Thursday, February 25, 2010

#5 State of Your Research Prospectus (freewrite, 10 minutes)

My thinking has come very far just from the start of the topic. In the beginning I knew I wanted to do something related to Biometrics, as that has always interested me since the day that Professor Heishman introduced it to the class. From this fairly vague topic I had to then research into some of the more narrow topics within this field. I had previous knowledge of security and privacy being problems with this system, and thought that that would be a very manageable topic considering these methods are closing in on the general population fast, and they will more than likely be implemented in most place within the nextseveral years. Knowing that security and privacy are problems, I started hypothesizing different questions regarding that subject, making sure to keep on that single narrow subject. With this I found that the question should involve some sort of new "method" for guarding the general public against the security and privacy concerns of biometrics, after all, almost all Computer Science journals that I have read propose some sort of alternative method that gets the job done in a much more efficient way. From this question it was fairly easy to devise the problem since the question was initially derived from a problem that the population was having. Using the question the problem was very straightforward and concerned how people felt towards the security and privacy problems and how those people can be put at risk by using biometrics.

Although I haven't really started the review of the literature, I feel this won't be a very hard part. Most of the general information concerning biometrics is widely available, and in fact I have already found many sources using the keywords "Biometrics & Privacy" which will help me in my methodological literature review. In developing my literature review, I have learned to make the subject as broad as possible so that the audience will be able to tell that I have "done my homework" concerning the topic at hand. With this in mind I plan to take a thematic approach of the methods used in biometrics, jumping around to the most prominent topics in biometrics by explaining how some of the more famous theories have been derived and are used in everyday biometrics.

#3 Reading the Literature Review (freewrite, 10 minutes)

I recently read a Literature Review of biometrics, which also happens to be the topic of my research prospectus. Its structure was much less straightforward and narrow compared to the article that I used for the Anatomy of a Journal Article assignment. Instead of following through with a single research question or problem, this author decided to take the literature review on a broad journey of a single topic, creating a very nice overview of Biometrics. This literature review seemed to mostly be organized thematically. To begin, the author first started talking about the historical aspect of Biometrics and about how it has advanced. Then the author moved on to share the differences among the many different types of biometric methods that have evolved. There were many models and pictures in this point, which almost seemed to take my focus away from extracting knowledge from the writing. From this point, the author decided to include a wide variety of some of the present day companies or entities that use biometrics. He noted that people are increasingly using this in their homes in order to increase security. He also noted how there are many companies all over the world that have started to implement various biometric systems. There seemed to be three main themes throughout this review, the history, the methods, and the use. Although they seemed to mesh together rather well when reading it, now that I stepped back to look at the overall themes of the paper I don't think that they work that well together at all. I think there should have been more interlinking between the advantages and disadvantages of the various methods with the various methods that are available for use today.

It is different from papers that I have written in the past in that it is a very broad overview of a single topic. Most papers that I have written require that you focus on a single issue and then discuss ways to solve it. This literature review would be useful as support for a project proposal just based upon the sheer amount of data contained on a single subject in just one place. Literature Reviews are really helpful for most researchers as they don't necessarily have to look all over the place to find sources when they could just look in one place to find everything that they needed. Although the review may not be as dense as the researcher wanted, you can also trace back through the sources of the literature review, seemingly opening up your available sources exponentially. Usually the sources that are used in a literature review are some of the best sources on that topic, so by using those sources you can almost guarantee a solid paper.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

#4 Open Topic (freewrite, 10 minutes)

Yet another freewrite. I really like these because it gives me a chance to rant and rave, whereas the ones with topics really aren't freewrites at all. Since this morning I have been closely watching my camera to no avail. Apparently it had to stay in Pennsylvania since 1pm and never made it near here at all. Hopefully it will come tomorrow so I will have a chance to use it once I get done with school at 7. I was really taken back by the length of my English Research Prospectus that is due on Sunday. Originally I didn't think it would be very long, so when I learned that it had to be upwards of 10 pages for the introduction I was thoroughly astounded. I think I'm going to really try and drill out a rough rough draft tonight so that I will be able to truly appreciate my camera when it arrives tomorrow.

Recently I have started watching Hockey during the Olympics, and have rieally started to like it a lot. I seem to support many of the teams so it makes it that much more fun to see them duke it out until the very end.

i dont know what to write about I dont know what to write about

So I really do like the snow, at least when it gets us out of school. Right now I've come to the conclusion that there aren't going to be anymore huge snows this semester, so I'm pretty much just looking forward to Spring at this point. I haven't been on my motorcycle since last August, so I'm really looking forward to getting it out and riding it around a little bit. Hopefully it warms up soon so I will have time to ride it around before we move out of this townhouse and move back to my fiancées parents house in Broadway, Virginia (our hometown).

I have also recently been thinking a little about my mother. I haven't talked to her since October because she does nothing but badmouth both my fiancée, and her parents. I told her clearly that I wasn't going to have anything to do with her as long as she was doing this, and I have certainly stuck to my word. I'm going to have to see her over Spring Break, during my bridal shower, so I was really thinking about emailing her soon if i ever get a chance to from school work.

#2 Open Topic (freewrite, 10 minutes)

Another free-write, woo! This week I'll talk about photography a bit more to start off with. Since I am getting married soon and will be going to Peru for my honeymoon, my fiancée and I made a deal that I would be able to get a DSLR camera since I'm getting more and more into photography. Last Saturday we took the plunge and bought a Nikon D5000 off of Amazon. I have been almost too anxious waiting to receive this new toy. Last check it was supposed to be here maybe today or tomorrow, but I really hope it will be here later today. With the new snow coming tonight into tomorrow Its looking very unlikely that I will be able to get to school tomorrow, so I would really like to have it to mess around with in my freetime again.

Moving to new things, I am getting more and more tired of school the longer we go. Professors are just so ignorant with their dumb busy-work assignments that do nothing but waste student time. If teachers would actually assign us work that would be pertinent to learning the subject things wouldn't be so bad, but most of the time this isn't the case. I'm so tired of having to spend the majority of my days in one area just working on homework for the entire day.

