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.