Archive for September 2011

Are you ready for some…analysis?   Leave a comment

Evaluating a Wikipedia Article

My first thought was reading the page on bearded dragons, because there’s one sitting right in front of me, but then I discovered that the page was too long. So I tried Towels. Also too long — people have a lot to say about towels, apparently. After a few more hit-or-misses, I’ve selected the Wikipedia article on diurnality for evaluation.

Diurnality, for those not aware, is living things that are awake during the day — as opposed to at night (nocturnality) or during twilight (crepuscular).

Before I began evaluating the article, I read through the entire article. Then I clicked the Discussion Page.

Did You Know?

Diurnality is within the scope of WikiProject Animals
This article has been rated as Stub-Class on the project’s quality scale.
This article has been rated as High-importance on the project’s importance scale.

I have no idea what any of that means! I have never looked at a discussion page for a Wikipedia article before. Venturing a guess, I would say that all that means is that, according to the WikiProject Animals, this page is important but is not thorough yet.

I read through the rest of the Discussion page (it is also not very long). The two main discussion points are: 1) the diurnality/nocturality of the human species 2) “moving” the page to match nocturnality. I noted that all of these changes and discussions were made in 2005-2007, so I next decided to see if I could view the history, like in the video Heavy Metal Umlaut.

The wikipedia article was first developed in 2005 and looked like this:

The newest page has a table of contents, splitting it into a basic definition, diurnality in animals, diurnality in plants (fancy!), a See Also section, and references.

Let’s take some of the questions we should use to evaluate a website, as taken from here:

-Who is the author?
-Does the site provide balanced, objective or factual information?
-Does the Web site provide subjective, editorial or opinion statements? Is the site a forum for a personal, political or ideological bias?
-Is the point of view presented in a direct manner, or is it presented in an unbalanced and unreasonable way? Are arguments well supported?
-When was the Web site last revised, modified or updated?
-Is the site well maintained? Are links current and working or do they lead to outdated pages and/or error messages?

This being Wikipedia, there are several authors of the webpage – 131 in all, by my count. On the subject of objectivity, and whether or not it makes an argument, the Discussion page covers a little bit of humor. At one point the page mentioned that “most” humans were diurnal. There was talk of going further into the argument on the main page, but there is no mention of humans on the page, except to say that some animals (beavers) have adapted their circadian rhythms to avoid humans.

I do feel a little annoyed with the Plants section. The Animals section is thorough, but the Plants section is only one paragraph, and its statements are much more broad. It mainly makes the argument that plants have adapted themselves to the rhythms of their best pollinators. While this makes sense, I feel that they could have gone into more detail, used some examples, explained what they mean a bit more thoroughly. I for one did not know that plants could be diurnal, keeping their leaves open to the sun.

All of the links work, and the latest revision was on the 29 of July of this year, making a minor edit (a second link in the See Also section).

Altogether I agree with the Wikiproject’s analysis. It’s a good, quality article, trustworthy, but it could stand to be a little more thorough.

Posted September 22, 2011 by agentksilver in Digital IT

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Today’s word of the day is…   Leave a comment

ERROL MORRIS: But when we see something suspicious, aren’t we asking also asking the questions: What are they up to? Why are they doing this? Why are there three missiles in one photograph and four in another? What is going on here? What were they thinking? The simple answer: If my desire is to present a bellicose posture to the West, fine, clone a couple of those missiles. We know it’s a fake. But what are we supposed to infer from the photograph? Is it that these Iranians are so unscrupulous they will stop at nothing?

Errol Morris can never escape the intentions of photography. Even when he tries to escape it, as in his series on the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the circle keeps coming around: what are the intentions of Roger Fenton? Was he trying to fake the image or was he trying to fake the other image? All that Morris wants to know is: which picture came first? And the various experts he consults say: “Well, it depends on what his intentions were.” Even the guy who eventually figured it out resorted to it (after he had figured it out).

And so the fourth essay was purely, entirely questioning intentions. Why would the Iranians release two pictures, one photoshopped? Why were there two pictures? Why did Americans react to it the way they did? Was that intentional on the part of the Iranians?

He brings up John Heartfield, a photographer who fled from Germany to Czechoslovakia to England. He shows a few photographs of Heartfield’s, images which were obviously changed or posed, but not faked. The difference, he suggests, is that Heartfield meant to create art in order to protest the German movements.