This English class is getting more and more on my nerves as well. The class seems so unorganized that it's crazy. I really don't know what exactly we are supposed to have finished at this point, but I know that I've done everything that the schedule has said. On the other hand, I don't really know if I have done those things correctly because the descriptions for each assignment are about as minimal as can be.

Now back onto the topic of my honeymoon and wedding. We are going to have the bridal shower in just over 3 weeks. We decided to have it over spring break because teachers give me so much homework that I am basically unable to go home over any other weekend other than spring break. I believe we sent out just over 40 invitations, so hopefully most of those people will show up. The theme is springtime in Paris, so that should definitely be fun since I can't really get enough of Paris. After this party it'll all be smooth sailing, with only wedding invitations to send out and then the actual wedding. Recently we had to find another marriage officiant for the wedding. We did at first have my fiancées mothers pastor, but he came out not too long ago that he didn't actually accept us because we have been living together before married (don't get me started on the retarded religious crap). Thankfully we managed to find a non-secular lady marriage officiant near home, so we accepted her immediatedly.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

#3 (this is not a freewrite) Types of Writing in your Field (150-250 words

The vast majority of Computer Science research involves problem solving and analysis types of work.  The majority of writing that a programmer does will be revolving around coding documentation which clearly explains the contents and activities found within a program.  Although many parts of the documentation process are short, some coding documentation can be very dense with the much larger systems, meaning that documentation of this type involves very technical writing skills.  When working on separate projects, the type of writing may involve a more methodological approach as many software teams have implemented certain software engineering development methods which involve rigorous requirement writing which inhances the overall understanding of a soon-to-be made system.  For researchers in the field, the writing consists (off the top of my head) of quite a bit of theoretical things such as algorithms and models.  There are plenty of ways to get everything done now, but researchers will always be looking for the next best method which allows a new, hopefully faster and more efficient way of completing the same things.

Monday, February 15, 2010

#5 Open Topic (freewrite, 10 minutes)

This week I would like to talk about my newest venture into photography. I have started taking pictures again with all of the snow, and every time that I get into tangents like this I really start to see my true liking of taking pictures. Recently I have discovered this site named Swoopo, which is somewhat like Ebay. You do get to big on items, but you have to pay $.60 for each bid that you do place, plus you have to pay for the price of the item at the end of the bidding. Although this doesn't seem to great having to pay for bids, if you're lucky enough you can really get a good steal. Since each person that bids is literally giving 60 cents to Swoopo, just a couple hundred bids will pay for most of the items that they sell, meaning that they make a huge profit. Lately I have been watching the bidding on Digital SLR cameras, and last night I decided to buy a few bids in order to go for one of the cameras that I want. They have been going for as low as $1.22 for a camera that is worth over $700, so in reality this would be a wonderful steal for anyone that is able to be the highest bidder at the end. I ended up using almost all of my bids on this camera, and the bidding just went on forever (each time someone bids a certain amount of time gets added to the clock). Although I didn't win this camera, I really got excited with just the opportunity, and maybe I will try to do it again in the near future.

Onto different things, we have finally sent out our Save The Date cards to everyone, and I've heard back from a lot of people that they have received them. We have also picked the time and date for the wedding shower, which is coming up way too fast. We had to have it done over spring break in order for us both to attend. My professors this semester just wont let up with the busy work, and I have various things do every single week all the way up until finals. This was basically the only time that I would be able to do it, because I really hate missing class because I feel like I miss so much and the teachers are sticklers for late work and act like they don't understand that people really do have other, better things to be doing.

As I said in my last freewrite, we booked our trip to Peru on June the 28th, and I am really already getting ready for it. Like I said above, I have really stepped up my search for photography equipment that i will need (want) for my trip to Peru. I really can't wait to relax for a little and enjoy the scenery while I shoot some magnificent scenes. With all the school work recently I haven't really been able to look into the things that we will be able to do there, but Machu Picchu is definitely at the top of the list.

Allard Schmidt: "This picture was taken a...

#4 What did you see on your way to work/school/etc. (pick one commute)? (freewrite, 10 minutes)

I will be doing my freewrite on a commute that I did last Monday evening, a week ago today. It was just after the first Snowpocalypse, and the next blizzard was well on its way. My roommates and I really needed to get out to get a snow shovel, so we decided to brave the disasters on the road in order to make our way to Home Depot and the grocery store. On the way there we noticed just how horrendous the roads actually were. Not only were they not plowed at all, but they had been packed down so much that the snow had turned into sparkly, slippery ice. On our way to Home Depot we took note of the hellish conditions of the road and were astounded when we noticed a high snowbank that had been pushed up over a curve. This doesn't seem horrible with the amount of snow that we had, but this snow bank just happened to have a bunch of clothes and shoes peeking out from underneath of the snow. My roommates and I had been talking for days, seemingly joking about someone being pushed up under the snow by a snow plow, so this sight really frightened us and made us think twice about how bad the snow actually was. After some careening and sliding around the anarctic-like unplowed roads, we finally made it into Home Depot. Unfortunately for us, they were still out of snow plows, so that life-risking journey was really all for nothing. On the way back home, we happened to get stuck in the ice and snow in the parking lot. No one really wanted to let us out, they instead kept passing us and invading our space so that we couldn't back the car up. After some yelling we finally had our chance to get out, and we backed the car up quickly and gunned it with guns-blazing out of the parking lot. The rest of the trip home wasn't horrible, but it was still extremely hectic with the amount of people that were rushing to gather things before the next storm. It was almost like an apocalyptic sight that day. People were jockeying for anything they could get, both on the road and at the grocery store. Theres just something about that much snow in this area that really frightens people, and puts them on edge.

