Thursday, July 29, 2004

Public Media Manager: Open Source, Open Hands:

NCPR Online has long been the beneficiary of the generous folks at The Sweetgrass Foundation. More recently, we received a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. And, as always, we benefit from the gifts of NCPR listeners. Thanks are nice, but give-back is better. This weekend, NCPR is giving back the primary intellectual fruits of three years labor on the part of our former web manager Bill Haenel, (with some amateur kibbitzing from me--DH) and assistance from the Clarkson Open Source Institute. At the Public Radio News Director's Conference this weekend in Washington, NCPR is unveiling Public Media Manager, a version of the content management software Bill wrote to enter, organize and display our online news. The package, along with some training assistance, is offered free to all public broadcasters under an open-source general public license. Feels pretty good--think we'll do some more.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Weighty Matters:

While American cars, on average, now tip the scale at over two tons, American drivers are transporting an extra load themselves. My wife Terry theorizes that the two go hand in hand. We are supersizing ourselves, so we supersize our running gear. Airlines have had to recalculate plane payloads in light of the obesity epidemic. Fashion designers have surreptitiously redefined dress sizes to help maintain the illusions of the not-so-thin and rich. As for diets--who knew that all one had to do to change a bacon double-cheeseburger into health food was to throw away the bun? To quote Odo, the founder of Annares in the anarchist utopian novel The Dispossessed, "Excess is excrement." And boy--are we full of it.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Messing with the balance:
The casualties mount--100% of the tiger lilies, a decimation of the hasta. Those yellow watchamacallits from Terry's friend didn't last the night. And the morning glories will never see the light of day. Call them the "merry deer," the "red, rare, deer," "two tall stags at a green mountain"--I know what they really are--"Goats by Gucci." It's my own fault; uprooting all that bamboo just gave them easy access to the yard, and a taste for a more exotic diet. You can't even budge them from the chowline now with thrown dirt clods and hysterical arm-flapping. I'd try to restore the balance by offering my land as a four-acre wolf sanctuary, but the nasty tattooed gang of raccoons would probably rub them out in no time. Maybe punji pits.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Space Weather

You may have tuned in NCPR yesterday, and instead gotten hiss, or KDOO, Whackadoo Radio from Mellow Marsh, California. Radio Bob said to put the "ducting" notice on the front page. It's the season for tropospheric ducting, a kind of wormhole in the ionosphere that has unpredictable results on broadcast signals. I hope they enjoyed The Splendid Table in Kyrgyzstan. Now you know how I feel when the mechanic tells me my trapezoidal phlostigen wickets are "iffy." As it turns out, it was not tropospheric ducting, but an even more obscure phenomenon called Sporadic E, caused by--I kid you not--wind shear in the E-layer of the ionosphere, and it is less sporadic near the equinox. If you also had email problems yesterday--that was caused by maser-induced cyberspatial vortices over Fairfax County VA. And sp am, as everyone knows, is the result of spontaneous generation, like maggots in meat. Though some claim it is more Biblical, like the rain of toads.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Such Sweet Sorrow:

More farewells this week. News reporter Jody Tosti is leaving NCPR, relocating to Syracuse with her partner Matt. In addition to being a real hoot, Jody has done some great work here, focusing on the environment, public health, women's issues, education and economic development. Visit Jody's reporter page and browse through the 376 news stories she has filed since January 2001. Drop her a line at

Web manager Bill Haenel is also leaving, after a three-and-a-half year tenure that has taken from the wishful thinking stage to the dream machine stage. Click on any page to see his handiwork. Even though his freelance life has eaten his day job, Bill will continue to work on open-source software development projects for the greater good of all public broadcasting. Drop him a line at And thanks Bill, for leaving me the keys to the Ferrari.