Where is the line from art to fakery? In my conversations with a few coworkers at the photo studio where I work, we have a few suggestions. Is it when we pose our subjects, ask them to do something they wouldn’t otherwise do? Is it that the subjects pay for the photos? Is it when we sit in the back and manipulate the photos, erasing acne, muting and enhancing colors, zooming in and out of the subjects to make them more or less dominant in the photo?

Perhaps photos are more “fake” when we change them to be something other than what they actually were when the photos were taken. Take the Iranian photo — there is a theory that one simply failed to go off when the others did. There were four missiles altogether. Is it supposed to be a picture of Iranian missiles, or Iranian missiles launching? If just Iranian missiles, then the picture is accurate — four missiles, four launches. If Iranian missiles launching, then it is inaccurate, and the photograph fake.

Or Fenton’s photograph — they mention towards the end that Fenton may have moved the cannonballs onto the road not to make it seem like he was in more danger, or to add drama to the piece, but simply to tell a more accurate picture, one of the battleground the way he saw it (with cannonballs every whichway) during battle.

Or the photographs at my photo studio. Deleting a teenager’s acne makes the scene less like how it actually was — or perhaps more like what his parents see when they look at his face. Zooming in to the little girl’s face to better emphasize her bright eyes. She always had those bright eyes, now we can see them.


Posted September 19, 2011 by agentksilver in Uncategorized

Let’s get this party started   Leave a comment

Okay! Here I am, about two hours before the deadline, live-blogging my attempts to win…whatever it is that we’re trying to win. Anticipation of pizza is nigh; the boyfriend is beating up bad guys in City of Heroes. We’re doing this!

1) the earliest séance described in a newspaper

My first search attempt, at 7:03:

seance OR ghost OR spirit

yields 9880 results, and the first thing that comes up is an editorial from the Atlanta Constitution encouraging you to PATRONIZE HOME INDUSTRY! (It is in no spirit of animosity…)

I’m not giving up yet.

After a few more skimmings, I realize that “skimming” is just not going to work, guys. I refine my search to:

seance OR ghost

At 7:08 and I’m trying to think of a way to modify that some. This search yields an article entitled ON ITS LAST LEGS: Radical Reconstruction About to Give Up the Ghost. The second search was an advertisement encouraging ladies who like to powder their skin to use Milk of Violet, so ladies: keep that in mind.

But aha! I seem to have found something. On October 30, 1869, the Atlanta Constitution finally made reference to a seance. THE SPERRITS: N.P. Willis’ Ghost Makes Sound Astounding Revelations. It seems that Mr. Willis is a frequent visitor to the wife of a lawyer, who oftens brings her presents, like flowers still dripping with dew, a book of poems, and a crayon drawing of himself. It’s…kind of adorable, actually.

Hmm. So We have a starting point of October 30, 1869, huh? He doesn’t feel the need to explain what a seance or a medium is. I wonder if this goes back further. At least I can add a year onto this, somehow: “before 1869.”

It is 7:21. The pizza has arrived. My new query:

seance OR ghost BEFORE 1869

…this yields nothing new. It just whittles it down to the five articles I’ve already read. Hmm.

…oh no wonder it was only coming up with Atlanta Constitution articles. I had someone selected Atlanta Constitution. Let’s modify the search a wee bit.

seance OR ghost BEFORE 10/30/1869 using databases: American Periodicals Series Online (1740-1900); ProQuest Historical Newspapers Atlanta Constitution (1868 – 1945); ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1849 – 1987); ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2007)

Obviously I could only choose newspapers that were around before October 30, 1869.

The first three articles are actually…poems? This search yielded 3375 returns. Hmm. Changing this to newspapers-only cuts it down to 394. And the first ten are in French! They appear to be about the French Revolution. Somehow I don’t think that has to do with seances. Or they could, I don’t know. But I don’t know French, so let’s try this again. (*pulls up Google translator*) Oh! It turns out “seance” is French for “meeting.” This is good to know!

Okay, so removing the American Periodicals Online removed…wow, a lot. I only have 16 documents to search through. The second is an article from December 10, 1858, entitled “A Crowd of Spirits,” detailing a man’s encounter with ghosts.

That’s the date I’m going with. December 10, 1858, in the Chicago Tribune.

2) the most detailed description of an electric car in a book published before 1910

It is 7:46. Time to start the second one. My boyfriend is telling me I should check out Wikipedia for ideas of what companies were making electric cars around the turn of the century, and then go check out their websites. I’ll keep that in mind.

Right now I’m trying ALADIN on the GMU website, because I don’t know what it is. I’m searching “electric car” as a phrase. I…I need to modify the date, somehow, I think?