#2 What are your strengths? (freewrite, 10 minutes)

For the most part, I beleive that my main strenght that I will bring to my future career is my ability to work with a group. Although most people see programmers as lonely beings that just sit in their offices all day, it really is quite different from that. In most settings the programmers need to coordinate with many other people that are together as a single team. Most programming projects that you do in the real world are large, and need much more than one person working on them, and I believe that I would thrive in this situation. I really enjoy working with others on projects because it allows everyone to bounce ideas off of each other, meaning that everyone gets to learn completely new ideas and methods of doing things while the projects are done in a much better manner because of this.

Another strength that I will bring to my future career is persistence. Although it is quite hard to be persistent in college, I still manage to be persistent until I finish absolutely everything. Most of the time I like to do things in one grouping, and rarely do I like to stop and start again because i feel that it is much easier to get off track in this situation. This would greatly help in my future career as it will help my employer to get exactly what they want, a finished product. My employer will be able to count on my in any situation as I can guarantee that I will work my absolute hardest until I finish the task at hand.

I dont know what to write about anymore I dont know what to write about anymroe I dont know what to write about anymore I dont know what to write about anymore I dont know what to write about anymore I dont know what to write about anymore i dont know what to write about anymore I dont know what to write about anymore I dont know what to write about anymore.

Another skill that I feel will be helpful in my future career would be the knowledge of the technical abilities that many Computer Science majors lack. Through most of the classes here at Mason, I have mostly learned things that will never come to help us in the real world. Luckily, some of the things I have learned will help me emensly when it comes to joining the workforce. Things like methodologies into the way that computer programmers get things done will really help, and it will better allow me to fit into any workplace that I am able to get into. Not only their methodologies, but the different methods of programming and the insight behind this will really help me in my career. Not only have I learned how to manipulate the programming code to work, but I am not starting to learn the methods of coding which would better suit a group environment.

#1 Researching/Writing Goals and Aspirations (freewrite, 10 minutes)

My goals as a writer and researcher in ENGL 302 this term is to be sufficient enough to do well in the class. I really don't mind writing, or researching for that matter, but with this class it seems that the items that we have to do are not spelled out very clearly. I have really tried to email the professor about this and it seems that they take days to answer, most of the time meaning that wastes the time that I actually do have to do an assignment. It hasn't been bad so far, but recently we have had to do a project introduction and this coming week we have a literature review. This, unfortunately, is all that I know about the assignment, neither of them come with any description or instruction as to what I should actually be doing with the graded work. Like I said, I don't mind writing, and I'm sure that I'll have to do it much more over the next year and a half until I graduate. Hopefully the assignments that I have them will be much more precise than these, but I should be able to work my way around it either way. For my future career goals I am completely positive that I will have to write at least a little bit. Working as a programmer I am almost assured to have to do documentation for customers regarding products that I will be working on or plan to work on. Although this isn't like the normal college essay, we have already been taught how to do this in one of the earlier Computer Science classes, and it logically comes fairly easy to me. For myself personally, I really wouldn't mind to take up a blog in my free time. I doubt I would ever get anyone to follow it, but it still is pretty fun to free your mind of all of those thoughts that were holding you back. Other than that, I think that I would really enjoy research topics at the graduate level, once I actually have enough knowledge to do them. At the moment it feels like most people do not have enough information in their major to actually divulge those deep research topics that have yet to be uncovered. Hopefully after graduating and finishing up the required classes I will have a firmer grip on those topics and be able to uncover topics that lead to unchartered research topics. I know that most research work is done with one or more people as well, and think that I would actually flourish in this environment as everyone would be able to bounce ideas against each other. It seems to me that the topic of research on its own requires some sort of building and experimentation, and that sort of goes back to the topic of students not having enough experience to complete a well thought out uncovered research essay. I feel that the topics would be much better if the students were able to actually construct, design, and implement some of the things that their research has to offer.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Observation and Description Exercise: One Hour of Uninterrupted Listening (250-500 words)

For this assignment I made my way to the Reston Regional Library in Reston, Virginia.  It was just after lunch time when the library opened for the day.  I looked around for a good spot for quite some time, but in the end I settled for one of the larger tables that was near the entrance of the library.  This allowed me to hear so many sounds that I doubt I would've heard if I would have hunched up in the corner or somewhere secluded.

It was almost too riveting to step back away from the liveliness of humankind in order to focus on the sounds that we mostly disregard.  The majority of the sounds were typical technological sounds consisting of the annoying book scanners and over-sized jalopy copier.  Although all of the other sounds were emanating from people, these sounds seemed to press my patience the most and even began to give me a short-felt throbbing headache halfway through the process. Just the constant chatter and walking of most passerbys was enough to drive me completely insane in this small time frame.  I never completely realized how horrible people sound while they're walking until this point.  The constant shuffling of atrocious jackets, worn pants, and sky-rise heels over that cheap government carpet drove me crazy, and I doubt I'll ever be able to stand that noise ever again.

As if these annoyances weren't enough, it seemed like every parent in the immediate Herndon/Reston area decided to bring their children to the library for "I can read" day, which unfortunately caused a horrible ruckus.  I didn't quite realize how young they start out kids on computers these days.  There had to be a couple three or four year olds that just drove me nuts for the majority of the time.  As if the dreadful screams for their parents weren't enough, they just had to sit at the computers for what seemed like an eternity just complacently pecking at the keys and sliding their petite hands across the keyboard.

By doing this experience I learned that I get rather annoyed at many things that people do, but most of the time I just shrug it off to the point where it doesn't even bother me anymore. An example of a small thing that really irritated me was an older lady that took well over half of an hour of just cold-hearted pecking at the keys in order to accomplish her task.  Another noise that really annoys me, but wasn't so evident from this experience, was the unbearable swooshing noise that copiers make when scanning a document.  Luckily only two people came through to use this new-age piece of equipment, but it was still more than enough to poke and prod at my patience.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Science Article Summary - 15

Science Article Summary - 15

Russia to Plan Deflection of Asteroid From Earth

[1]E. Barry, “Russia to Plan Deflection of Asteroid From Earth,” The New York Times, Dec. 2009. [Online]. Available: [Accessed Feb. 10, 2010].

