Monthly Archives: January 2012

Retraction watch: Joe Paterno

Note to self: never ever report anyone is dead. (MGoBlog, via Twitter)

UPDATE: Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died January 22, 2012, of complications from lung cancer treatment. He was 85. Hours before, his death was prematurely announced by multiple news services, prompting retractions and apologies from those organizations. extends apology to Paterno family:

Earlier Saturday night, published an unsubstantiated report that former Penn State coach Joe Paterno had died. That mistake was the result of a failure to verify the original report. holds itself to high journalistic standards, and in this circumstance tonight, we fell well short of those expectations.

Onward State Managing Editor Resigns After Paterno Death Report, Knight News:

The twitter account that first reported former Penn State coach Joe Paterno died just posted an update linking to a letter of resignation from its managing editor, Devon Edwards.

Once the normally reputable national CBS Sports outlet picked up the student news source’s story, the now-retracted report of Paterno’s death went national.

Inside Breaking News: The Paterno story: What went wrong

Our editor noted that CBS Sports — a trusted source — reported Paterno’s death around 9pm ET. The CBS Sports headline and story was based, seemingly, on erroneous reporting by the Penn State student publication ‘Onward State.’ The original CBS Sports obituary didn’t directly attribute the student paper.  The Huffington Post followed with a story.

SB Nation: Explaining The Reports Of Joe Paterno's Passing And An Apology

Before publishing, we waited for multiple reports from national outlets. The reports spread to numerous trusted sources, sparking our own decision to publish a post as a result. It was based not on our own reporting, but on the reporting of others.

Jeff Sonderman has a chronicle on Storify of the false reports and retractions. Many in the news media waited for the AP report before running a story, and thus they were spared the need to reverse themselves. Penn Live has the family's reaction:

Joe Paterno is not dead. 

That's about as blunt as it gets, as sources close to the Paterno family say that the family is tremendously upset with CBS Sports and other news media who have erroneously reported Paterno's passing.

As of this writing, though, People Magazine still has an obituary online, citing the CBS Sports article as its source.

The title of this post is a nod to the weblog Retraction Watch, which tracks retractions in the scientific literature.


AIS and the Costa Concordia, a ship off course

In a BBC News report, “Costa Concordia cruise ship captain ‘went off course'”, this map is presented.



It’s credited to the shipping newsletter Lloyd’s List, which on its web site further credits the detail to data from AIS. Here’s a few trackers that keep measure of ship locations from AIS, the Automatic Identification System:

More detail on AIS from the US Coast Guard, and from the ever-handy Wikipedia.

This animation is credited to data from Vessel Finder.

Personal, public, and team wikis

Personal wikis are a source for endless fascination, and they would lend themselves towards machine learning to the extent that you can imagine personal information management as a machine-assisted process. These are as individualized as snowflakes and about as durable.

Public utility wikis come in a variety of flavors, and don’t always share an equivalent management structure or function. Sometimes there is a very small team of creators and a large periphery of consumers, and it’s possible for a suitably designed personal effort to extend to public use if approached with care. Arborwiki fits the bill for this for me; I’ve made a lot
of edits there, but the most popular pages have the most diverse edit base.

Team wikis appear in this decade to be embedded in some other bigger system that needs a shared editable place but that also has some other explicitly transactional work going on. Wiki nature does not include the verbs “assign”, “delegate”, “report on”, or even really “decide”, and if you are doing any kind of process work you often land on something beyond a
simple “edit this page”.

The World Calendar: every year the same (1935 calendar reform proposal)

A proposal to reform the calendar system, circa 1935, would have simplified the seasons by making every single year have the same calendar, every single quarter have 91 days and 13 Sundays, and every January 1 always fall on a Sunday. Leap years are accomodated with a mid-year extra Saturday, and the end of the year is celebrated as Year End Day, also as an extra Saturday.

Picture 1
This image is from Why reform the calendar? : A symposium of opinion prepared for the Special Committee on Calendar Reform of the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, as found on HathiTrust.

Remarkably, the World Calendar Association is still going strong. A word from their web site on the origin of this proposal:

Elisabeth Achelis spread the New York Times out on her desk, momentarily blanketing the plaque dear to her that bore this quote of unknown Persian origin. On that Sunday, September 8, 1929 (a date she never forgot and one she revisited fondly in her 1961 autobiography, Be Not Silent), Elisabeth found a letter to the editor of the New York Times by Lewis E. Ashbaugh of Denver, Colorado. In a brief, almost casual tone, Ashbaugh suggested that the then-unofficial National Committee on Calendar Simplification should consider the adoption of a twelve-month, equal-quarter calendar (perhaps suggested as early as 1745 and published by Abbe´ Mastrofini in 1834) over that of the thirteen-month one that was rapidly gaining popular favor. Elisabeth saw much in this simply revised calendar plan, and instantaneously knew that her five-year search for something to help the world in which she lived had come to an end.

I suppose that calendar reform is no less exotic than speling reform, and that a 12 month rearranged calendar is less exotic than a 13 month calendar where every month has a Friday the 13th.

Picture 2

Ann Arbor plow trucks: public tracking

The Ann Arbor plow truck public tracking page shows where the snow plows are out and about in Ann Arbor.

Picture 1
This view shows 4 of the 5 trucks that were out on Monday evening, January 2, 2012.

Plow routes are color coded, and plow trucks are numbered. One tip: if you are using Chrome, turn on and off the "label" field to get the trucks to show.

The system is build by Radio Satellite Integrators, and uses ESRI map technology. I don't have an explanation for the US-12 shield on Jackson Road.