo Daddy I can't wait to see how Frank Bruno and Dot Cotton open their boxes'). So I was thinking, how about pressing the red button and getting 'fan commentary'?

Sky Sports do this with their football coverage already (as do a lot of North American broadcasters, I believe, with their 'SAP' coverage option) and while 'production team' commentary has become popular on recorded drama shows and movies, it seemed to me this morning that DOND is more like a 'live' sporting event in the sense that the viewer doesn't know what's going to happen in the game, and equally doesn't particularly care about camera angles and directing skills (since it's essentially the same every day). So how about 'fanzone' commentary for a week on 'Deal Or No Deal'?

Now, before you nick my idea and write in to Endemol with it, I wish to point out that I've already done so, and indeed got the following reply from Endemol's Chief Creative Officer:

"Thanks duncan. I think its fair to say we've been thinking around this area quite a lot - as you say, DOND has a big online following. But its always good to get input from elsewhere. I've passed this on to Peter Cowlet who runs digital media for us.


So there. If it ever happens I expect a big red box containing at least £5000 or maybe a place on the show as a contestant. And if they call me back and offer me £2500? Hmmm, what do you think?

Deal or no deal?

Postscript: Blogger's spellchecker returns to form by suggesting I replace 'fanbase' with 'beanbags'. One of these days I'm going to say 'yes' to all its suggested changes and see if anyone can actually understand what I wrote.

Monday, November 27, 2006

27 November 2006: Pet

While the Bithell family welcomes another new member to its number (congratulations to them all, especially Helen for squeezing out a 10lb 9oz Reuben), things have been a little more peaceful here in stormy Southampton. Thanksgiving was fun last week (and we've already almost finished the leftover turkey, believe it or not) and partly as a result of having all the family over, I discovered a fascinating piece of paper tucked away upstairs.

We had to tidy up, you see. And that meant sorting out the 'office' - which, since we moved in at the end of September, had actually been used as a 'random storage place' for all the things that we didn't know where to put. Much of last week was spent sorting, shredding, putting stuff in the loft, but one box in particular proved of special interest. I had barely touched it since lining it with newspaper some twelve and a bit years ago to pack my stuff to go to university. Back then it contained a couple of plates, a random knife or fork and some obscure odds and ends that I thought might be useful. So last week I had to actually unpack it all and find such things as the random knife still in there. But most interesting of all was, of course, the newspaper.

Now, while most of it was from September 1994 (back then the Premiership trophy was held by Blackburn Rovers, if you can believe it), for some unknown reason one of the pieces used for packing was from The Guardian, dated 29 May 1979. Yes, 1979. How did it come to be there? I have no idea. But I thought it might contain some fascinating information, so I had a quick look through it and found absolutely nothing of any interest at all. Some kind of Middle-East unrest, issues in Northern Ireland - could have been today. The most interesting 'news' item was the bird report from Cheshire, where the correspondent relayed the exciting news that for the first time that spring, the swallows had arrived and indeed stayed all week.

However, tucked away in the corner was an advertisement that did nicely date the newspaper: a quarter-page piece encouraging the reader to invest in the machine of the future - the Commodore PET.

Feel free to click on it to get a full-scale version of the advert, but there are two key points I wish to draw out from it. Firstly, the carefully-worded piece is keen to make it clear that the PET is astoundingly useful in all circumstances: indeed, despite being a SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) machine ('for the same price as a typewriter!'), you can in fact use it to control industrial power plants:

Ooo, mummy I want one for Christmas! Yet secondly, not content with this, you can also play a wide variety of games with it...

Just what you want to do on the same machine that runs the Hinkley Point Nuclear Power facility. Of course, this was in the days before multitasking so there was little danger of Alt-Tabbing to the wrong window before hitting "SELF_DESTRUCT".

The most interesting thing about this computer, however, is not its amazing technological advancement (the model pictured comes with a whole 4k of 8-bit RAM) or indeed the fact the cassette comes built in and it's available with a larger keyboard (ooo) but the Operating System and built-in language was called 'Commodore BASIC', programmed by two gentlemen named Paul Allen and Bill Gates who had just recently founded a company named 'Micro-Soft'. They sold Commodore BASIC to Commodore for a one-off fee of $10000, with no royalties or anything else coming back to them. In fact, this is the only example in the history of Microsoft of them selling anything on a one-time royalty-free basis regardless of the number of copies used or sold.

So there, a little history on this AKTing Monday morning. Now it's time for the weekly meeting, where I doubt we'll be discussing the potential for semantic web systems that allow you to both run industrial plants and play space games. Frankly I think the computer industry just isn't imaginative any more.

Addendum: It is pointed out to me that May 1979 was actually a very interesting time, and The Guardian did indeed report interesting things during those days: for example, the election of Margaret Thatcher on May 4 and just two days after the PET advert went to press, Nottingham Forest won the European Cup (now Champions League). Funny to think Forest are playing the mighty Salisbury Town next weekend, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

21 November 2006: Wow

... that was quick.

Elsewhere, I sadly let my William Gibson radar slip and missed the announcement that his new novel, 'Spook Country', is now with the publishers and should be with us mortals (at least in some countries) on 7 August next year. Part of the reason for the radar slipping, incidentally, is for a change not due to work pressures but actually because WG's blog has been quite heavily featuring random outtakes from said work, being followed up with much F:F:F-like discussion on the forum, and I didn't want to read anything of it before I can actually sit down and read the whole thing. I read a chapter of Pattern Recognition about a month before I got the book and later wished I hadn't.

Back in the real world of smart software and AKTing matters, it occurs to me to at least ask whether Oracle 10g's adoption of RDF storage as an optional add-on is making much impact in terms of the semantic web in the business place - or even just data format questions - as it's been a while since the release and nobody much seems bothered by it (source: trying googling on 'Oracle RDF' and see how many hits are from 2005 and how many from 2006). The reason I ask: Stellent have been bought by Oracle, meaning almost my entire computer research/experience is seeming to come together in one big Oracle-shaped lump, meaning I'm soon going to become either extremely central or utterly useless in the industry as a whole.

Finally of course, CONGRATULATIONS to Andy and Andrea who, as mentioned in a previous comment by the great Mr Moore himself, are now engaged. Good luck to them both!

Monday, November 20, 2006

20 November 2006: Forever

SaintsForever, the most popular and balanced Southampton FC fans messageboard, is no more.

Nobody seems quite sure what precipitated it happening yesterday afternoon (a comfortable away win the day before should have seen people in a good mood, right?) but after months of stress, abuse, threats and the like, Keith seems to have said 'ok, that's it'. A month or so ago the site was suspended for a few days while they decided what to do, but then re-opened. And now this... a surprise, but sadly that's the way of things.

SaintsForever was good on a number of levels: Keith ran the site himself, with the help of some admin folks, and never put advertising on the site (different from Pasoti, where I often find adverts for 'Portsmouth' related stuff in the Google Ads, obviously Google being unable to distinguish Portsmouth from Plymouth (the smell it usually enough to be able to tell)). The site got very high profile last summer, around the time of the Wilde takeover, mainly because for a while SaintsForever actually became the official unofficial mouthpiece of Michael Wilde and the consortium to speak to the fans. Indeed, even last week when a newspaper rumour began about the need to sell Wunderkind Gareth Bale in the January transfer window, Wilde issued a statement to the fans via Keith and SaintsForever. Because of this particular slant, and the raised profile overall, I suspect Keith began getting more flack than he ever expected from all sides of the equation, and just said that enough is enough. Shame, but messageboards are just databases run by enthusiasts, and that's the end of that.

Of course, this leads to the question of where the SaintsForever fans will head next to continue their chat. Longest-standing rival (from Rivals, coincidentally) is The Ugly Inside, Nick Illingsworth's largely anti-Pompey shouting page, but the degree of animosity held by average UI posters to SaintsForever means it's unlikely that will be the new home. There's ForeverSaints, a website set up to essentially mock Keith and SF, but which strangely seems to have taken on a life of its own more recently as a viable football discussion forum... who knows? Interesting thing on there is the rumour the SaintsForever WILL re-open very soon, under new management... maybe that is the answer to our Saints discussion needs?

Funny thing is, if this stuff had gone on on Pasoti it would have shut down months ago. Unless Boris was involved...

Monday, November 13, 2006

13 November 2006: Hiatus

It occurs to me, and to others it seems, that I haven't blogged in two months.

Now, this in itself is not a cause for world concern: deaths in Iraq, the train crash in South Africa and Google envisioning free cell phones top the stories on three of my usual news sources, and certainly each of these is more important than my lack of blogging. However, I feel some sort of explanation is necessary, if for no other reason than I seem to have a spare fifteen minutes before this week's AKT meeting.

Curiously, the fact that I wasn't blogging on This AKTing Lark ties in with the fact that I wasn't AKTing for the last month or so either. As the magical PhD funding drew to a conclusion at the end of September, and with it came the switch to 'nominal' student status while I find the time to write the final six paragraphs of the thesis (yes, I counted them this morning) and print it out, the combination of 'AAAAH I'M FREE' feelings and 'OH POO POO POO HOW DO WE PAY THE RENT?', along with ongoing lack of movement on the Research Fellow job front, led to an unnamed company based close to London and a month of decidedly non-AKT contract work.

