31 December 2005 schedule grid updated

I finally got around to updating, making corrections to the dynamic AJAX powered schedule grid.

Was discouraged from working on the site after many unsuccessful attempts to get indexed by the google-bot. Finally, it's popping up in Google search results, and hence, I became inspired to update the interactive schedule grid.

All of the Valley talk stations are chronicled, except for KPXQ 1360 AM, which I intend on including too. With the informercial hell that KFNX 1100 AM has descended into, I've severely curtailed listings for them — only a few shows are showing, since as a general rule, I don't wish to include informercial programs as part of the program grid offering here.

Finally, I've really got a great deal of work remaining, and one of the first items on the agenda is improving the schedule update process. It's not that it's excruciating laborious, as it's a simple text delimited file that has the start and end times for all the programs and is fairly simple to edit — the validation and subsequent error correction can be thorny, especially when trying to correctly wrap the weekend shows so everything balances. Additionally, I wish to add a AJAX powered search facility too.

29 December 2005

Wikipedia Pretty Accurate

According to a recent study of Science coverage in Wikipedia.
However, an expert-led investigation carried out by Nature — the first to use peer review to compare Wikipedia and Britannica's coverage of science — suggests that such high-profile examples are the exception rather than the rule.

The exercise revealed numerous errors in both encyclopaedias, but among 42 entries tested, the difference in accuracy was not particularly great: the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about three.

Wikipedia is growing fast. The encyclopaedia has added 3.7 million articles in 200 languages since it was founded in 2001. The English version has more than 45,000 registered users, and added about 1,500 new articles every day of October 2005. Wikipedia has become the 37th most visited website, according to Alexa, a web ranking service.

Due to its collaborative nature, Wikipedia will never offer a consistent written presentation of encyclopedic entries. The writing will vary vastly, in tone and in quality. But that doesn't mean on the whole, it is less accurate than an old fashioned dead tree compendium. In fact, I would point out that the millions of eyeballs and individual empowerment to create, add, update, (and delete) articles trumps the edicts of a lone editor or small annointed circle that refrain from expanding topics where controversy may erupt or plaster a sanitized Disneyesque theme across the board.

Yes, some fool can instantly commit an act of virtual grafitti, or purposefully deceive, either with serious intent or in the spirit of prankfulness. Again, the millions of eyeballs will laser in on an egregious offense if the topic has any relevance whatsoever. Just peruse all the pages on history, and if you take the time to review the meta material (i.e., history of updates, past versions, article "discussion"), it reveals far more than a dry, lifeless legacy encyclopedia article ever could. For example, this page on the USS Liberty incident that happened in 1967 — even with the stated mission of NPOV (neutral point of views), writers from all sides sqaure off, including survivors of the attack, who are able to add a perspective from thier own personal experience. Even just the reference links, pointing to books, news articles, other web sources of contrasting dispositions is invaluable, with no equivalent in any dead tree encyclopedia.

22 December 2005

This is for all the people who have been saying I ought to have a blog

The father of the World Wide Web starts his own blog.
In 1989 one of the main objectives of the WWW was to be a space for sharing information. It seemed evident that it should be a space in which anyone could be creative, to which anyone could contribute. The first browser was actually a browser/editor, which allowed one to edit any page, and save it back to the web if one had access rights.

Strangely enough, the web took off very much as a publishing medium, in which people edited offline. Bizarely, they were prepared to edit the funny angle brackets of HTML source, and didn't demand a what you see is what you get editor. WWW was soon full of lots of interesting stuff, but not a space for communal design, for discource through communal authorship.

Now in 2005, we have blogs and wikis, and the fact that they are so popular makes me feel I wasn't crazy to think people needed a creative space. In the mean time, I have had the luxury of having a web site which I have write access, and I've used tools like Amaya and Nvu which allow direct editing of web pages. With these, I haven't felt the urge to blog with blogging tools. Effectively my blog has been the Design Issues series of technical articles.

That said, it is nice to have a machine to the administrative work of handling the navigation bars and comment buttons and so on, and it is nice to edit in a mode in which you can to limited damage to the site. So I am going to try this blog thing using blog tools.

19 December 2005

An experience that was completely beyond the pale, outside the bounds of any legal framework and unacceptable in any civilized society

A human face on the policy of extraordinary rendition.
On Dec. 31, 2003, I took a bus from Germany to Macedonia. When we arrived, my nightmare began. Macedonian agents confiscated my passport and detained me for 23 days. I was not allowed to contact anyone, including my wife.

