The Scout Report -- Volume 11, Number 15

April 15, 2005

A Publication of the Internet Scout Project
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Sponsored by University of Wisconsin - Madison Libraries.

NSDL Scout Reports

Research and Education

General Interest

Network Tools

In The News

NSDL Scout Reports

NSDL Scout Reports for the Life Sciences and Physical Sciences

The eighth issues of the fourth volumes of the Life Sciences Report and Physical Sciences Report are available. The Topic in Depth section of the Life Sciences Report annotates sites on Earth Day. The Physical Sciences Report's Topic in Depth section offers websites and comments about Mass Wasting.

Research and Education

The James Madison Papers

The mention of James Madison conjures up images of the emergence of the U.S. Constitution, as well it should. In this remarkable new digital collection, the American Memory Project at the Library of Congress presents over 12,000 items in some 72,000 digital images that offer a detailed and authoritative portrait of the man who is often referred to as the "Father of the Constitution". This portrait effectively emerges from the diverse set of documents offered here, which include personal notes, drafts of letters and legislation, and autobiography, and correspondence. The collection itself is organized into six series, and it begins with a selection of his father's letters and continues all the way to the postwar years of his presidency. The digital collection is further enhanced by four nice essays, including an introductory piece by John C.A. Stagg and a rather intriguing piece on the ciphers used by Madison in his correspondence. The site is rounded out by a search engine and a timeline. [KMG]

"Why Not in Our Community?": Removing Barriers to Affordable Housing [pdf]

The past decade or so has been a true "comeback" era for American cities. Once proclaimed to be rather dead and lifeless, many urban centers have been reinvigorated through massive capital investments in a number of mega-projects, including huge residential and retail developments. Unfortunately, a number of people are now unable to afford to live in the cities in which they work. This latest report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development looks at the regulatory barriers that impact the availability of affordable housing around the United States. Released in February 2005, the 31-page report finds that "outdated, exclusionary and unnecessary regulations continue to block the construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing in some parts of America". Some of these specific trends in today's housing markets include complex environmental regulations, "smart growth" principles, and various impact fees that may be assessed on such developments. The report will definitely be of interest to those with an interest in housing policy in the United States and in urban policies and trends more generally. [KMG]

The Inevitable Corruption of Indicators and Educators Through High-Stakes Testing [pdf]

The purpose of testing students has long been debated among educational policy and educational psychology experts, and there has been a litany of research disseminated on the subject. This latest paper from the Education Policy Research Unit at Arizona State University (authored by Sharon L. Nichols and David C. Berliner) explores the problematic nature of high-stakes testing in detail throughout its 187-pages. Sponsored by a grant from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, the executive summary of this well-written report begins with the assertion that "this study finds that the over-reliance on high-stakes testing has serious negative repercussions that are present at every level of the public school system." The report itself contains a number of helpful chapters on its methodology, the corruption of indicators, the incidences of student cheating, and the misrepresentation of student data. Overall, this report is one that is well worth reading in detail, particularly for educational policy researchers and those directly involved in school administration and governance. [KMG]

BBC: Supervolcano [jpeg, Macromedia Flash Player]

As a follow-up to a recent television broadcast, the BBC offers fascinating articles and interactive modules about supervolcanoes. Students and educators can learn about the supervolcano in Yellowstone that erupted 2.1 million years ago and produced 2,500 times more ash than Mount St. Helens. Users can play an interactive game to learn how they should respond to a disaster. The website describes how volcanoes and other natural disasters occur and how people and the environment are affected. After reviewing the materials, students can test their knowledge about natural disasters. This site is also reviewed in the April 15, 2005 NSDL Physical Sciences Report. [RME]

Tackling Nurse Shortages in OECD Countries [pdf]

Among its members, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) includes such nations as Italy, Japan, Korea, and the United States. Within these countries (and the numerous other members of the OECD) there has been great concern over the lack of skilled health-care professionals, and in particular, nurses. Currently, many member nations have to effectively import nurses from all over the world in other to fill the rapidly increasing demand for these important professionals. This 58-page report on the nature of such nurse shortages was authored by Steven Simoens, Mike Villeneuve, and Jeremy Hurst and was released to the public in early 2005. Not surprisingly, the report notes that current nurse shortages exist in almost all OECD countries and that current nurse shortages seem "to be caused by fewer young people entering the workforce, a greater range of professional opportunities open to young people, the low social value given to nursing, negative perceptions of nurse working conditions and an ageing nurse workforce." The report concludes with some helpful policy suggestions, including the observation that a variety of mixed incentives (including innovative approaches to nurse education) may ameliorate the situation. [KMG]