After movies like Armageddon, people get very weary when they hear about the possibility of asteroids hitting Earth, and this is very evident with Russia's newest pet project.  The head of Russia's Space Agency, Anatoly Perminov, said that Russia plans to try and deflect the asteroid, code-named Apophis, or "destruction", in order to keep it from hitting the Earth in 2032.  Although the scientists say that it is about three times as big as the Tunguska meteorite that hit Siberia in the early 1900s, NASA gives it very small odds that it will actually come in contact with the Earth.  Nonetheless, Russia still feels the need to intervene, and they say there is just enough time to design and build a spacecraft that can do the deflection job.  Among the methods proposed, Russian scientists have said that electric motors that turn its trajectory, striking it with missiles, or sending up satellites that use gravitation pull to change the orbit are at the top of the list.  None of the proposed methods have even slighted at the hint of using nuclear weapons, despite the widespread success rates in some of Hollywood's best asteroid filled movies.

Even though Perminov has been called the most influential person to ever articulate such a plan, many still have doubts with his reasoning.  Since it isn't very likely to even hit the Earth, many people don't see the need for such risks.  Scientists have noted that a wrong move could manage to have a horrible effect, instead sending it colliding into the Earth rather than avoiding it.

Science Article Summary - 14

Science Article Summary - 14

Dark Liquor Makes For Worse Hangovers

[1]L. Sanders, “Dark Liquor Makes For Worse Hangovers,” Wired Science, Feb. 2010. [Online]. Available: [Accessed Feb. 10, 2010].

Researchers have finally released a study that hits at home with most college students.  They have found that dark liquors make for a much hangover the morning after drinking.  In order to complete the study, the researchers recruited 95 healthy individuals and divided them into teams which drank bourbon, vodka, and tonic water.  Once the individuals had the blood alcohol level of .11 they were put to bed with sleep monitoring equipment which monitored them throughout the night.  At 7 am the next morning the subjects were woken up, and what the researchers found was astonishing.  Using a scale to measure the severity of the hangover, bourbon drinkers were overall much worse than those that drank vodka.  Although this seems like a big difference, the alcohol showed no different effects with sleeping ability or cognitive tests.

Researchers note that this outcome could be expected.  They note that bourbon, and dark liquors in general, have over 37 times as many toxic compounds as vodka does, ranging from acetone, acetaldehyde, tannins, and furfural.  The researchers noted that as a good rule of thumb, the lighter the liquor, the less of these toxins contained in them.

Although this research probably won't stop people from drinking dark liquors, researchers hope that people can use this data as a way to be more responsible with their drinking.  If someone has a sensitive task to be done in the morning, such as driving, one might want to stay away from the dark liquors and instead choose the lighter liquors.

Science Article Summary - 13

Science Article Summary - 13

2009’s Sleepy Sun Finally Woke Up in December

[1] A. Madrigal, “2009’s Sleepy Sun Finally Woke Up in December” Wired Science, Feb. 2010. [Online]. Available: [Accessed Feb. 10, 2010].
Many people take the sun for granted, believing that it only provides us with merely light and nothing else.  This couldn't be more false, especially now that talk about the sunspots on the sun are reaching widespread media.  Apparently the sun has been having some downtime with its sunspots, leaving both 2008 and 2009 to be the second and third quietest years on record for the number of active sunspots.  2009 would be holding the spot for the second quietest year if it wouldn't have been for December's influx of active sunspots, leaving 22 of the 31 days of the months with sunspots.  Although this two-year low may seem troubling for some, scientists say that sunspot activity waxes and wanes in 11-year cycles, meaning that this period is normal for those waning years.

Although most are also worried about the lack of sunspots effect here on Earth, many would rather have a inactive sun than a active sun.  When the sun is really cranking out sunspots it can create geomagnetic storms that cause havoc by damaging expensive satellites and electrical grid infrastructure.  When the sun is in an inactive period, scientists note that it doesn't have as much of a strong effect, leaving us with an inkling of a change in the Earth's climate.

Science Article Summary - 12

Science Article Summary - 12

Feds Announce New Actions to Battle Asian Carp

[1] E. Stokstad, “Feds Announce New Actions to Battle Asian Carp”, Science Insider, Feb. 2010. [Online]. Available: [Accessed Feb. 10, 2010].

The Obama administration is finally starting to acknowledge the Asian Carp problem in the Mississippi River and Great Lakes as they are calling for a rapid change which entails 78.5 million dollars being set forth to fight the carp.  For many years the Asian Carp have been slowly spreading up the Mississippi River, and now the state of Michigan is calling for a change before it is too late.  If the carp are left to go freely, the fish will eventually overrun the Great Lakes, potentially crashing the 7 billion dollar sportfishing industry in that area.  Michigan tried to solve the problem on its own by suing the state of Illinois in efforts to make them close the locks spanning the Mississippi, but the state denied saying it would cause more harm than good.  Since then the Supreme Court has declined any response to the issue, and the resolution was left up to the White House to decide.

More recently the Asian Carp DNA has been found in some of the Great Lakes, but researchers are predicting that the population is not yet large enough to be sustainable with reproduction, thus meaning that there is still a chance to evade the situation.  In order to stop this onslaught of the Asian Carp, the government plans to build an electric barrier which would stop the movement of carp and allot the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to expand the monitoring of the fish along the Mississippi river.  The state of Michigan still doesn't like this option, and calls it a "half-measure" that wouldn't be needed if they would just close the locks.

Science Article Summary - 11

Science Article Summary - 11

Fastest Wings on Earth Show Extremes of Sexual Selection

[1] B. Keim, “Fastest Wings on Earth Show Extremes of Sexual Selection,” Wired Science,  Feb. 2010. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: Feb. 10, 2010].