Now, having read the contract with said company very closely, it occurred that they weren't at all keen on me mentioning in blog-format their name or anything to do with my work during the time I was under contract. So no, I can't tell you who they were or what I was doing for them, except for one word which, to start with, brought back many happy (cough) memories of QAS: Stellent.

So that was October dealt with, spent working probably a good bit harder than I thought I would have to work but learning a lot along the way and starting to think about how RDF and Ontologies could/would/should fit inside a commercial Content Management System (probably something to do with metadata, but I'm not really sure: mainly because, FOAF apart, nobody really knows what to do with RDF yet). I actually enjoyed it quite a lot more than I ever enjoyed the equivalent work at QAS - probably because there was a good deal of creative freedom as well as some genuinely interesting projects. So that was good.

Anyway, it's all over now. ISWC last week saw a dull presentation by a heavily jet-lagged not-really-PhD-student-but-not-yet-officially-RF about why RDF and 3Store was necessary alongside traditional SQL approaches when dealing with performing calculations on large sets of metadata, which a few people seemed to find interesting, to my surprise. And now it's back to the office - just in time to move to the new building (well, that's a month away) - and I'm all excited and ready to start work in a project with the acronym ITA. Which leads to three questions:

1. What does ITA stand for?
2. What does the job entail me actually doing? and
3. Does this mean I have to change the name of this blog to 'This ITAing Lark'?

Somehow it doesn't have the same ring to it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

13 September 2006: Symbols

OK, but what is it?

Noel Edmonds' 'Red Box Club' competition is what it's all about: you have to decipher the symbols by the end of the month. They're the ones that have been on his hands during 'Deal or No Deal' games since March, and apparently there's some kind of logic to it all. The prize? A day out at a filming of 'Deal or No Deal' in Bristol, so it's not really worth it. Interestingly (well, vaguely interestingly), the anoraks on a Deal or No Deal internet forum have pointed out that actually there have been a few additions to the symbols, and a few deletions...

Still, should be easier to figure out than the Publius Enigma. Let's keep talking...

Footnote: is it me, or does one of the symbols look like Mr Blobby?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

6 September 2006: Windy

Two blogs in one day when I'm writing up?

Well, having just mailed two further chapters in for review, I thought it might be a good opportunity to have a look at the matching method I used to tie together the ACM and Citeseer paper sets and see if I could improve it a little. I won't explain it since it'll be very boring for you (it's quite boring for me, and I actually enjoy this kind of tedious pattern-matching stuff) but it does continue to give me ample opportunities to look at the titles of obscure academic papers that nobody has ever cited and quite possibly nobody will ever read again.

My point is this: some of the titles are strangely, glorious bizarre. As a random choice, currently rolling up the screen in front of me are papers titled "A bump in the stack encryptor for MS-DOS systems" (I'm sure it'd be a bump in the stack for anyone) and "A 2-(22,8,4) Design Cannot Have a 2-(10,4,4) Subdesign" (I never said it could).

But my favourite, and the real reason for blogging twice in a day, is the wonderfully-titled paper "A 3/2-approximation algorithm for the Windy Postman Problem." How could it not grab my attention with a name like that? The first thing I love is the way the title naturally assumes that I know what the Windy Postman Problem is, and why I should therefore be excited at an approximation algorithm costing only three shillings and two pence. Sadly, of course, I had no idea what the Windy Postman Problem was, but as the matches continued to roll up the screen, my imagination began to run riot. What were they talking about? The thought process ran roughly as follows:

- It's got to be about farting. Kind of like Windy Miller from Camberwick Green, too many beans, heh-heh-heh-Beavis. (Incidentally, why aren't you surprised that my mind went to the farting scenario first?)
- Is it postmen having problems with wind? Or postmen who suffer from wind having problems in society? Maybe it's a problem with airmail?
- Maybe the wind is so strong it blows the letters out of the postman's hand and he has to go and collect them all again?
- Maybe he needs a van, like the UPS guys. Except without the brown socks.
- Hm, yes. It's got to be about strong wind causing problems for the postman in his delivery duties. It's got to be about the losing-the-letters-and-having-to-find-them-again thing. While farting.

Not even close. Apparently it's one of those simple-sounding problems that we used to occasionally come across at school, like the travelling salesman problem: essentially, what's the quickest route to make sure the postman visits every street in a city at least once? That's the general 'Chinese Postman Problem'. (We have a problem with Chinese postmen now?) Variations include the use of one-way streets as part of the problem. The Windy Postmen have the additional problem that while all the streets are two-way, some are more easily traversable in one direction than the other (because there's a strong tropical wind out there of course), so there's a trade-off to be made between short, costly routes and longer, wind-backed paths. And the people who wrote the paper weren't talking old money, the 3/2 is to do with how long it takes to calculate an approximation for the best path.

Still, it was fun while it lasted. Meantime the matching algorithm spots another one: "A Case Study on the Mergeability of Cases with a Partial-Order Planner" goes into the database. What an afternoon I'm having.

Elsewhere, future-movie-critic-and-eldest-nephew Matt continues to dazzle with unexpected observations. When asked by our reporter to name his favourite vegetable, his second answer (his first was 'fish fingers') was 'broccoli' (which is strange enough in itself) and when asked why he replied 'because it looks like trees'.

He started school yesterday. I doubt they'll know what's hit them.

Postscript: Googling on 'windy postman problem' brings even weirder stuff to light. I just found a paper that states: "Eulerian graphs and trees are windy postman perfect." Intriguing, baffling and poetic all at the same time.

6 September 2006: Burp

One of the sad things about writing up is that I don't always get to see 'Deal or No Deal'.

For the uninitiated, it's Noel Edmonds ('im off of multicolour swap shop fingy, never as good as Tiswas eh?) without Mr Blobby or John Craven or bleddy Keith Chegwin or anyone, doing a game show where people pick boxes randomly hoping to avoid boxes that have large sums of money in them. The premise actually sounds too simple: surely you wouldn't get away with it six days a week for nine or ten months a year? Well - somehow it works and it's good fun and I don't care what you think, I like it.

What I like better is Harry Hill pretending to be the banker. And thanks to the copyright-busting wonder that is YouTube, I just found some highlights...

Click here to have a look. I'm loving this game...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

5 September 2006: Brink

Forget Lebanon. A humanitarian "man-made catastrophe of an unprecedented scale" is about to break out in Africa.

Yup, that's right. Darfur again. Over three years since it all kicked off, the first two of which saw the world do absolutely-flippin-nothing about it apart from some serious-looking shaking of heads, and now the African Union peacekeepers are being kicked out, the UN aren't being allowed in and the Sudanese government are going right back to their military backing for the Janjaweed Arab militias in their ethnic cleansing efforts against the local black population.

But hey, it's a sovereign nation, there's nothing the world outside can do to stop genocide, is there?

Note: interesting to read some of the American press on this stuff: apparently the UN's inability to act is all because they're too busy actively supporting Hezbollah and Iran. The whole world's a conspiracy, isn't it?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

24 August 2006: Dwarf

When we woke up this morning, there were a variety of things you think might not change:
  • The number of furlongs in a mile (eight).
  • The number of players on a football team (eleven).
  • The number of pounds you get for passing 'Go' in monopoly (two hundred).
  • The number of planets in the solar system (nine).

You'd be wrong. The International Astronomical Union just voted a resolution through that demoted Pluto from a planet to being a 'dwarf planet'. So now there are eight 'classical planets' and at least three 'dwarf planets' which, incidentally, include Ceres, the largest asteroid from belt between Mars and Jupiter, along with Pluto and 2003 UB313 (now that one needs a catchier name).

Problem caused, of course, by the discovery that 2003 UB313, despite its disappointing name, is actually larger than Pluto. So what are you going to do? Create a tenth planet - knowing full well that there are probably more out there - or demote Pluto to a not-a-real-planet group? (Or just ignore it altogether and say Pluto is a planet because it got there first?) So it's probably the best they could do.

Still, it's tough on poor Pluto. I mean, it must be hard enough out there at the dark edge of the observable solar system, all alone except for its hanger-on moon Charon, shunned by the Voyagers and now usurped by a newcomer and demoted from being a planet. I'm told it comes in towards the sun every so often, crossing Neptune's orbit, but Neptune has so arranged its diary that the two will never meet.

Sheesh. Makes my write-up life seem perfectly bearable.

Monday, August 21, 2006

21 August 2006: Bagpuss

As I write this, I'm finishing some very nice home-made peach cobbler for lunch and listening to last week's movie reviews from Mark Kermode (which, by the way, is quite comfortably the best thing on the radio, and that includes Le Show and Test Match Special). Chapters six and seven will continue this afternoon, but I thought it was important to catch up with what the good doctor thought of 'Snakes on a Plane' (answer: "not as unutterably terrible as you might think it might be").

