The Scout Report -- Volume 10, Number 40

October 8, 2004

A Publication of the Internet Scout Project
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison

NSDL Scout Reports

Research and Education

General Interest

Network Tools

In The News

NSDL Scout Reports

NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, and Technology

The twenty-first issue of the third volume of the MET Report is available. Its Topic in Depth section offers websites and comments about Wireless technology.

Research and Education

The NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education [pdf]

The National Education Association (NEA) has a number of laudable public outreach programs, but the NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education may be one that is of special interest to teachers in particular. The primary function of the Foundation is to make grants that will improve public education across the nation, including those grants to honor teaching excellence and to create the necessary conditions to attract and retain accomplished teachers in high-need schools. The NEA site includes helpful information and application forms for the organization's numerous grant programs, along with a search engine that will help visitors to hone in on specific materials. The publications area of the site is quite nice as well, and visitors will want to avail themselves of such titles as "Connecting the Bits", which provides information for integrating technology into teaching and learning in K-12 schools. [KMG]

Bureau of Land Management Historical Photographs

While some of those U.S residents who never venture west of the mighty Mississippi River may be unfamiliar with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), most Westerners know this governmental agency quite well. The agency has been in existence in one form or another for more than a century, and is responsible for managing 262 million surface areas of America's public lands and their natural resources. The BLM recently made an ambitious effort to make some of the agency's vast historical images available to the Web-browsing public, and this nice online archive is the result of those labors. The archive contains close to 3500 images, dating back to the early 1890s all the way up to the 1980s. Visitors are advised to use the search engine, which will allow them the ability to look up images by keyword, state, date, or photographer. The site will definitely warrant a couple of extended visits, as there's everything here from photos of sluicing equipment in the Rockies from the early 1920s to grazing cattle in Nevada. [KMG]

From Haven to Home: 350 Years of Jewish Life in America

There is much about the Jewish experience in America that is similar to that of other immigrant groups, including the processes of acculturation, discrimination, acceptance, and assimilation, to name but a few. This special online exhibit from the Library of Congress features more than two hundred objects of American Judaica from its extensive holdings, supplemented by other items loaned by other cultural institutions. The exhibit looks at the Jewish experience through such documents as the correspondence between Newport's Hebrew Congregation in 1790 and George Washington, where the president noted that the United States gives "to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance." The section titled "A Century of Immigration, 1820-1924" is particularly rich in archival material, as it includes images of a Jewish prayer book intended for travelers to America and a beautiful woodcut print by Albert Potter that documents the bustle and opportunity of New York's Lower East Side during the turn of the 20th century. The site concludes with a list of suggested readings and information about various public programs associated with the on-site exhibit, such as film showings and lectures. [KMG]


Since the explosion of online maps and related technologies onto the Internet, it has been relatively easy to find maps of any part of the Earth. Finding detailed maps of the various planets and moons that share the universe with us can be a bit more tricky. Stepping in to fill that gap in online material is the Map-A-Planet site, created and maintained by the United States Geological Survey's Astrogeology Research Program. Visitors to the site will be able create (and download) customizable maps of planets such as Mars and Venus, along with prominent moons such as Callisto (the second largest moon of Jupiter) and Ganymede, which is Jupiter's largest moon. Visitors can also create various levels of maps, ranging from those that are quite basic all the way to those that incorporate more detailed datasets. While the site is certain to be of general interest to most individuals, it may be of particular value to science educators who wish to offer students a rather rich-textured view of these marvelous bodies. [KMG]

Orbis [pdf]

Headquartered in Philadelphia, the Foreign Policy Research Institute has provided intelligent and compelling insights into world affairs since 1955, and their in-house journal, Orbis, has been a part of this effort beginning with its first issue in 1957. The journal is edited by James Kurth, a professor of political science at Swarthmore College, and is published quarterly. The journal contains works that relate directly to American foreign policy and national security, along with analysis of important international developments. While the complete text of each journal issue is not available, visitors can read selections from past issues (dating back to 2002), including pieces from recent volumes that have focused on democratization in China and geopolitics in the 21st century. Additionally, there is a trenchant piece from the Spring 2003 issue titled "Why Geography MattersBut is So Little Learned" that is worth taking a look at. [KMG]