Researches observing the club-winged manakin bird have said that they have found the world's best example of sexual selection.  Instead of dynamically adapting their wings to flight, their wings have instead been adapted to create a mating sound that attracts the opposite sex.  Found in the western Andes mountains, this bird is able to place their wings over their back in order to create a high frequency sound due to their irregularities found in their wings.  The main irregularities found in their wings is that the feathers have seven district ridges and they have a single feather with an abnormally thick tip.  In order to make the noise, the bird places its wings behind its back and shakes their wings over 107 times per second, which to put that in perspective, is more than the hummingbird.  Each shake of the feathers allows the thick feather tip to grind into the ridges of the other feather, creating the same effect as putting a spoon over wooden slats.  In order to back up the frequency of 1,500 vibrations per second, the male has been suited with relatively thick breast muscles that dampen the effect of the extreme vibrations.  Overall the study is not only to reveal the adaptations that birds take on, but it shows how the sexual selection process outweighs all other needs, creating a bird with decreased wing functions.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Refined Research Problem Statement

(*) Introduce the issue to be studied.

As issues of security are starting to get greater and greater, the general public is really starting to see a gradual shift in the methods of security.  One of the main methods that we are shifting our paradigm to is Biometrics, the way we uniquely identify humans based on physical or behavioral traits.  It seems like this issue would be just as foolproof as the normal password and PIN security method, but in reality it has just as many vulnerabilities and pitfalls.

(*) Introduce to background of the research area. 

Now that the massive shift to biometrics is taking place, many people are finding that the biometric data given to these security machines can be compromised against peoples liking.  Not only are there ways for attackers to gain access and to duplicate some of your biometric data, the companies or agencies that actually choose to implement the security methods can use your own biometric data against you.  Some biometric methods are capable of telling your sex, skin color, race, and even sometimes your thoughts.  This opens up the capabilities for the company, or even someone else with the capabilities, to use that data against your will.

(*) State the key issue, the overall research problem, specific research question/s.  There may be 1-3 separate questions connected to research problem area. Should be formulated in a very clear language in a form of a question.  

Although Biometrics seems fine to most people outside of the Computer Science field, many people are finding plenty of issues with the new methods which biometrics entails.  The largest issue with the biometric method would be the privacy concerns found with the use of gathered biometric data.

I am studying the advancement of biometrics with respect to the privacy of the individuals who use the system because I want to find out how the entities that implement these systems can use the biometric data against the user in order to help the user understand how their privacy is being violated and what new things can be done to fix the problem.

(*) Statement of relevance to the field. Define your audience of experts.

Since the advancement of biometrics is continuing, the key issues found within this topic will only grow worse.  By acknowledging the issues, the Computer Science field will be able to better serve the general public instead of merely pleasing everyone in the technology field.  By solving this problems now instead of later, we will be able to truly find a better method of security, be it in biometrics or not, and in the end solving this problem of privacy within the biometrics field will revolution both security and technology.  

The audience of experts for this topic would be biometric, security, and human-computer interaction experts.  Almost every topic in Computer Science correlates to biometrics in some form or fashion, so almost any scholarly being in the Computer Science field would find this problem and solution interesting.

(*) Introduce your proposed methods of study, in brief, if you can at this time.

A general proposal of my study methods would be primarily based on others research since I am unable to design my own biometric systems.  It would be best to decipher scholarly articles to search for methods that would be relevant to the privacy and advancement of biometrics.  If methods of this type can be merged into a singular method, the effect may be strong enough to fix the problem.

(*) Introduce limitations of the study, if you can at this time.

Although it will be easy to find sources regarding the topics that are already designed and being implemented, the limitation begins at the design of new systems.  I have had a wealth of experience in my college career, but it isn't at the point that I can go out and design a new biometric system to solve this problem.

(*) Note scholarly publications (1-3 publications, by title) where you might be able to publish the resulting paper you would write.

Security & Privacy Magazine, IEEE 
Journal of the ACM
Computer Law and Security Review


[1] A. Squicciarini and E. Bertino, "Privacy Preserving Multi-Factor Authentication with Biometrics,"Identity, 2006, pp. 63-71.

[2] A.M. Froomkin, "The Death of Privacy?," Stanford Law Review, vol. 52, 2000, pp. 1461-1543.

[3] D. Bala, "Biometrics and information security," Kennesaw, Georgia: ACM, 2008, pp. 64-66.

[4] J. Woodward, "Biometrics: privacy's foe or privacy's friend?," Proceedings of the IEEE, vol. 85, 1997, pp. 1480-1492.

[5] S. Prabhakar, S. Pankanti, and A. Jain, "Biometric recognition: security and privacy concerns,"Security & Privacy, IEEE, vol. 1, 2003, pp. 33-42.

[6] S. Cimato, M. Gamassi, V. Piuri, R. Sassi, and F. Scotti, "Privacy-Aware Biometrics: Design and Implementation of a Multimodal Verification System," 2008, pp. 130-139.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

#4 Refine Your Research Topic/Question/Problem (freewrite, 10 minutes)

1. How can we utilise and advance biometrics while still insuring personal privacy of citizens?

First I would like to start with refining my research problem.  I really wanted to stick with something that deals with the privacy part of biometrics.  For example, I am fairly curious as to what companies or other agencies actually do with the biometric data. One refined question could be:

I am studying the advancement of biometrics with respect to the privacy of the individuals who use the system because I want to find out how the entities that implement these systems can use the biometric data against the user in order to help the user understand how their privacy is being violated and what new things can be done to fix the problem.

Possible answers would be the subject that I have heard of in class (but not researched) which is called cancelable biometrics.  We all know that our own biometric data cannot be changed because we cannot just change our fingerprints, but with this new method the security system would implement some sort of hashing or manipulation algorithm which would safeguard the user from even having to lose their biometric data in the first place.  As for the issues of their privacy being used against them, the companies that create these security systems should also do algorithms which hide important data from the company.  This would then safeguard the user from racism or other privacy-eluding acts that would allow the company to figure out the users color, race, gender, and in some highly technological security systems, their thoughts.

Another issue that I would like to get into would be the issue regarding the national DNA database for newborns.  Although this doesn't seem like biometrics, under the shell it is being used as an uniquely identifiable source, which categorizes it as biometrics.