Kermode's reviews are normally a great source of education, information and entertainment (thus clearly belonging on the BBC), more entertaining than anything when a truly-awful-but-clearly-going-to-make-lots-of-money blockbuster comes out and Kermode sets off on one of his rants. Dig out the archives for Star Wars III: Return of the Sith ("better than the first one, but then so is slamming your head in a car door") or the more recent Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest for prime, glorious examples.

And now I'm starting to wonder if my eldest nephew Matt might be headed the same way. He just turned four, and for his birthday it was decreed by all concerned that it would be a darn fine time to introduce him to Bagpuss. Emily's cat Bagpuss. I had to 'check' the DVD before wrapping it up, of course, and enjoyed a wonderful episode which featured a highly-extended version of 'row row row your boat' which led to the mice going on strike. So we packaged it up, along with a Lewis Carrol nonsense verse book to keep the his parents happy, and off we went to Salisbury.

Reports came back the following day that Matt had, at first, been greatly confused by Bagpuss: specifically, he was deeply uncertain about the relatively enormous cat and he asked if it was going to eat the mice from the mouse-organ. My first reaction: ha ha, how silly, it's Bagpuss! My second reaction: hang on a minute, he's got a point.

And the point is this: not that Bagpuss is some shadowy film-noir short with hidden depths and dark overtones (although frankly the relationship between the doll and the toad has to be looked into), nor that Bagpuss perhaps was just toying with them all, giving and taking their consciousness at his own whims, but that if you looked at it from a completely neutral perspective, never knowing anything about Bagpuss, the question Matt asked is exactly the question you should ask. And I never have asked that question, not once in my thirty-one years.

Neither has anyone else, it seems. Do a Google search on: Bagpuss "eat the mice" and it comes up blank. Nobody else has ever thought of this. So now I'm wondering if Matt is actually gifted at seeing plots and characterisations that go beyond anything the normal punter would see. And if that is the case, all we need to do is train him to talk at two hundred words per minute without notes, and Dr Kermode's position should be under threat.

Meantime I'm off to finish chapter six and consider what truly was going on with Dougal and the Blue Cat. Maybe Matt can advise me.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

16 August 2006: Deep

It's ok, I'm still alive, the anthrax hasn't got me yet.

It's just that I'm writing up for most of my waking hours right now, trying to get some kind of closure and complete a full draft by the end of the month. Of particular interest in recent chapters might be chapter two, heading 1.1 which currently reads:

1.1 It's A Load Of Old Rubbish

(now that's what I call a balanced literature review)

and the discovery of CrossRef, which seems a nice idea until you realise it's basically just the publishers, scared of the advance of OAI and the ensuing loss of revenue, banding together to produce their own wide-ranging search facility restricted, of course, to their own published materials. Yup, they include smaller publishers, but it seems be you're either in the group or out of it... and if you're out, you're out. This would be a problem if CrossRef becomes the de facto standard for academic paper searching, but it won't: partly because, like Google Scholar, a lot of the papers are subscription-only, and partly because crawler-based search/cache facilities such as Google and Citeseer will just gobble up the data and offer a search facility that includes CrossRef documents as a sub-set of their larger dataset.

Anyway, enough from me. Time to get back to chapter six.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

2 August 2006: Re-repeat

Quick blog before getting back to The Write-Up.

It occurs to me that I should have blogged at some point last week in one of my 'annual' repeats. Last year at this time I was writing, as usual for this time of year, about the winner of the Tour De France, the new Hillsong album and a little rant about work, and how while some things change, others never do. War in the middle east, environmental disaster, Zimbabwe in turmoil, deaths in Iraq. Could have been today, couldn't it?

Of course, some things do change: Niger, unlike last year, seems to be at least slightly more comfortable - indeed the top story involving Niger as reported by Google news (gotta love it) seems to be their pride at hosting the Africa Volleyball Championships. And as for the Tour De France, an American won it - at least at the moment. But Floyd Landis failed a doping test and, if his B-sample fails on Saturday, he'll be stripped of his title and banned for two years. Something that Lance Armstrong, for all his controversy, never faced. Hillsong's new one, 'Mighty To Save' has received reviews ranging from 'best in years' to 'way too youth/United oriented' although 'At The Cross' does seem to be generally well-received (seems a little plodding to me).

Meantime Tropical Storm Chris, which was upgraded from 'heavy showers' right up through Tropical Depression and into Tropical Storm while I was travelling to work yesterday, seems to be heading to become the first Atlantic hurricane of the year. Which isn't bad, considering it's August already, but that's scant comfort to the people of Cuba, Florida and wherever else it decides to go after the weekend.

And as for the middle-east, good to see Britain sitting firmly on the fence by sending aid to Lebanon and helping the US get the all-important bombs to Israel. Something to do with keeping the economy ticking over, isn't it?

Friday, July 21, 2006

21 July 2006: Materazzi

FIFA deliver their verdict.

And yes, Marco Materazzi has been banned for two games and fined £2,710 for being headbutted by Zinedine Zidane. Officially the reason is for 'provoking' Zidane: the fact remains, without the head-butt, Materazzi would not have been punished. Zidane has a three-match ban, academic as he has retired from football. So Materazzi is the only one who gets punished for this action.

Reminds me a little of the 1990 World Cup second-round game between Germany and Holland, where Frank Rijkaard spat on Rudi Voller, and both players got sent off, the referee deciding it is obviously against the laws of the game to be spat upon.

Ah well. Back in the real world, it occurs to me that H-Index scores are higher in those people producing fewer papers. Even my modified H-Index still seems to end up favouring those who've published just a small number of papers. Which, arguably, is the point (why flood the scientific world with pointless papers just to get publishing numbers up?) but, as it's 'arguable', it's hard to prove one way or the other. Which is a shame, because the more I look at it, the more I like the modified H-Index as a means of measuring scientific influence.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

13 July 2006: Investigation

FIFA have announced they're going to launch disciplinary proceedings and a full investigation against Marco Materazzi, after he was head-butted by Zinedine Zidane in the World Cup final on Sunday.

Thing is, if Zidane hadn't physically assaulted Materazzi, no action would have been taken and nobody would have known about it.

In other words, FIFA are making it clear that not only is such physical violence excusable (as in: 'yeah, he did it, but there was a reason for it') but that if you want to bring verbal abuse to their attention, the way to do so is to head-butt the person who insulted you.

So why aren't they investigating Christiano Ronaldo on Wayne Rooney's behalf then?

Monday, July 10, 2006

10 July 2006: News

Gotta love Google News, especially their glorious impartiality regarding which newspaper report comes top of their search list. Just did a search for 'Zidane' to see what impact the head-butt is having (aside from the substantial impact it made on Materazzi's chest, of course) and it was somehow pleasing to see the top result was from The Hindustan Times from India, not my normal source for football info.

Of course, in the time it took me to write this blog, the results have changed: ABC Online from Australia are now the top story, a transcript of a radio interview with reporter Steve Marshall who begins all his sentences with either "well, look" or "yeah, look".

No, wait, it's changed again: it's now SuperSoccer from South Africa at the top, their story making very clear that Zidane got 'player of the tournament' because the votes were cast (1) by the media and (2) before he was sent off.

No, hang on, now the Hindustan Times is at the top again. No, now it's Bloomberg. No, it's the South Africans again. No, now it's The Times Of India. No...

Hm, I wonder how Google News decide which story comes top?

Postscript: Update from the legendary Blogger spell-check suggester: SuperSoccer should be replaced with SuperEgo, it suggests. Maybe it's smarter than we first thought...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

8 July 2006: Doomsday

Ah well.

So the Genesis Ark was a Dalek prison created by the Time Lords, the Daleks were indeed hiders from this universe, the Cybermen presented no threat at all (in fact, they did little in the entire episode apart from some semi-humorous dialogue), it's all solved by closing the dimensional rift and hey, that's that. On the upside, the ending at least isn't much of a cliff-hanger.

Now, back to Text Twist...

Friday, July 07, 2006

7 July 2006: Exterminate

Just one day to go before the season finale of Doctor Who...

So what is in the Genesis Ark? What's going to happen between the Daleks and the Cybermen? How will Rose die? Will Captain Jack make a pre-Torchwood appearance? And why has series creator Russell T. Davies already told us there will be a cliffhanger ending, given that we're not going to have any more Doctor Who before Christmas?! (How frustrating is that going to be?)

Lots of websites with lots of theories, as usual floating around the idea of 'which old character will they bring back' (Davros, Cassandra, The Master, take your pick). Personally I don't know, but I know what I would like to happen...

Firstly, while the Cybermen and the Daleks are both clearly nasty, deadly enemies of The Doctor, it is equally clear that the Cybermen are no match for the Daleks. The Cybermen are upgraded humans who want to upgrade the rest of humanity (and, from the trailers we've seen this week, they'd also like to upgrade the rest of the universe); the Daleks are extremely fascist ethnic-cleansers whose mission originally was to rid Skaro of their enemies, the Thals: in doing so, they were programmed to exterminate all non-Daleks, which has been their mission ever since. So, in essence, the Cybermen have no beef with the Daleks and are really more interested in humanity, while the Daleks are going to be wanting to destroy the Cybermen because they're not Daleks. So, I don't see an alliance forming like the Cybermen propose in the trailer.