Hmm. I think ALADIN is how we find out what books are available in the library. Maybe? Geez I suck at this. I guess I’ll try going to gmu’s library homepage…the research databases…engineering? Sure I’ll go with Engineering. It’s an electric car description, right?

Is an electric car electrical engineering or mechanical engineering?

I’ll try mechanical.

…automotive engineering…

…okay, let’s try electrical…

Okay I need a database that lets me search by date. This is stupid.

Let’s try Ebsco database? Full of e-books (which are the devil). No results.

Okay screw this. I’m going to try my boyfriend’s suggestion.

Wikipedia–>electric car–>electric drive vehicle–>history of the electric vehicle. Aha! Detroit Electric. Argh. Pulls up nothing.

It’s 8:15 and I got nothing. I just did a generic search in gmu’s library database. It turned up electric AND car, let’s try “electric car” shall we?


I’m getting frustrated and getting nowhere. I have no idea where to find e-books. I’m going to google books. Advanced Search–>Find Results with the exact phrase “electric car” published between January 1800 and December 1910.


But really, this one is really very detailed. I just wish I hadn’t resorted to google to find it. Oh, deadlines

3) the best source for historic voting patterns in Fairfax, VA

So the first thing that I did was…well actually I screamed in frustration, because it’s 8:41 and I accidentally closed the blog post. But it was auto-saved. My ass: saved.

The next thing that I did was go to Fairfax County’s government website and type “voting history” into the search tab. This pulls up a page on all the books and maps on Fairfax County history you could possibly want.

Next I hit the link “Resources” from the left-hand menu. You can get a list of every single Chairman of Fairfax County from there. Nothing about voting, though, so I next tried “Maps, Stats, and Facts.” I tried “Demographics and Data.” There is a lot of interesting stuff under Population Information but sadly nothing appears to be about voting.

I’ve clicked a few other places under “Maps, Stats, and Facts,” and nothing seems to be about voting — just demographics, including the number of people with personal computers in their own home, and how many people don’t speak English, and where Fairfax residents came here from. I’ve clicked a couple other links like “resources” and “demographics,” but nothing useful. I’m going to call a bust for the first time.

Now I double-check my logic with my boyfriend. He recommends trying Virginia’s election commission website. I knew there’s a reason I’m dating him.

I click on the side bar option “Statistics and Polling Places.” There’s a link “Historical Registration Statistics.” It appears to go all the way back to 2000, and it’s about how many people were registered to vote. I next try “Registration/Turnout Statistics (November Elections, 1976-Present)”. It is, again, all about the number of people who voted, not how they voted. But you know what? Good enough. It’s 8:58.

Posted September 15, 2011 by agentksilver in Digital IT

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It’s difficult to concentrate   Leave a comment

So the first week of classes were spent getting my jobs all lined up so I could do school; now I’m playing catch-up on schoolwork. Is it just me, or is this Atlantic essay way too friggin boring? I understand different times blah blah blah, but it’s really difficult to read. It’s meant to excite, but I think its precision of language makes the ideas sound clumsy and inherently dull. While some things do sound pretty cool, like walking around with a walnut-sized camera on your head, he gets really excited about stupid numbers and calculations. Anything interesting is swallowed in a sea of useless vocabulary. You call for help and he sends you a thesaurus. You say no, what you really want is a life preserver, and so he tosses you a word-of-the-day calendar, which bonks you on the head, and your head falls under the sea and you drown by pure wordiness. THIS IS A BORING ESSAY OKAY?

Posted September 8, 2011 by agentksilver in Digital IT

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Skillz!   Leave a comment

In my ever-expanding quest to learn HTML very, very slowly, I have now successfully learned how to add images manually to a blog entry.  I can edit text a bit: italicizing, emboldening, underlining, striking, enlarging, ensmallening shrinking.  I know how to bury a link.  I know how to add a line break.  I used to know how to do bullet points (that has come up exactly once).  And now I can directly add images to a blog post, and even edit the sizes, so I no longer have to upload the image somewhere and copy and paste the image’s html formatting.

After the usual bracket start, you add:

img src=”

Then you put in the image’s url, then you add another ” mark.  Then the picture is probably too big, so right after the closing ” mark you put a space and then width=” and then how wide you want your image (then a closing “), and then height=” and the corresponding proportional height, then a closing “, then a closing bracket.

You can sample my genius here.

Posted September 7, 2011 by agentksilver in Personal

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