Roper Center: Polling 101

The U.S. Presidential election season seems like a good time review the basics on polling. The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut is "the largest library of public opinion data in the world." (See also Scout Report for Social Science, December 1, 1998.) This section of the website gives visitors a short lesson on public opinion polling. The Polling 101 page reviews Sampling, Total Survey Error, Reading Tables, and provides links to other pages with additional information on polling. A final section talks about the Role of Polls in Policymaking based on a 2001 phone survey conducted for the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation in collaboration with Public Perspective magazine. Visitors can also browse through the Public Opinion Matters section of the website to view recent polls on economic issues, education, technology, and more. The full database of polls, however, is accessible only through paid membership. [VF] This site is also reviewed in the October 8, 2004,_NSDL MET Report_. [VF]

Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America [pdf]

While most people may think of the National Endowment for the Arts as an organization that sponsors various cultural and artistic endeavors across the United States, the organization also prepares research reports on various topics, such as reports on the state of folk and traditional arts in the country. Its latest report, which surveys the state of literary reading in America, offers a rather sobering assessment of how much (or how little) the average American does on a regular or occasional basis. Released in June 2004, this 60-page report draws on previous survey work to highlight some of the trends in this area, including the finding that the percentage of adult Americans reading literature has dropped dramatically during the past 20 years. The report reveals several other findings, including the fact that literary reading continues to decline among all education levels and all age groups. The report includes a number of useful tables, an executive summary, and information about the study's methodology. [KMG]

Brennan Center for Justice

The late Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. was arguably the most influential justice of the Supreme Court in the 20th century, and weighed in with nearly 1600 opinions during his 34 years on the Court. To pay tribute to his many accomplishments, the extended Brennan family and New York University presented Justice Brennan with their gift of the Brennan Center in 1995. The central mission of the Center is "to develop and implement an innovative, nonpartisan agenda of scholarship, public education, and legal action that promotes equality and human dignity, while safeguarding fundamental freedoms." Along with public forums and various advocacy programs, the Center coordinates thematic research in areas such as criminal justice, campaign finance reform, voter choice, in addition to offering public comment on various laws and relevant legislation. On the site's homepage, visitors can read these recent comments briefs filed by Center staff members, and also access some of their latest publications. One that is worth taking a look at is "The Information Commons", which takes a critical look at the ways in which various public interest advocates have sought "to expand access to the wealth of resources that the Internet promises". This and other insightful works may be found in the resources area of the Center's website.

General Interest

Two on Football Stadia

College Gridirons
Stadiums of the NFL

Purpose-built football stadia dominate their surroundings in many major urban areas around the United States, and on fall weekends they are often surrounded by legions of fans preparing for the upcoming gridiron contests. These two sites will allow distant (and not-so distant) visitors to learn about each of these "battlegrounds" through the use of photographs and brief expository pieces on the history of each structure. By browsing through each site, visitors can also learn about proposed stadia that will be built in the near future, such as the much-discussed new home of the New York Jets and the up-and-coming structure that will house the Arizona Cardinals. A trip back in time can be had by visiting the "Past Stadiums" area which includes photographs of such former football palaces as the Kingdome in Seattle and Soldier Field (which has since undergone an unfortunate renovation and expansion) in Chicago. Finally, visitors can offer their own opinions and ratings of the stadiums profiled on the two sites. [KMG]

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon: Conserving a Modern Masterpiece