Then there's the question of technology: the Cybermen, stated The Doctor last week, don't have the technology to create anything like a void-travelling sphere. The Daleks do. The Daleks also mastered rudimentary time-travel (time corridors rather than the full 'Eye Of Harmony' Omega stuff that the Time Lords have/had), teleportation, collective consciousness and a bunch of other stuff. They're way beyond the Cybermen. Flat-out no contest who would win in a special Doctor Who edition of Celebrity Death Match.

But then, and this is my favourite idea, is the question of where these Daleks came from. It seems to me that the phrase 'Genesis Ark' will refer in some form or other to Davros (whether or not he personally appears) since 'Genesis of the Daleks' was the story that introduced us to Davros and told us the history of how the Daleks came about. Has to be linked. But: are these Daleks a bunch from 'our' universe that hid in the sphere in the void to avoid destruction in the Time War (and by Rose at the end of the Bad Wolf stuff last year)? Or, given the 'cannonball' analogy from last week's episode, are these Daleks from the 'other' universe (the universe of Cybermen, Rickey, living Pete Tyler etc) who blasted through to this one? If that is the case, then that would mean Daleks exist in that universe. Meaning no Time War. Meaning the Time Lords still exist there too. And that's where I'd like the story to go.

I doubt it will. I expect the Daleks are void-hiders and the Doctor will have to sacrifice Rose to destroy them, same as he had to sacrifice the Time Lords to destroy them in the Time War. Wouldn't surprise me to see Captain Jack come along to help out, and also be the companion in the Christmas episode. We shall see, tomorrow evening.

And to give this blog entry some PhD relevance: had an idea last night about using modified h-factors as a more effective means of measuring influence. Also, the latest SPARQL web service I made responds to the standard question 'search names: All' by returning one paper, "Using Robotic Tele-Embodiment to Bring Insects Face-to-Face with Humans", authored by someone named Stacy All.

A little reprogramming required, methinks.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

5 July 2006: Post-charismatic

Unusual for me to put up two posts in one day, but I read Billy Kennedy's blog and a link from it to an article called 'Post-charismatic' by Rob McAlpine and felt the need to both link to it and offer some kind of response.

At the very least, it filled my lunchtime quite comfortably. Makes numerous excellent points although I wondered if there was too much emphasis on the 'authority' movements/problems (all valid points though). One of the most balanced articles I've read though, apart from that bit.

Reminded me of two things: firstly, when in Toronto we asked Steve Long and the TACF team what mistakes they made along the way: the answer, given very quickly, was that they'd sacrificed small groups in favour of revival meetings almost without realising it (1994), and before they knew it (1997), huge swathes of the original church had left AND there was no place to disciple the new folks, hence they went with Jethro and then G12. (Interesting G12 doesn't come into the 'what is a leader' discussion.)

Secondly, 'post-charismatic' is a definition not of what you are, or what you aren't, but simply what you used to be. So.. I find I identify with some of what he says, in the same way as I identified with some of Tomlinson's 'Post-evangelical', but I didn't feel the name-tag meant anything much if I did apply it to myself. Which is probably good (pigeon-holing isn't a good thing I think?) but it meant that Rob's article (some might say thesis) to me was more about history and disaffection with certain practices within the charismatic movement rather than being something I could identify with to the point of saying, 'hey, that's me he's talking about'. (Which a lot of people did with the Post-Evangelical thing). And that's the thing, I didn't want it to be about an alternative paradigm...

Which was why I struggled towards the end when he went into scripture-quoting mode: people do this when they're proposing an alternative view and want some back-up to it. I felt one of the best comments in the article was when he said that if you took a person who'd never read scripture before and put them in a room and told them to read and understand the Bible, they would not come out a cessationist, nor would they come out a rampantly name-and-claim prosperity gospellist. So I didn't feel there was a need for a 'reconstructing the praxis' section as much as just saying "look, here's a few problems people have had, let's see what God has to say about it" (and leaving that up to us, rather then telling us what he thinks God is saying about it!)

And the biggest issue is just that: I just mentioned the word 'God' for the first time in this blog entry. Amazing how much we can discuss theology, history, movements, problems, heresy, self-identification with groups and all that stuff without actually mentioning God. Makes me wonder, whether you're an atheist, theist, pantheist, whatever, how many 'church' things would be exactly the same whether or not God existed. It's so often just a show, or it's in our own strength, or it's on our own initiative. Where's God in all this? Because frankly if God's not in a thing, I want nothing to do with it, whether or not it has minor doctrinal points correct.

Finally, there's (of course) the usual delineation between the touchables and untouchables of Christian writing: funny how nowadays nobody is allowed to ever question the theological views of the likes of CS Lewis, John Stott, AW Tozer and increasingly, Richard Foster (it's like their stuff is Bible Canon) while the usual suspects of John Wimber, Peter Wagner, John Paul Jackson and even David Watson are always up for attack, ranked right alongside the likes of Jimmy Swaggart. I have no point to make here, I'm just saying it's an interesting observation.

Sheesh. Now how do I get SPARQL AJAX services and semiometrics into that kind of discussion?

5 July 2005: Brief

Naturally, Graham Hiley's article has been pulled from the Official Site.

The freedom of the press was brief, interesting and brief: the relevant SaintsForever thread covers the event as much as can be expected from a bunch of people who have no real idea why it was pulled. Best guess seems to be it broke a non-disclosure agreement between Rupert Lowe and the new board concerning raking over the old coals, so it had to come down. But in all honesty, nobody knows. The real question is: will we see another Hiley Controversial article? (Answer: yes, when the season starts and he's allowed to question things like goalkeeper selection).

In other developments, 4th July was great fun - we spent Independence Day in London (the one place in the world where you'd expect there to be no celebrations on such a day, apart possibly from Pyongyang), the highlight of which was the Duck Tour. I don't care if you don't like military vehicles and stupid tour commentaries: next time you're in London, do this!

Finally, a note from McDougal pointing out that this blog ends up in the strangest of places: 'Google Finance' has a page on Southampton Leisure Holdings plc and guess who's there as one of the top three blog sites related to it? Sheesh, when I started this it was supposed to be a diary about doing a PhD and now it's turned into a financial services heavyweight. Maybe I need to start talking about semiometrics a little more...

Postscript: Yet again Blogger's spellcheck astounds. Not sufficient that it continues to not recognise the word 'blog', it now refuses to recognise the name of its parent company, Google: apparently I should be using the word 'joggle' instead. Like that's a real word.

Monday, July 03, 2006

3 July 2006: Controversial

One consequence of the change of regime at St Mary's is the freeing-up of the Official Site, which in recent weeks had become the home of propaganda that would make Goebbels proud and maybe a little jealous.

Webmaster and editor Graham Hiley, formerly of the (usually critical) Daily Echo, used to write a column on the official website called 'Hiley Controversial' when he'd have a rant about the team, the tactics and even the management. That vanished some time ago, along with balanced reporting, any sense of independence and, in the nearest thing to 'protest' that Hiley could manage, the withdrawal of his 'By Graham Hiley' line at the top of most articles. On Friday, the by-line re-appeared in the first post-Lowe article, and today the reappearance of 'Hiley Controversial' has allowed Hiley the opportunity to speak reasonably openly about the censorship he'd had forced upon him during the previous few weeks and months. As usual with Hiley, there's a lot to read and even more to read between the lines, but it's fairly clear: he, for one, is happy with the change, and that's a good sign as far as I can tell.

The whole thing reminded me of a strange event that occurred in late August of 1991. This was before the final break-up of the Soviet Union and Gorbachev was still in power. At the time, I'd bought a short-wave radio which brought the joys of dull international stations to my quiet teenage Devon life, and of these stations, the most dull (and most easily receivable) was Radio Moscow. Filled with news and documentary programmes about the history of Tatarstan farming and Siberian peat-burning, Radio Moscow seemed to serve one purpose: a sleep-aid, guaranteed addiction-free.

Then one day, sometime after I returned from a visit to Atlanta and sometime before the final Test Match of the summer against Sri Lanka, it was reported that President Gorbachev had been placed under house arrest by a communist-based group who had seized control of the Kremlin and therefore the former USSR in a swift coup. Immediately I turned on Radio Moscow to hear, to my surprise, classical music. A lot of it, without interruption. I kept listening as the BBC teletext service and UK-based radio stations continued to report details of the coup, and of Gorbachev's imprisonment, and eventually we reached the top of the hour. Station ident, stating of time in Moscow and UTC, and the news.

"And now, a news flash. According to the article 1277 of the USSR constitution, Vice-President of the USSR Gennadii Yanaev took office from Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev because Gorbachev is unable to perform his Presidential duties for health reasons. At this time, Radio Moscow continues to bring you highlights from Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto Number One in B-Flat minor..."

