Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Last night on American Idol, Stevie Wonder referred to "Chicken Little"'s voice as "interesting". This was the kiss of death. In other words, Stevie was implying that his voice was horrible and he had nothing better to say. For me, in school, the worst thing to hear was not that I was interesting, but that I was smart.

When you're smart, it often happens that it is your only attribute. No one notices anything else. You're labeled as "the smart kid". Sometimes, you get worse monikors, but we won't disucss those :-) I spent most of my childhood and adult life hiding from that term. In school, I never wanted to tell others what I made on my tests. I never announced my grades like others did. My goal was to blend in completely. In my adult life, I never bragged on my degrees or how fast I got them. At my previous workplace, the only way most people knew I had a Ph.D. was that someone else told them. I never announced it or put it in my email signature or anything else. When I see people with a Ph.D. at the end of their name, I laugh inwardly. "Why would someone want to draw that attention to themselves?" I would ask. When I taught at the college level, I had my students call me by my first name.

Deep down, this was only to avoid the "smart" label. I hated it so much from my childhood that I would have done anything to avoid being labeled with it. But my new year's resolution is acceptance. Last week, I dug my Ph.D. degree out of a box in my office and put it up in my cube. It's a first step.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

ALAR Conference

Long time, no post. However, I'm back from the ALAR Conference and I have a little time, so I'll post. Hopefully, this won't be the last for a while. The ALAR Conference is a data engineering and grid computing conference put on by the Acxiom Laborator for Applied Research. There were a number of great presentations there. I had a paper accepted into the conference, so I got to speak as well.

I brought two important things away from the conference. The first is that I really miss research, especially applied research. I'm going to have to seriously consider how to inject research into my current job, or move on to something new. Research has been a part of my life for so long. In many ways, it defines who I am.

The second thing I took away from the conference was the need to examine distributed game programming. It appears to me that they have some insight on how to handle a massive number of incoming transactions. Sure, they cheat a little, but it might teach us how to cheat in similar or different ways. For instance, they use "realms" to limit the number of players on a single server. Data engineers can also mimic that by the use of a good, pre-defined partition key. They also allow lossy transactions. Since you're going to be sending another transaction in the next milisecond, it's ok if we drop one. I don't know how to replicate that ability with data, but I'm willing to investigate the possibility.

Lastly, it was a great chance to meet up with old friends both from the Corporate world and from the Academic world. I was amazed at how many people I actually knew there.

Well, until next time...