Science Article Summary - 10

Science Article Summary - 10

Evidence Builds on Color of Dinosaurs

[1]C. Zimmer, “Evidence Builds on Color of Dinosaurs,” The New York Times, Feb. 2010. [Online]. Available: [Accessed Feb. 6, 2010].

After the thriller "Jurassic Park" most people would think that scientists had a fairly good idea of the color of dinosaurs, but the case is much the opposite.  Up until last week, many paleontologists had no overwhelming evidence for the colors of dinosaurs, but luckily, a group of researchers at Yale have finally been able to identify what dinosaurs actually looked like over 125 million years ago.  Since feathers have pigment-loaded sacs called melanosomes, the researchers were able to work in conjunction with biologist Matthew Shawkey to predict the color of feathers from the melanosomes only.  This discovery by the researchers not only uncovers our curiosities about the characteristics of the ancient creatures, but it also supports that birds are actually descendants from dinosaurs. 

One main find using this process has been the discovery of the Anchiornis's unique color pattern, which just happens to very close to the present day Silver Spangled Hamburgs chickens.  The researchers noted that the Anchiornis, just like the present day chicken breed, used their colors for some visual function.  These functions can range from attracting mates to using their black and white limbs to escape predators, which apparently confuses predators and is more popularly seen in Zebras.

Science Article Summary - 9

Science Article Summary - 9

Altitude Causes Weight Loss Without Exercise

[1] T. Ghose, “Altitude Causes Weight Loss Without Exercise,” Wired Science, Feb. 2010. [Online]. Available: [Accessed Feb. 6, 2010].

We know that most people in the world are overweight, and just a influx of weight-loss medication hits the general public in commercial form, researchers have finally found a better, more relaxing way to help lose weight.  Instead of exercising to lose the weight, researchers have found that retreats as short as a week in high elevation areas can make you lose the weight and help you to better keep it off.  The good thing about this method is that the overweight people do not have to eat any differently, they can eat as much as they want, the only requirement is that they do it in the higher elevations.  All seems fairly straightforward with this method, but underneath the shell one can also find a plethora of issues with this method.  Not only is it harder for the obese to get up to the high elevation, but once they are there they are more prone to various health problems including altitude sickness, edema, and heart attacks.  The main issue, heart attacks, is said to be a very serious problem as inflammation can be made worse by the stronger attitudinal pressures, so anyone wishing to try this technique should take extreme caution.

Although this technique does work, and seems to work even after they come down from the high elevation, the effect does seem to decrease back to normality after about six months.  Researchers have noted that to make this a fully functional weight loss technique, people would have to try and go up and down the mountain in certain intervals in order to keep the weight loss function and to keep their metabolism at stable levels.

Science Article Summary - 8

Science Article Summary - 8
Google Asks Spy Agency for Help With Inquiry Into Cyberattacks
[1] J. Markoff, “Google Asks Spy Agency for Help With Inquiry Into Cyberattacks,” The New York
Times, Feb. 2010. [Online]. Available: [Accessed Feb.  6, 2010].

Since the cyberattacks at Google last year, Google has been trying to pinpoint just who exactly those attackers were.  Many other companies were attacked in much the same way that Google was, and many of those companies security analysts have stated that the attacks came from Taiwan.  Google being to arrogant to believe this, notes that they dug deeper into the location of the attackers, and that the exact location resides in China.  Since this release, Google has decided to cease all business operations in China regardless of the attackers actually location.  If ceasing business operations wasn't enough, Google has now decided to team with the National Security Agency, the agency in charge of global electronic surveillance, to try and find out more information about the attackers.  As if the choice of working with the government isn't an oddity on its own for such a technical powerhouse, the choice of agency is also raising questions with many people surrounding the issue.  Instead of working with the Department of Homeland Security, which has the authority for domestic attacks, Google may have decided to work with the N.S.A in order to avoid having its many services regulated as part of the "critical infrastructure" of the United States.  As if this issue isn't enough, the pairing of such a commercial company and federal agency may also have some implications towards the privacy of many of the services that Google offers, only adding to the notion that the government will have full control over our everyday lives.

#5 Learning Styles (freewrite, 10 minutes)

As I said in my introduction, both the quiz, and the readings seemed to correlate to give me the Logical-Mathematical preferred learning style. During class I love to set and read slides, I think its much easier to capture the information in that way. I really feel that I need time to capture the information so that I can take really detailed, almost verbatum notes. After I finish these notes I usually go back and study quite hard before a test, and for the most part I have always done fine. Other than notes, I can usually handle when teachers write, or do lectures on the white-boards. I can usually keep up with them in this manner, but sometimes when they bust out the diagrams or drawings I am forced to pull out the notebook to jot them down. More often than not I try to take all of my notes on the computer. I feel that I am completely organized when I use that method of note-taking, whereas with paper I just feel inefficient as writing is generally much slower than typing.

One problem I have in classes, particularly this semester, is that all of my teachers will teach from powerpoint presentations, which I normally would cherish, but this semester EVERY professor I have seems to fly through them. Instead of facilitating my learning ability, flying through slides only causes me to try and cram the information the teacher is feeding me, and most of the time I end up falling behind while the professor rushes to the next slide. Other than not learning quite up to par, the teachers just seem to love throwing information at us, and by flying through the slides it allows the teachers to cover well up to 3 chapters per week which seems overwhelming to most.

In my Computer Science major, I do sometimes get a chance to work as a group, and generally I do very well with this type of setting as long as everyone is willing to be a part of the team and do their share of work. I think I probably do work better with a team because it allows everyone to be a check for the work, and other than that it allows everyone to bounce ideas back and forth. Rather than creating a single method for designing and implementing a system, this method of bouncing ideas back and forth allows us to better understand every available method, thus allowing us to learn new, better things.

I find that in math classes, where slides are not available, that just copying what the professor is writing on the board verbatim is the best method. This guarantees that when I go back to study I will have every available resource and be able to complete the problems much in the same way the professor would.