Over the following days the tension grew. We saw on television Boris Yeltsin rallying the crowds of Russians gathering outside the Russian (as opposed to Soviet) government buildings.

"The official Moscow news agency reports that President Gorbachev has been taken slightly ill while on holiday in Crimea, and will be delaying his return to Moscow. However, he is quite safe and well. A state of emergency has been declared in certain parts of the USSR according to article 1273 of the USSR constitution..."

We hear reports of Yeltsin wooing and commandeering the military to join the Russian side rather than the coup-leaders.

"There have been no defections," reported Radio Moscow, a defence ministry spokesman being interviewed. "These rumours have been spread to sow discord among the ranks."

President Yeltsin, with the support of regional CIS leaders, presents final demands to Yanaev and the coup leadership demanding their withdrawal from the Supreme Soviet, the removal of troops from Moscow and Leningrad and an immediate, personal visit with President Gorbachev. And, interestingly, the removal of restrictions on the Russian media. He stands on a tank in front of the Russian White House, publicly in defiance of the coup-plotters and their military stance. Thousands of Russians flock to his side, yielding support that never left him during his later years as President.

"We continue with Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker', Opus seventy-one."

The coup collapsed. The leaders fled. Gorbachev returned to Moscow, and Radio Moscow was suddenly free to report his words: "This is a great victory for perestroika." And before you knew it, we were back to the regular diet of farming reports, balalaika recitals and dubious ethnic conflicts on Radio Moscow, and I switched over to listen to RTL instead.

Of course, the problem was that within days, Yeltsin forced Gorbachev to dissolve the USSR and suddenly it was the Russian government who had taken over the Kremlin instead. Not that I'm suggesting that that's what will happen to Michael Wilde and co, just that they should watch it out for strange Russian men with white hair and rather-too-rosy cheeks.

Meantime Graham Wiley is back at the official Saints site, and don't you forget it.

Friday, June 30, 2006

30 June 2006: Resigned

Yes, it is true after all. Rupert Lowe and his fellow directors have resigned, Michael Wilde and co taking over with immediate effect.

All this during the Germany - Argentina game too...

All together now: Oh happy day...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

29 June 2006: Rumour-weed

Can it be true?

Rupert Lowe to fall on his sword instead of letting the EGM vote him out on Monday? Rumours are rife, and they're just rumours, but it seems at the very least that heavy internal pressure is now being put on Rupert to step down now. Guy Askham about to switch sides after all perhaps, just to keep his place on the inside of the Saints?

Who knows. We should send in Larry Boy before the rumour weed gets out of control...

Addendum: Best SaintsForever thread of the day: "what shall we get Rupert as a leaving gift?"

29 June 2006: Change

Despite the excitement of creating SPARQL-based web services and wondering why it is that SPARQL doesn't have such features as 'count' or even 'like' when doing a select statement, instead forcing me down a filter-by-regular-expression route (who was it who said a camel is just a horse designed by a committee?) (thanks for the suitable description, unnamed academic) and despite the genuine relief at being able to write up most of the work into something that is starting to look like a coherent thesis, there remain a few things happening out in the world that are sufficiently interesting to note here.

First the lack of surprise that Tony Pulis didn't last at Plymouth Argyle: the mighty manager was, after all, just using the Greens as a stepping-stone back to Stoke, where he remains amazingly unpopular with the fans. New manager, appointed yesterday, is Ian Holloway (second only to Gordon Strachan when it comes to bizarre interviews: 'I couldn't be more chuffed if I were a badger at the start of the mating season' after a one-nil win over Cardiff) and I think generally the fans are approving and appreciative of this move. Whether it works, or whether the normal Argyle cycle resumes of a few years struggling in Division Two (sorry, 'The Coca Cola Championship') before inevitable relegation, I don't know. But it means Argyle fans are in for a far more entertaining season, and who knows: maybe the flair players like Akos and Bojan are in for a good year (ie they may get a few games). A positive feeling from Home Park. Especially as Olly will bring in his own backroom team, meaning, among others, Mr Kemp will be leaving Home Park again.

Compare and contrast with St Mary's, where civil war has been in effect for several weeks now. Ever since Michael Wilde called the EGM to oust Rupert Lowe (date finally set for this coming Monday, July 3rd) there has been a PR battle between the protagonists and even between the fans, ongoing and ongoing and ongoing. The Official Site has posted propaganda pieces from anyone they can get to say 'Rupert Lowe is a nice man' (such as the tea lady and former Saints flop Augustin Delgado) and sacking people who won't (such as physio Jim Joyce and youth director Malcolm Elias). Occasionally, factual inaccuracies in these articles have led to retractions and rewrites, but generally the official Southampton FC website has had less to do with football than my thesis for several weeks now. Meantime SaintsForever has largely become WildeForever and the latest tension ("which side will 10% shareholder Leon Crouch vote for?") has only just been resolved (he's backing Wilde, which may be enough to take Wilde over the finish line). One question that keeps being asked of the fans: whichever side wins, will you back the winner? The answer is, if it is Lowe, no: the reason is that this is not a democracy, not one-fan-one-vote, instead it's a shareholder vote. If the shareholders back Lowe (and they might - large institutional share-holding companies tend not to vote for change, and there are a good 35% of shares held in such a way) then why should the fans (who are at least 90% anti-Lowe, which doesn't necessarily mean pro-Wilde, but does in most cases) back the choice of the market? The biggest problem is the drawn-out timescale: the players are already back in pre-season training and the EGM is still rumbling on. Rupert has lied and spun his way along for nine years, the last three particularly badly, but maybe it looks as if Monday will be his last day in the job.

Interestingly, last night there was a fans forum. Read the official version here and the fans views here. Rupert's last fling at such an event? I certainly hope so.

Elsewhere, the Atlanta Braves have collapsed in a series of shocking losses such that their record of fourteen consecutive division titles will not be extended any further (sad, but it had to happen sometime, and putting the team up for sale probably didn't help), Sven thinks England are playing really well and his methods are above question, Inkdroid seems to like my JCDL paper, the weather's superb, my newest nephew is getting Christened on Sunday and, from our Australian desk, sad news that drug-busting wasps aren't quite ready to replace sniffer-dogs just yet.

Still, can't have everything changing all at once, can we?

Monday, June 26, 2006

26 June 2006: Through...

... but only just.

We went over to Doug's to watch the game on a 'real size' TV, but frankly that just seemed to make England play even less fluently than usual. Maybe the wide, open spaces of a bigger screen got to them? Must remember to watch the quarter-final against Portugal (QF against Portugal? Hang on, have we just stepped into a time-warp and gone back two years?) at home on a small TV.

Weirdest thing is that nobody can agree on the performance. Sven, naturally, says it was a good show; Phil McNulty liberally sprinkles his report with phrases such as 'lifeless', 'unconvincing' and 'lacking in freedom and tempo'. Graham Taylor says Michael Carrick failed to do the job; Alan Hansen says Carrick was man-of-the-match . David Beckham says he 'silenced his critics'; Terry Butcher has invited Beckham to his hotel room to tell him in person how poor he is, one England captain to another. (Hint: that probably won't cheer him up, Terry.) And most interestingly, Mark Lawrenson, all the way through the BBC TV commentary, kept saying what a good performance it was, and England played really well considering the innate restrictions with the 4-5-1 system.

But here's the thing. They didn't have to play 4-5-1. Sven chose to. He chose to drop Crouch (not the greatest player in the world, but the only England forward in any kind of scoring form), he chose to have the not-fit Rooney play all alone up front against, often, three defenders. He chose to have the midfield over-run with too many non-tackling players. He chose to squash, suffocate, kill the game, playing defensively and trying to make it safe and have England not concede a goal.

The problem with it is this: England's defence, John Terry in particular, is for some reason lacking confidence in a big way. No matter how defensive the midfield formation is, and how good you think Owen Hargreaves might be as a right-back (what was that all about?), if your defence isn't happy and your goalkeeper is flappy, you might as well just pretend you're Brazil and try and score a few goals, assuming that you'll be conceding a couple in process.

But not Sven. If Ecuador had scored early on (and, Ashley Cole's wonderful tackle and the crossbar apart, they should have done), can you really imagine England could have stepped up a gear and gone on the attack? They didn't have a gear to step up into: they were in neutral all the way through yesterday, the gearbox clearly defective. Rooney is the key cog in that gearbox, but he was disengaged from the rest of the team most of the time and saw little of the ball; when he had it, there was nobody for him to pass it to. And if Beckham hadn't scored when he did, substitutions were coming: Crouch coming on? An attacking substitution by Sven? Never! Thankfully for Sven, Beckham saved him from having to do that.

So England won, they're through to the last eight of the world cup, but seriously, had we been playing Argentina/Brazil/Germany/Spain/France/Sweden (yes, Sweden) like that, England would have lost. What I want to see is England play well. What I'm happy to see is England win. What I fear is that England will not win against Portugal unless they can find the problem with the engine and fix it.