At the end of that time, I was forced to record a video saying I had been treated well. Then I was handcuffed, blindfolded and taken to a building where I was severely beaten. My clothes were sliced from my body with a knife or scissors, and my underwear was forcibly removed. I was thrown to the floor, my hands pulled behind me, a boot placed on my back. I was humiliated.

Eventually my blindfold was removed, and I saw men dressed in black, wearing black ski masks. I did not know their nationality. I was put in a diaper, a belt with chains to my wrists and ankles, earmuffs, eye pads, a blindfold and a hood. I was thrown into a plane, and my legs and arms were spread-eagled and secured to the floor. I felt two injections and became nearly unconscious. I felt the plane take off, land and take off. I learned later that I had been taken to Afghanistan.

There, I was beaten again and left in a small, dirty, cold concrete cell. I was extremely thirsty, but there was only a bottle of putrid water in the cell. I was refused fresh water. That first night I was taken to an interrogation room where I saw men dressed in the same black clothing and ski masks as before. They stripped and photographed me, and took blood and urine samples. I was returned to the cell, where I would remain in solitary confinement for more than four months.

The following night my interrogations began. They asked me if I knew why I had been detained. I said I did not. They told me that I was now in a country with no laws, and did I understand what that meant? They asked me many times whether I knew the men who were responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, if I had traveled to Afghanistan to train in camps and if I associated with certain people in my town of Ulm, Germany. I told the truth: that I had no connection to any terrorists, had never been in Afghanistan and had never been involved in any extremism. I asked repeatedly to meet with a representative of the German government, or a lawyer, or to be brought before a court. Always, my requests were ignored.

In desperation, I began a hunger strike. After 27 days without food, I was taken to meet with two Americans — the prison director and another man, referred to as "the Boss." I pleaded with them to release me or bring me before a court, but the prison director replied that he could not release me without permission from Washington. He also said that he believed I should not be detained in the prison.

Oops, sucks to be you. Too bad, but it all is necessary to ferret out the bad guys. But we don't torture, we just outsource, manage, and enable the barbaric process, so don't be sore at us.

But it's not torture if we don't term it torture.

15 December 2005

Riddled with deception, fraud, intimidation, manipulation and outright theft

Was the state of the Ohio 2004 voting and it looks like democracy is truly going to be buried there soon.
House Bill 3 has already passed the Ohio House of Representatives and is about to be approved by the Republican-dominated Senate, probably before the holiday recess. Republicans dominate the Ohio legislature thanks to a heavily gerrymandered crazy quilt of rigged districts, and to a moribund Ohio Democratic party. The GOP-drafted HB3 is designed to all but obliterate any possible future Democratic revival. Opposition from the Ohio Democratic Party, where it exists at all, is diffuse and ineffectual.     

HB3's most publicized provision will require positive identification before casting a vote. But it also opens voter registration activists to partisan prosecution, exempts electronic voting machines from public scrutiny, quintuples the cost of citizen-requested statewide recounts and makes it illegal to challenge a presidential vote count or, indeed, any federal election result in Ohio. When added to the recently passed HB1, which allows campaign financing to be dominated by the wealthy and by corporations, and along with a Rovian wish list of GOP attacks on the ballot box, democracy in Ohio could be all but over.

Sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us

Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize lecture on Art, Truth and Politics
Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

12 December 2005

It's just a goddamned piece of paper

What our president thinks about the U.S. Constitution

“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

I’ve talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution “a goddamned piece of paper.”

And, to the Bush Administration, the Constitution of the United States is little more than toilet paper stained from all the shit that this group of power-mad despots have dumped on the freedoms that “goddamned piece of paper” used to guarantee.

8 December 2005

Federal air marshals were a little too quick on the draw

When they shot and killed Rigoberto Alpizar in a Miami airport as he attempted to flee the airplane before takeoff. Air marshalls state that Apizar claimed he had a bomb as he ran up and down the aisle, but no eyewitnesses on the plane can collaborate.

This over-reaction by authorities seems to shaking out to be just like the Jean Charles de Menezes killing in London this past summer.

More frightening is the public's acceptance of such overhanded brutish tactics that erase freedom that supposedly is being fought for.