While still anticipating its grand re-opening in new digs in midtown Manhattan this November, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) presents this website on the conservation of "an iconic fixture in MoMA's collection since its acquisition in 1939", Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. MoMA and other museums make good use of the Web to allow visitors to observe the conservation process as they never could before; in addition to MoMA's site, other art conservation web sites reviewed in the Scout report include Restoration Online, Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Sept. 24, 1999 and Pablo Picasso's The Tragedy, the National Gallery of Art, (June 14, 2002 MoMA's Demoiselles site is arranged in seemingly simple sections--Introduction, History of the painting, Analysis and previous treatments, Treatment 2003/2004, and Ask the conservator (where you can email questions directly), supplemented by a glossary and bibliography, but users can drill down in the broad sections for more specific information, and lots of before-and-after images. For example, exploring the Treatment 2003/2004 area leads to close-ups showing the effects of removing a coat of varnish applied to the painting in 1950. The site also provides a link to the MoMA conservation home page, where visitors can learn about conservation at MoMA in general, and look at the restoration of a Monet Water Lilies. [DS]

Extreme Oil

The quest for oil continues unabated across the globe, and this latest documentary series produced by Thirteen/WNET New York examines the various ways in which various interests work to find new sources of this very important natural resource. The site is divided into three compelling sections, and visitors would do well to start with the area titled "The Journey". Here they will learn about the distance that oil must travel, as it moves from its place of origin all the way to its use as a fuel source, or any of its thousands of other uses. The four oil transport networks profiled here include the famed BTC Pipeline and the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline. The history section of the site offers a helpful (and visually rich) timeline of the evolution of the use of oil by humans that dates back all the way to the year 480 BC. Finally, the last section deals with the science of oil extraction and related technologies, and includes information on refining and production of this resource. [KMG]

A Century of Progress: The 1933-34 Chicago World's Fair [pdf]

In 1893, Chicago played host to the World's Columbian Exposition, a seminal event in American cultural history. With that spirit in mind (and in an attempt to get people to forget the darkest days of the Great Depression), the "City of Big Shoulders" played host to the 1933-1934 Century of Progress World's Fair. The event was held on the shores of Lake Michigan, and stretched from 12th Street (now called Roosevelt Road) all the way to 39th Street on the city's South Side. During the fair, staff members of the John Crerar Library (which is now part of the University of Chicago Libraries) collected various official publications, press releases, guidebooks, and other related materials pertaining to this world exposition. Approximately 350 of those collected items are now available on this website, which visitors may peruse at their leisure. The collection may be browsed by publication author, publication title, and the general subject of each publication. For those out there with an interest in World's Fairs and the spectacle of such endeavors, this website will be a real joy. [KMG]

BBC: Science & Nature-Birds [RealPlayer]

Britons are well-known around the world for their advocacy work on the preservation on animal habitats, and for being avid bird-watchers to boot. This fine site from the BBC allows visitors to learn more about birds through a series of informative articles, hands-on activities, and audio features that profile various bird sounds. For an introduction to the birds "in action", visitors may want to take a look at their online "bird-cam" which features a bird feeding-station within the woodlands of North Somerset. The activity section features instructions on how to build a bird nestbox and how to build a bird table. The audio section is quite nice, as visitors can listen to the dawn choruses of various birds, along with tips on how sound engineers capture the sounds of different birds while they are in the field. [KMG]

Harvard University Institute of Politics [pdf, RealPlayer]

Located within the Kennedy School of Government, the Harvard University Institute of Politics emerged out of the desire to create an organization that would reflect the late President John F. Kennedy's commitment to public service. As such, the Institute of Politics was created in the fall of 1966, and placed under the able direction of Professor Richard E. Neustadt. The Institute of Politics strives to engage young people in politics and public service, and does so by providing a number of internship opportunities, study groups, conferences, and excellent speakers. While some of these programs are limited to Harvard undergraduates, there is a good deal of information for the general public on the site. The research and publications area is a good place to start, as it contains the results of recent polls of the voting tendencies of America's college students, along with previous survey results. This same section also contains an interesting policy paper on youth civic engagement efforts across 11 cities in the U.S. The real highlight of the site is the video archive that presents recent Forum events in streaming video format. Visitors can peruse events from 2001 to the present day, and the topics covered in these erudite forums are quite wide-ranging. Recent forum topics have included "Gays and God: Being LGBT and a Person of Faith" and "The Challenge of Resolving Conflicts & Developing Africa". [KMG]