That 6-0 drubbing of Jamaica seems a long time ago now, doesn't it?

And one more quick thing: when Robinson went down injured, and briefly looked as if he might be out of the game with ten minutes to go, Doug and I looked at each other and said one word: 'Calamity'. Robinson may have his critics right now, but can you even begin to imagine the carnage if Calamity James had to step in? We'd have done well to keep it under five, I reckon.

Postscript: blogger's spellcheck thinks I need to replace 'goalkeeper' with 'chalkboard'. Frankly I think blogger has a point, and someone needs to tell Sven.

Friday, June 23, 2006

23 June 2006: Graduand

It's barely noticeable from up here in Bay 10 how many, or few, students are around on campus.

Normally the only way to tell is to visit the shop at lunchtime, or visit the gym in the afternoon. Or, of course, look at the calendar and notice how many labs I'm down to teach. And since the end of semester two and associated exams, it's been pretty quiet.

Except just now, when I went downstairs for a quick breath of pollen-filled air, and discovered to my surprise many people milling around in the Zepler foyer. I mean, a lot. Reason? Final degree results posted up on the boards (well, most of them: I noticed a few whited-out names of people presumably on the move from one classification to another due to vivas). All very nice, although notably different to the way I received my Bachelor's degree results across the road in the Murray Building. There we had to wade through boxes and boxes of envelopes (not sure how many hundred results in all), checking each one to see if our name was on the front, passing handfuls of non-us envelopes on to the next desperate-looking person. It was hit-and-miss - some people found theirs very quickly, I was there for a good 27 minutes trying to get hold of mine. When I did, it was nice to open it and see the 2.1 I already knew I was getting (it's hard to get anything else in the Politics dept. when your highest mark is 66% and your lowest is 64%) and there was general excitement all around, particularly as borderline students discovered which side of their marks The Line had been drawn.

But back to today, and the reason for this making me rather more interested than I usually am in the undergrad results: this year, the first of 'my' students were the graduands in question.

I began helping out with programming and databases for ITO a couple of years ago, back when these graduates were fresh-faced babies who knew little about Visual Basic (they still know little, except the one golden rule: don't use it). Since then I've helped two further years of students through the fun and excitement of branches, loops and event handling, but it's always been fun to stay up to date with the first bunch of them, hearing about their projects, their frustrations with the course, their hopes and jobs to come. And now they're graduands, looking forward to putting on silly clothes to impress the Vice-Chancellor and their parents, and heading out into the big wide world of non-Visual-Basic professions.

And I know it's not much, but a day like today makes me feel the tiniest bit proud of them.

Monday, June 12, 2006

12 June 2006: JCDL

Bizarrely Gloria and I are in different countries. Not that that is bizarre in itself, it's happened a lot over the past few years, but this time there are two differences:
1. We're now married, and
2. I'm in the USA and she's in the UK, rather than the other way around.

The reason for this is the ACM and IEEE deciding to hold a Joint Conference on digital Libraries. This year's effort is the sixth and so I thought I'd better put the effort in and come on over to North Carolina to see what all the fuss is about.

The paper I just presented before "lunch" ("lunch" being a choice between a small box marked 'vegetarian' and a small box marked 'low carb') was quite an old one about how you tell if this John Smith is the same as that John Smith (answer: people cite their own work[1]). It was well-enough received I think, and I happily managed to avoid the temptation to head off into Pentecostal preacher mode ("everybody say CITATIONS, yes AAAA-men citations are of the Lord") so that kept the locals happy I think. Also the fact that I was the final presenter before lunch certainly seemed to keep the number of questions sufficiently down, although the gentleman from Google did seem quite interested in the areas where my little program didn't do so well - happily I knew the answer to that one too (some people don't have a coherent body of work, although there's probably a nicer way to put it than that).

The conference itself seems well-organised and while small in number (at a guess, five hundred delegates?) the overall quality is very high, some key folks are here (hello Tony) (no, not that Tony, I mean the other one, the one who went from ECS to Microsoft) and there's quite a level of expectation. One interesting note is the amount of cross-over between the topics being covered here and the kind of issues facing the document-management side of the business world (such as high-volume scanning, OCR, metadata and the rest) and yet Googling on the terms "JCDL" and "Document Management" shows that after about 2002/2003, the term 'document management' seemed to leave this conference. I wonder if there are some things the two worlds should be learning from each other and, for whatever reason, aren't.

But all in all, very good. Still to come this week are Andrew McCallum, Chaomei Chen, Isaac and the Citeseer folks and the 'conference banquet' which is apparently titled Pig Pickin'. Sounds like the south to me...

Oh, and one possible additional entrant into the program: Soon-To-Be-Hurricane Alberto, who's expected to make an appearance on Thursday.

[1] McRae-Spencer, D. M., Shadbolt, N. R., "Also By The Same Author: AKTive Author, A Citation-Graph Approach to Name Disambiguation", In Proceedings 6th ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries, 12 June 2006, pp. 53-55.

Friday, June 09, 2006

9 June 2006: Growing

At the wedding and the blessing services, we showed a DVD of photos of Gloria and I growing up, sourced from quite a wide variety of people! We've had a number of requests to see it again, so I've converted it to a the now-familiar Windows streaming video format, and you may click on the links below to view it! Please note, I didn't make a dial-up strength one this time becase the picture quality was so low it barely made it worth it. I'll put up more still photos ASAP for those with 56k modems!

Thanks to Dane Blankenship for putting this together for us. The music, incidentally, is 'The Rose' by Bette Midler. And to answer other queries, the music for the 'highlights photo' slideshow is 'My Savior, My God' by Aaron Shust; the music on the wedding video package is, in order, 'Pretty Woman' by Roy Orbison, 'How Great Thou Art', 'Be Thou My Vision' by Ginny Owens and 'If I Stand' by Rich Mullins.

Monday, June 05, 2006

5 June 2006: Wedding

The mail this morning contained a particular gem we'd been looking forward to. Gloria's sister, Frances Anne, had put together a musical montage based on the video footage from the wedding that we'd yet to see. Sadly we hadn't been able to get it in time for the 'blessing' service a couple of weeks ago (hence the slide show of stills advertised a couple of blogs ago) but now, for the first time, we present moving pictures from Paradise, Texas.

As before, please select your internet connection:

I'm thinking of doing a downloadable version if anyone would like that? Leave a comment below or drop us an email... you know the address...

Also: some wedding photos are now up for viewing. More to follow when we have the time - including honeymoon and blessing service pics - so keep checking back!

Special thanks to Frances Anne for preparing this movie and Jessie for the original wedding video footage.

Friday, May 26, 2006

26 May 2006: Insider

Oh. My. Goodness.

So the Rupert Lowe/Michael Wilde EGM battle for control of Southampton Football Club rolls into its next phase, with the current board saying they'll stay and fight, and preparing to name a date for the meeting at which Rupert and his cronies could very well be voted out as board members, to be replaced by Wilde and his team. And how Rupert's team are fighting. Not content with leaning heavily on the normally semi-independent Graham Hiley on the Saints Official Website, he has now hired a PR company to go 'under cover' and post pro-Lowe propaganda on the SaintsForever fan site.

The problem is, they've been found out. A Telegraph article yesterday revealed that Rupert had hired PR 'expert' Shimon Cohen, and stated: "in the past, Cohen has made effective use of fans' websites to get his message across". This set SaintsForever regulars on the edge of their seats. Had they been duped before? Would Cohen and his company "The PR Office" now be attempting to infiltrate SaintsForever? Were notable pro-Lowe posters such as 'Jonah' actually plants from Rupert's side of the fence.

Later on yesterday, a thread titled "Face it, Lowe is staying!" appeared, started by a new poster named 'undercoversaint'. Immediately the regulars jumped on it as potential 'PR Office' stuff, including 'Saint Joe' who called it a "pathetic attempt" (which it was). Could such a highly-paid PR firm be quite this blatant and crude?

The answer is yes. This morning, at 12.27am, SaintsForever owner and organiser Keith posted the results of some investigation he and the board moderators had conducted into 'undercoversaint' and a few other suspicious-looking posters. All users leave a little trail behind them, called an IP address, which can be traced: I've done this a few times with posters on messageboards I've run. Normally it traces back to an Internet Service Provider, like Nildram or BT or whoever (or Bulldog, about whom we speak quietly) - this is because when you're at home, you connect up to one of their computers, which is then connected to the internet itself. However, companies such as 'The PR Office' tend to have their own servers, or at least static IP addresses linked to their domain names, and yes indeedy, the 'whois' trace threw up the details of Shimon Cohen and his little company. They hadn't even had the brains to use an internet cafe or a dial-up account. And they were caught red-handed.

The fallout on SaintsForever this morning is quite entertaining, and is very strongly pushing the opinion even further anti-Rupert. Quite how he can even contemplate staying after trying such a trick as this is beyond me, but it seems to be the death-rattle of Rupert's reign more than anything else. Whether the press will pick up on this, I don't know - won't be until tomorrow at the earliest I'd have thought - but I thought it was worth flagging it up here for those who don't know about it. Hard to believe it's actually true: who can imagine Dan McCauley doing this with Plymouth Argyle? Rupert is a businessman, and has had some eccentric moments in the past, but this is the strangest, the funniest, the most damning.