Friday, February 5, 2010

#6 Open Topic (freewrite, 10 minutes)

Since the snow is here, it would seem pretty logical for me to talk about it for a little bit. I love the snow and all, but George Mason has some serious issues with the way in which they deal with closing the school. The other day (Tuesday) when it snowed, school closed at 7 pm, which isn't too bad, except that I had class from 5:55 until 7:10. This meant that I would have to stay there, grunt through the snow and get out of class just 10 minutes early. Well since I live almost 15 miles away and it was snowing well before 5 pm, I decided I would just go to my professor and hand my homework in. I asked him if he was planning on holding class even though it was snowing and campus was closing, he reponded with a simple "yes". He then went on to note that he lived close to campus, and the snow really wasn't a problem for him. This really rubbed me the wrong way, especially since GMU is such a commuter school. The next class time I figured out that he really had held class during the snowfall, and that I had missed almost 2 full sections (this is a Calculus III class). I just wanted to rant about this a little because it seems so inconsiderate that professors would even do such a thing. Just because you will have no problem with the snow doesn't mean that you need to endanger the other 2/3 of your class that will probably have to drive in it. Furthermore, I have almost had it with mason and their system of closing school when snow is imminent. I haven't had to deal with it this semester, but my roommate has, and it's completely rediculous to try and squeeze in as many classes as you can right before the snow comes. For those that do commute, waiting until the last moment could cause them to wreck or even be stuck at the school. It almost seems like mason doesn't even want to deal with closing the school just so they can take in the money that they make from meal and bookstore sales from the commutes that wouldn't have to be there if they would close schools.

Another topic of interest would be my wedding coming up on June 25, 2010. Time seems to be flying now, and I'm finding it even harder to concentrate and help my fiancée with it when I have so much work to do with school. Just last night we made the final decision for our honeymoon destination and we actually booked it. We will be going to Peru on June 28, and we will be staying there for almost 11 days. I can wait for this trip and all of the new things that I will be able to see in this country. Before going I would really like to save up enough money to buy a DSLR professional-grade camera so that I can get some great photography shots. I have been wanting one for a while now, and this only gives me a reason to purchase one. We haven't really figured out the itenerary for the trip yet, but I really want to make a trip to Machu Picchu one of my top priorities.

#3 (this is not a freewrite) - Survey of Current Topics in Your Field (research and brainstorm)

As security is a pressing concern in society, more Computer Scientists are quickly trying to find a way to solve the problems of security in many areas.  Besides the usual password, which can be easily stolen if wanted, the new methods concern unique identifying measurements of our bodies that act as our "passwords".  Many people have known about the standard fingerprint used by the police, but now the field has started to integrate this biometrics technology into many of the laptops that are being sold around the world.  If you're lucky enough to have one of these laptops, you know that instead of entering your password at prompts, this feature allows you to just slide your finger across a small scanner on your laptop.  The field of biometrics happens to go well over this topic though, especially as many people were trying to create copies of others fingerprints, thus making the method unsafe just like regular passwords.  One other topic of interest would be eye scanners.  Just like our fingerprints, the irises in our eyes are completely identical from person to person, even the irises on a single human are different from one another.  This makes it a great system of security because your irises are one thing on your body that would be fairly hard to copy.  We usually see this type of security software in the futuristic movies and shows, but this once futuristic technique is very close to becoming a reality.

Now that the use of biometrics is becoming more widespread, the threats against this type of security technique are finally showing themselves.  Yes, it may be hard to reproduce someones iris, but if someone manages to steal this image, there really isn't any way to magically change your iris to a new uniquely identifiable iris.  This scenario has paved the way for more, unusual types of storage methods which involve hashing and image processing which allows the actual image to be hidden and only shown in its processed form.

Open-Source Software 

If you aren't a Computer Science major, chances are you have never heard of open-source software.  Most of us are trained to use windows, and a small percentage of us are trained to use Mac's, but did you know that there is a third contender in this operating systems race?  It is called Linux, and was derived from Unix a while ago as a free operating system alternative to both Windows and Mac.  By free, I mean absolutely free.  If you are knowledgeable enough to tweak the code found in the Linux system, you can even design your own free software systems that model Linux.  Along with this operating system comes thousands upon thousands of free applications.  Linux has been lucky enough to morph into a complete operating system, and by that I mean that you can do everything in Linux that you would ever dream of doing in Windows and more!  The applications that are available for Linux mimic most software on Windows, and most of them even allow you more freedom if you're willing to learn a few things.

Luckily Linux is finally starting to become mainstream as it morphs into an easier system to use for those people that don't want to learn the basic commands for Linux systems.  Dell and other personal computer providers have started to ship computers with the offer of having Linux pre-installed, showing just how acceptable this alternative operating system is.  It has even become so mainstream recently that some K-12 school have decided to install Linux on their schools computers.  It allows them to save so much money over the pricey Windows operating systems, allowing them to focus on better things for our youth.

Software Engineering
As many software companies are growing bigger and releasing bigger software, the theory of software engineering is starting to take a real hold.  Instead of flailing around trying to finish a piece of software, the idea behind software engineering is that you will choose a design method to follow during the entire process.  This allows companies to be more efficient with their software releases and to be more impermeable to many software design flaws.  These methods make sure that adequate processes are taken throughout the course of the software design process, thus reducing the chances for failure at the end of the design phase.  Not only does this help the customers with more reliable, efficient software, but this allows the companies to be much more efficient with the way that they design software.  Most of the processes are designed to allow the software companies to fail early if they are going to fail at all, that way that precious money can be saved.  If a company is a month from a major release and they realize that the software is horrible because of their design process, that company will lose a plethora in money just trying to restart or revive the project.  All of this may seem irrelevant or unneeded for small groups working on small software packages, but anyone that does any process, regardless of a Computer Science major or not, uses the processes found in Software Engineering.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Science Article Summary - 7

Science Article Summary - 7

Wireless Optical Transmission Key to Secure, Safe and Rapid Indoor Communications

[1]“Wireless optical transmission key to secure, safe and rapid indoor communications,” Jan. 28, 2010. [Online].Available: [Accessed: Feb. 2, 2010].