Jazz lovers may already know about the magazine Downbeat, but others with a developing interest in the current landscape of jazz music and jazz musicians may want to take a look at this site. As might be expected, the actual magazine is not available for free on the site, but there is enough free content here to warrant several visits. For the neophyte who may be looking to learn more about the history of the genre, the "Jazz 101" section offers a brief overview of its history, ranging from the early days of Dixieland all the way to the contemporary sound of people like Benny Green and Marcus Printup. Other free content includes an artist guide, where visitors can enter the names of musicians they would like to learn about, and brief reviews of recent recordings. The archives section is quite nice, as it contains classic articles on such topics as the hard times of Chet Baker in the 1960s and the famous "Blindfold Tests". These "tests" featured jazz musicians attempting to correctly identify a wide range of recordings by fellow performers, and the ones on this site include Downbeat's efforts to stump Elvin Jones, Charlie Mingus, Ornette Coleman, and Wes Montgomery. [KMG]

Network Tools

ZoneAlarm 5.1.033

Many computer users continue to find themselves beleaguered by obnoxious hackers and other potential threats. This latest version of ZoneAlarm (available here as a 15-day free trial), combines the firewall protection of the previous versions along with extensive virus protection. Users of the application can also assign different security levels for a local network and for the Internet. This version is compatible with all systems running Windows 98, Me, 2000, and XP. [KMG]

ATutor 1.4.2

A number of helpful learning-content management system programs have been developed in recent years to assist educators with creating Web-based instructional content. One such program is ATutor 1.4.2, which has been "designed with accessibility and adaptability in mind". The application was designed in part by The Adaptive Technology Resource Center at the University of Toronto and allows users to quickly assemble, package, and redistribute important instructional materials with relative ease and minimal frustration. The program's main homepage also contains helpful tutorials, customizable themes (so that users can customize the look and feel of each course), and complete documentation. This latest version of ATutor is compatible with all operating systems. [KMG]

In The News

SpaceShipOne receives coveted X Prize

Houston, we have a winner: Allen's group claims X Prize
Spaceplane wows with X factor
NPR: Civilian Team's Second Space Trip Wins X Prize [RealPlayer]
SpaceShipOne [Windows Media Player]
Virgin Galactic
NASA Human Space Flight [pdf]

Humans have been traveling around through space for a number of decades now, but this week a new landmark was reached that hints at the possibility that more people may be able to have similar experiences in the near future. On Monday, the privately funded spacecraft SpaceShipOne climbed to a height of 377,591 feet (or 71.5 miles), thereby winning the $10 million Ansari X Prize. The award is intended to spur civilian spaceflight, and it was also announced this week that the award will become an annual event. The financial support for SpaceShipOne came from Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft. The timing of the flight was rather propitious, as it was made on the 47th anniversary of the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik, a historic event which effectively began the so-called "space race" between those ever-frosty Cold War superpowers.

The first link offered here leads to a news article from the Seattle Times that discusses this recent achievement. The second link offers some insights into the nature of these flights as reported by the New Zealand Herald. The third link will take visitors to an audio feature from National Public Radio that comments on the X Prize and several other related news events. The fourth link leads to the SpaceShipOne homepage, where visitors can learn about the spacecraft, view videos of the spacecraft in flight, and read the complete test logs for each flight. The fifth link leads to the very recently established Virgin Galactic company (started by that entrepreneurial gadfly Sir Richard Branson) which is attempting to "allow affordable sub-orbital space tourism". The sixth link will take visitors to the excellent site offered by NASA that contains information on the activities of the space shuttle program, several "Behind the Scenes" profiles of various NASA employees, and a good historical section that provides insight into previous space programs, such as Gemini and Apollo. [KMG]

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