And soon he'll be gone.

Addendum: At 9.24 Keith reported that he's already been contacted about this by both national and local press. Maybe something will come of this...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

23 May 2006: Highlights

Short post to provide a link to the little highlights package I put together for Gloria and I to walk in to at the 'Service of Blessing' on Saturday. I've extended it slightly so that it now includes photos from the blessing ceremony too...

Three versions (Windows Media format for now):

Maybe more to follow later... certainly I'm keen to get some higher-res photos up soon. This thing was made using Windows Movie Maker, which was a life-saver on Saturday morning when we needed to get something made in five minutes, but even the high-bandwidth version seriously loses photo sharpness.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

16 May 2006: Extraordinary

OK, I admit it, the work and newly-married life is taking precedence over blogging at the moment. But still, hard to let this one pass off unnoticed...

Yesterday at around 4pm, Michael Wilde called an Extraordinary General Meeting of Southampton Leisure Holdings plc, the parent company of Southampton Football Club. The meeting has one item on the agenda: a vote to remove Rupert Lowe, Andrew Cowan and the three other directors from the board and to replace them with five others, including Wilde himself. As part of this process, there would be a slight restructuring of the board, in particular a clear separation in the roles of Chairman and Chief Executive.

To get the changes through, Wilde needs to get a straight majority of the votes cast during the meeting. He has access to around 25% of the shares himself, and other stated anti-Lowe shareholders (Leon Crouch, Sarwan Singh and the Saints Trust fans body) can take that figure up to around 40%. Lowe, Lowe's family and the directors facing removal control around 25% of the vote. The remaining 35% are held by businesses and small investors unaffiliated to either group. So it may come down to the number of non-aligned shareholders who show up to the meeting, or it may be that Lowe capitulates and leaves before the EGM happens. At the moment, though, it looks like Lowe is staying for the fight, and so far the official site are claiming nothing much other than saying Lowe doesn't think the shareholders will go for Wilde's proposals. With the figures as they currently are, it certainly could be close.

Still, the clock is ticking. The board have to call the EGM within 21 days and the meeting itself must take place within 28 days after it is called. That could take us almost to next season, but at least we now have a maximum life-span for the current board. If Lowe loses, the fans celebrate; if he wins, it shows a level of support previously unknown. Either way, the club will tidy itself up and move on with the chosen board having a clear mandate from the shareholders, which is a good thing. But surely Wilde would not have taken this step without first doing the maths and checking he'd win. And if he's right...

Hm. Why do I smell another 'Rupert Lowe Confidential' coming on?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

27 April 2006: Knees

... and we're back.

Those who've seen the official London Marathon website will see I finished, and in a dreadful time of a little under six hours. Those looking closer at the split times will notice that of the 42km of the race, easily my quickest section was between 20 - 30 kms, which doesn't quite make sense. Those who've seen me since will know my knees aren't at all right, and therein lies the story...

So it was a unique day overall. Kevin's knee was damaged entering the race (as were both of mine, it happens, but Kevin knew about his). We comfortably ran the first 8 miles or so, give or take a toilet break (where we were overtaken by a Dalek), before Kev's knee gave out. I walked with him to Tower Bridge and the halfway point, at which point he said he'd have to walk the rest of the way, so I ran off ahead, attempting to catch up with the 1966 England Football Team (I don't think it was really them) and the giant green centipede (twenty people in there, you'll know what I mean if you saw it). Felt great between 13 and 20 miles, burning people up, only stopping briefly for a chat with Southampton FC mascot 'Sammy Saint' about how Rupert Lowe's days are numbered. A really enjoyable hour, and a good split time that would have seen me break 4 hours had I been running at that speed from the start.

Then it all went wrong. 21 miles came along and my knees stopped working.

Ten years ago I had physio on a cycling-related knee problem - my kneecap was slightly out of place and the joint wasn't 100% as a result of this. But no problems for ten happy years... until I reached 21 miles. Suddenly - and it was sudden, quite shockingly so - both my legs stopped bending at the knee. Within five minutes I couldn't run - in fact I could barely walk. Leg muscles were fine, and I didn't feel too tired - my training had been good enough - but suddenly the only way on was to walk moving my legs from the hips, penguin-style. Five and a half miles of waddling through the pouring rain later, I turned the corner and reached the finish line. Relief? Not really - I still had to walk to the bag reclaim and then the 'repatriation' area too, a good half mile or more. Then walking to the tube, walking home... not pleasant.

But hey, I did it. I won't be able to do it again - the knees simply aren't up to it - but it's done and hopefully Oasis will be recipients of a good chunk of money. If you haven't sponsored me yet it's not too late - the JustGiving site remains open until mid-June - and if you have sponsored me, thank you very much! Paper-based sponsorship stuff I'll be collecting soon... be warned!

In other news I'm now married, and Gloria's marriage visa for the UK came through very quickly so she's here with me. Honeymoon was great apart from having to do Elton John 'Stars in their Eyes' in front of 2,500 people on board our cruise ship (when will I learn not to do karaoke?). And so it's back to life at this AKTing lark, closing out the write-up and the final few experiments, putting the car through it's always-expensive MOT and trying to figure out how much the university should be paying me for teaching...

It's life. And we're back.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

28 March 2006: Onwards

An update on numerous issues relating to this blog seems a good idea:

Iraqi blogger Riverbend (see my blog from last May for more details) is up for the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction. Good for her! One of the more interesting and readable blogs, Riverbend's was also one of the blogs I found harder to extrakt from, due apparently to a wider-than-average vocabulary. Sadly, Ahmed didn't make the shortlist. And his is my favrouite blog, too.

Harry's move to Pompey was nicely swept under the carpet earlier in the year but today on SaintsForever, Steve Grant (a board moderator, no less) made the following statement:

He [Harry Redknapp] shares ownership of a racehorse with a Spurs director. The same Spurs director who made s**tloads of money on the betting for Redknapp to become manager of Pompey last year.

Interesting, if potentially libelous. What's your source, Steve?

Elsewhere, marathon fever grips Southampton as Kevin and I continue our relentless training drive towards April 23. Well, actually we've just done a bit of running (Kevin a bit less than me due to a dodgy knee last week) - last week the long run was 17 miles, this week it will be 21. After that the 'taper' begins - easing back the training. A wise professor named Dave Cliff told me this morning "the only thing you can do in training in the final two weeks is injure yourself". Sounds like permission to slob out and eat doughnuts to me. Remember, you too can be part of the 2006 London Marathon: sponsor me by clicking here and look out for my dodgy shorts...

Photo: Matthew Evans

And finally, yes, this week there's a bunch of us off to Texas to see me get married. Gloria has insisted I don't wear the shorts to the wedding. I'm thinking of wearing them underneath the tuxedo trousers. Just don't tell her, ok?

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

14 March 2006: Hastings

Did the Hastings Half-Marathon on Sunday.

An interesting experience: running up and down hills and along the sea front with about five thousand other people of varying running abilities. Kevin and I were pleased with the time of around 2 hours 10 mins, although I have to say I did sprint off at the end and finish a minute faster. Full results from the Hastings Half-Marathon website results page: note that although I appear as finishing in 2h12m, it took about 3 mins to get under the barrier at the beginning.

All that was supposed to have been taken into account by the electronic timing. On the back of our running numbers was a small electronic chip with a wire running around the edge of the paper, presumably some kind of mini transmitter aerial to tell the system when we started and finished. Seems it only told them when we finished, but that's ok, I can do the maths to figure it out.

One thing I was looking out for and never did see was something described in point seven of the race guidelines, published in the official programme. I've scanned it in so you can see I wasn't making it up.

Click to view full-size

I looked and looked but never saw a single marshal(l) with a hand-held badger. They did have little scanners for reading our chips, so perhaps that's what they meant. Still, it was greatly disappointing, particularly as Dr Chip reports the ability to make you see badgers by simply by testing your implants.

I don't know, maybe I got it wrong. Maybe we were supposed to implant the chips into our heads, and when the marshalls came along at the end to scan us, they would turn their dials.. slowly.. slowly.. slowly.. and suddenly all I can see is...

more badgers

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

7 March 2006: Sale

It's true, and I can hardly believe it.

The story is this: on the Plymouth Argyle supporter's website (Pasoti), a person going by the name 'Saturday Service' last Monday posted a message stating that Plymouth Argyle were going to buy their ground, Home Park, from Plymouth City Council, who have owned the ground for a hundred-and-some years. The figure was to be in the region of £2.7 million and the details were to be announced towards the end of the week.