Researchers at Penn State University have finally discovered a new method to wireless transmission that was previously unheard of.  Apparently light is much more efficient than the presently used radio waves when it comes to data transmission, boasting a very large bandwidth with speeds of over a gigabit per second.  Although this new method would require direct line of site to the source, a system with multiple source elements has been devised to rid the user of this problem.  This allows it to be just as usable as the current radio wave wireless networks, but an added bonus with the light waves is that the waves will not travel through walls, allowing for a much more secure network.  Without infiltrating through the walls like radio waves, the signal from your network will not be seen from outside the room, meaning that anyone who wishes to attack your network will actually have to be inside of your house.

Another important functionality of light waves is that the frequencies do not impede on the radio wave frequencies that many special areas use, such as hospitals or airport bases.  This would mean that such areas will finally be able to access an entirely new dimension that seemed impossible before, allowing them to take advantage of the possibilities of a networking system.

The final advantage is that the light waves have the functionality to directly distribute high resolution images at extremely fast speeds.  This could possibly change our entire views on high definition television as televisions would be able to be wireless, thus ridding the need of those long cables that run throughout entire houses.

Science Article Summary - 6

Science Article Summary - 6

Hundreds of Quakes Are Rattling Yellowstone

[1]K. Johnson, “Hundreds of Quakes Are Rattling Yellowstone,” The New York Times, Feb. 2010.[Online]. Available: [Accessed Feb. 2, 2010].

As more earthquakes are striking the earth causing devastation, more people are worried than ever about an eruption taking place at Yellowstone National Park.  Many people believe that the next eruption of this volcano could place the humans as extinct beings, so the 100 tiny earthquakes that the park has been having per day for the past two weeks is worrisome for some.  Although people may be up in arms about this event, many scientists note that this earthquake "swarm", the second largest ever recorded in its history, is no actual cause for concern and has little indication of causing a larger earthquake or volcanic eruption.  The reason this is causing so much commotion now is obviously because of the Haiti earthquake where many people have seen the devastation brought forth on that nation and are alarmed at such a scene happening here in the United States.  Although scientists are not alarmed now, if these small earthquakes continue for a long time the scientists are more than willing to increase the investigation and observation processes that are used to monitor the health of the park.  The main scientist analysis team at the park note that they look for simple indicators of change that will lead to problems such as abnormal geysers, changes in water temperature, and muddy water in pools that should be clear.

Monday, February 1, 2010

#2 What Are You Passionate About? (freewrite, 10 minutes)

I can honestly say that I really love my major, even with all the work it involves and all the fun things that it takes away from me.  I am most passionate about anything that has to do with computers, at least everything that I have gotten into so far.  I really like the programming aspect of computer science, and would say that I am rather passionate about having a job in the programming sector in the near future.  The theoretical or mathy type of classes that we are required to take are less of an enjoyment, but even those types of classes are becoming more fun.  I am most happy when I am able to produce things that work, and are of use to the general public.  Even though we haven't really gotten a chance to do this type of work in classwork, I find that my work process with projects and other labs would be ideal for the workplace, and I think they would be very easy to apply to more complex systems with a group of people working on a central idea.  I think I will really love the work that I will be doing in the near future.  Instead of having to listen to college rules, creating what professors want and taking seemingly pointless classes, you will be assigned to a programming projects, doing something I enjoy doing.  This doesn't really connect to my motorcycle joy in life.  I really enjoy riding, and it is mostly a stress reliever and relaxer that just makes it an enjoyable experience.  My other hobby of photography somewhat connects to my major and current career path.  I not only enjoy taking photographs, but I have started to tinker around with the editing of the photo's, giving me a chance to connect with various programs which allow me to think about the computational methods that allows the program processes to work.

I really find that I like many things from the classes that I have taken in college.  For example I really enjoyed some of the biology classes that I have taken, and have pondered the fact that there is a Computer Science degree with applied biology.  There are a few other classes that I have had an affinity towards, but all in all I think that Computer Science is the best for me.  I have been extremely passionate about this subject since my last years in high school, and I do not regret anything about joining George Mason with my major already set and am very happy that I have made it this far to date.

#1 Recent Dream (freewrite, 10 minutes)

The majority of my really vivid dreams happen at my mothers house, in Timberville, Virginia. It is in a beautifully wooded area off the beaten path, so it definitely allows my imagination to wander where ever I please. The most recent memory was actually last night, making it a really conveinent experience. I remember setting out in the rolling wooded hills with my fiancées father. We were hunting for deer, and my fiancées father had the gun. All that I remember from my dream is that we were watching hundreds, if not thousands of wandering deer pass by, moving on to a different plot of land. This normally wouldn't be a problem when we are hunting, but my fiancées father really likes to kill bucks and the deer that were passing us all happened to be does. The majority of my dream encompassed us standing in the frigid snowy woods watching the deer, it seemed like it must have spanned the entire day. When the day was coming to a close the large herd of female deer final came to a halt. A little while after this, we knew the big bucks were getting ready to come out. A moment later I looked up to the small hill across from us to see a small group of bucks running. This also wouldn't be much of a problem, but the bucks were being chased by a wolf, which happened to look like my fiancées fathers Siberian husky. My fiancées father has a strict policy against anything that hunts animals like that, so he seeks out to kill the predatory animals. The rest of my dream consisted of him shooting and killing the wolf-husky looking animal that was chasing the deer before I finally awoke just after 8 a.m this morning. The ironic thing about this entire thing is that the predatory animal really did look like my fiancées fathers husky, but it was just that his love for deer in general just took over. It almost seemed like a fight against his views, on one end he wanted to save the deer that he seeks to shoot, but then again he really wouldn't want to kill his Siberian husky who is his pride and joy. Another ironic part about this dream is that wolves are not found around here, but the closest thing to that animal in those woods would be a coyote. I have actually been hunting with him on that land, and I specifically remember him saying that he would should predatory animals if he saw them, anything from coyotes to foxes.