The week ended with no announcement, but a growing Pasoti thread that split (as usual) between those who backed the original posters and those who didn't (is it me, or are all internet messageboards exactly the same?). Several people were keen to point out that 'Saturday Service' had only registered for Pasoti some three weeks before and didn't carry the authority of longer term posters such as Mr Newell, Mr Hinches or Mr McRae. However, numerous people backed the story up from varying (always un-nameable) sources, and thus the story carried on a little longer than the normal "Sturrock sacked and about to return to Argyle" or "The real reason Nathan Lowndes left" threads. *cough*.

Then this morning, this happened. And the chairman said this.

If you can't get to those links (not sure how the login system works on the official Argyle site, and it's not been reported anywhere else as I write this), the gist of the story is this: Plymouth City Council have agreed to sell the freehold of Home Park to Plymouth Argyle for a figure of £2.7 million. This not only frees up the club from its rent obligation to the council (not that they paid a lot of rent), but more importantly gives the club an asset against which to borrow money to fund the completion of the 'New Stadium' - phase two of New Home Park, which involves demolishing the Mayflower and Grandstand blocks, and replacing them with brand new two-tier stands, making Home Park all-seater and finally completing the project begun some five years ago. Final deal is still to go through (surely it couldn't fall through now...) but it all looks hopeful.

Of course, the big question on Pasoti this morning is not when this will happen, or whether the deal includes the car parks and surrounding grounds, or even if the only reason the council sold the ground was because they need £2.7 million to keep council tax down (the City Council also today released news of a 5% rise in council tax for the coming year). The question is: who is 'Saturday Service'? He/she hasn't posted since Tuesday (after being roundly roasted by the usual cynics) so the question is, as Frank so eloquently asked this morning, "how did you guys know?"

Sunday, March 05, 2006

5 March 2006: Shorts

Wore the crazy flower shorts to church this morning. Gloria once said she doubted I'd ever wear them, so I wore them to the Sunday morning service just to prove I'm not ashamed. In case you're unfamiliar with them, they look like this:

The purpose of this flowery exercise was to raise a little awareness for the fact I'm running the London Marathon this year (in case you hadn't realised it yet) and I was up at the front asking people to sponsor me and support the Oasis Trust's 'Children @ Risk' campaign.

The ridicule was kept to a minimum, which was good, and I got a good number of people to sign up on the sponsorship sheet and a good few more taking my paper flier and saying they'd be keen to sponsor online. Several asked me if I'd be wearing these shorts for the actual marathon itself: the answer is "quite possibly". With cycling shorts underneath to prevent being rubbed up the wrong way, these (nominally 'swimming') shorts are actually very comfortable to run in. Not to mention standing out a little in the crowd.

So we'll see how things work out at the Hastings half-marathon next week. Meantime, if you'd like to sponsor me, check out my online sponsorship page at www.justgiving.com/duncmcrae. And if you'd like to see more photos of the shorts, let me know and I'll see if I can put a gallery together on something like www. DuncanLooksLikeAFruit.com.

Happy running.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

1 March 2006: Confidential

Next, intimate tales of Southampton Football Club's first 'underground' Chairman. The action-packed diary of a man who's just a klingon away... from history!

Rupert Lowe - Confidential!

One of the hardest things to do from the secure, undisclosed location is to be able to communicate my needs and agendas to the public. Wooders and George do their best, better than Harry ever did, but sometimes it doesn’t seem like enough. Life is hard, twenty-four seven in the bunker, and my one goal – the defending and promoting of the business – never seems to be appreciated by anyone. The situation was exacerbated last week when Kim Wilde decided to put a non-specific cat among my well-fed pigeons, ducks and grouse. Cowie was the one who provided the first alert, a text message from his business meeting in Crawley.

OMG R, Tommy’s dad’s shares sold 2 sum1 2.5mill wtf now, wz it u? lol

Hard to disagree with Cowie’s hard-nosed business-oriented analysis. But no, it wasn’t me. I called Wooders down for an emergency audience.

SCW: What’s happening? What’s the emergency?
RL: Someone’s buying our shares. Two point five million of them. Nine per cent.
SCW: It wasn’t me! Honestly!
RL: I never said it was.
SCW: Then please stop pointing that shotgun at me.
RL: OK, but it goes no further than these four walls. They’re listening, you know.
SCW: *pause* The walls?
RL: The walls, the floor, the Echo, everyone. They’re everywhere. Listening for signs of weakness. Maybe they even bought the shares just to see how we’d react.
SCW: I’ve got to work on Marian’s groin strain. Is there anything you want me to do?
RL: I want your advice. I know I rarely ask for it, but these are exceptional circumstances. I need you to advise me to make a public statement about that Strode-Gibbons man.
SCW: What do you think I should advise you to say?
RL: Something denying we’ve had any contact with him. Something saying we’ll resist his takeover deals. Something showing strength and winningability in the face of the unknown.
SCW: You think it’s him? Strode-Gibbons is really trying to take the club?
RL: Him or one of his men. There are many of them. And more are joining all the time. It is like the growth of the Empire. And Darth Vader is starting to make his presence known. We must send in Luke Skywalker to destroy the Death Star before it is too late. And you are the key to this, Han. Wooders.
SCW: Is any of this in my job description?
RL: You knew the mission when you took on the role. Director of Football means so much more than directing the football. You are to advise me to deny Vader the chance to extend his empire. If indeed you haven’t already turned.
SCW: Actually, Vader wasn’t the Emperor. The Emperor was.
RL: Don’t take that tone of voice with me!
SCW: OK, OK, please put the gun down. I’ll do it. Whatever it is, I’ll do it. What exactly do you want?
RL: For the moment, nothing public. I’ll issue the statements required by the Stock Exchange and remind everyone that such large transaction must be accompanied by certain information disclosure. I need you to advise me and back me up when it all goes wrong. Publicly.
SCW: Would this make me some kind of fall-guy?
RL: We’ll have to see who the buyer is first. And if it’s anything to do with you…
SCW: Gun down, sir. Down.

Friday, nine-fifteen AM. Wooders was lucky to escape the fire. It turned out he was nothing to do with it after all. Kim Wilde, who kept calling himself Michael to hide his previous fame and career, bought the shares. I’d met him a few months ago at a public function where he tried to get me to buy his houses. He was from Liverpool. Didn’t like the Rooney chant. Maybe that was when he began planning his revenge.

Saturday, five-twenty PM. Called Wilde to the secure, undisclosed location for an audience after the footer game.

RL: Welcome, Kim, welcome.
MW: Good game today, eh? Best for a couple of years, eh? Who’d have thought Higgy would ever get a goal in the right net for a change, eh?
RL: Your jedi mind-tricks will not work on me. Now, I hear you have been buying shares.
MW: Yeah, Thompson said he was happy to sell all the shares that weren’t his so he can stay on the board. I thought, well, nice day, sun’s come out for a change, I could always do with a few shares in the club. Give me something to look at in the executive box when the game is slow, eh?
RL: We need the answer to one question, Kim. *pause* Why? Why would you choose to buy all those shares? Why now? What is your agenda?
MW: I already told Keith all this already. Don’t you read SaintsForever?
RL: As you are new here, I will overlook your use of the blasphemous phrase. There are people in that place who do not approve of my direction of this company. They consider the sports side of the business more important than the financial aspects. Fortunately the appointment of George has thrown them a bone to keep them quiet for a while.
MW: So what d’ya wanna talk about then, eh?
RL: You must understand, this business is a large-scale long-term investment scoping a variety of interests. I need to know whose side you are on. There is a war coming. I take it you know there is a war coming.
MW: You’re talking about Andrew Strode-Gibbons?
RL: Yes. And the darker forces of The Seven who ride like Nazgul through the night, barely visible, scouring the stock exchange for the lost shares of legend.
MW: Well, I don’t know about that. Andrew bought me lunch a few weeks ago but he had me pay for it, said his money was tied up in some bank transfer for a few days but he’d pay me back. Never has, ya know. Funny little man, eh?
RL: So you’re not in league with his dark forces?
MW: Look Rupert –
RL: Here you call me ‘Sir’ or ‘Mister Chairman’. There will be no exceptions.
MW: OK, Mister Chairman, OK, please put the gun down.
RL: This is where indiscipline starts. Indiscipline leads to fear, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Judge me by my size, do you?
MW: No, no, just please put the gun down.
RL: So you claim you are an independent, not involved with the battle.
MW: No, yeah, that's right, I’m just a bright sunny scouser with some money and I thought it might be nice for a fan to own a few shares. That’s great, innit?
RL: The war is coming. You will have to choose a side. There will be none who are not aligned. If you are not for us, then you are for them. I need to know who you will side with, Kim.
MW: I’m just a happy –
RL: *click* I need to know.
MW: *pause* I’m with you.

The hardest thing is getting across to the public how much I love this business. I make wise investments and deeply-considered trades, appoint those who I know can do well for the company. Getting Kim on my side was only another small step in that process. It’s one battle to take ground, another to keep it. Wooders and Kim are on my side. But for how long? The war is coming, and all will be involved.

End of partial diary, late February 2006.

Sincerely yours,
Rupert Lowe… confidential!

Note: thanks to McDougal for the unintended prompting to put such a thing together. The real deal can be found at HarryShearer.com, for example here and here.