AgNIC Portal

Started in 1995, the Agriculture Network Information Center (AgNIC), is part of a collaborative alliance between various libraries and extension programs at different universities and other institutions. This partnership is designed to bring quality agricultural information to those parties and to the general public as well. Starting at the Center's homepage, visitors can view their featured site, search the entire contents, or look at the portal's features in detail. Visitors can also browse by topic, which include such subjects as entomology, plant science, and rural and agricultural sociology. Within each topic, visitors will find a host of informative resources, such as the proceedings of relevant conferences, plant and insect management guides and notes on how to maintain an optimal environment for dairy cows. Finally, visitors can also browse through a very well-maintained calendar of events and a news center. [KMG]

Harlem History [RealPlayer]

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Harlem is perhaps the most famous African-American neighborhood in the United States (though over history it has been host to a number of ethnic groups), and hundreds of its residents have gone on to major positions of prominence in politics, the arts, and a host of other areas. This multimedia website, designed by the Columbia University Digital Knowledge Ventures group (in conjunction with The Institute for Research in African-American Studies) brings together a number of archival highlights and scholarship from a number of sources at Columbia University. The thematic areas on the site include "Arts and Culture", "The Neighborhood" and "Politics". Visitors can delve into each of these areas and read essays on the architecture and growth of Harlem, its former Jewish identity, and the recollections of the famed labor leader A. Philip Randolph. Finally, the site also contains a number of photo essays of note. [KMG]

Parrot Pages

Hosted by Pelican Media, a nonprofit film production organization, this intriguing website introduces a flock of wild parrots that make their home in San Francisco. The site was created by Mark Bittner, a local resident who has been studying, and interacting with, the parrots since 1990. Bittner recently authored a book entitled The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, which documents his experiences with the flock. The parrot flock is primarily composed of the species Aratinga erythrogenys, commonly known as the cherry-headed conure. The website contains short bios and photographs of 17 birds that Bittner has identified and named. The site also contains a brief history of parrot flocks in San Francisco, FAQs, and short journal entries chronicling Bittner's interactions with the parrot flock during the past few years. The website is not too deep yet, but once Bittner's book sales slow down, he intends to add considerable additions to the site. This site is also reviewed in the April 15, 2005 NSDL Life Sciences Report. [NL]

General Interest

Backyard Biology

There may be some who erroneously think that to learn about biology "in the field" it is necessary to travel to exotic locales. This fine site from the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., effectively dismisses that notion soundly by using its own grounds as a lens for learning about the "backyard biology" that is present right within this major metropolitan area. The right-hand side of the site is well worth starting with, as it contains three thematic areas: "Celebrate", "Study", and "Protect". In each area, visitors may browse through a set of resources dedicated to science articles, identification guides, and other such materials. For those who are drawn to live webcams, the homepage also has a "Backyard Cam", where users may check out the live action in and around the birdfeeder on the grounds. Finally, visitors may also want to look through the online photo gallery, take a look through the "Urban Nature Watch" area, and learn about the plant of the month. [KMG]

Groundswell: Constructing Contemporary Landscape [Macromedia Flash Player]

Navigate from a map at this MoMA Web site to explore 23 urban landscape projects located all around the world. There are gardens, parks, and museum campuses, intended for public use, often reclaiming abandoned or degraded industrial land. Basic information is provided for all 23 sites. For example, the entries for the Shanghai Carpet, a plaza above underground parking, with stone, brick, and timber construction, or Lurie Garden in Millennium Park in Chicago, Ill., consist of a drawing or model, the project description and credits, and photographs. Six of the entries give additional information: a lengthier project section, with descriptions and credits; a site section with schematic plans; and an animated experience section, allowing visitors to see the site from different angles and in different conditions. For example, see the Schouwburgplein, (Theater Square) in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, from an aerial view, night view in the rain, or as if seated on a bench outside. [DS]

Chapman's Alumni Sketches

The august histories of various colleges and universities around the United States have been well documented throughout the centuries, and a number of these institutions have placed various related historical documents online for the use of historians, alumni, and others. The Rauner Special Collections Library at Dartmouth College has placed an 1877 copy of its own Chapman's Alumni Sketches online for perusal, and it is well worth a glance. The book was originally published in 1867, and was compiled by the Reverend George T. Chapman (Dartmouth, Class of 1804). The volume contains entries for most of the graduates from the classes of 1771 through 1867 within its 520 pages. Visitors may look through the work's various pages and through doing so, learn about the many rather distinguished alumni from Dartmouth's first century. [KMG]

UNESCO: Social and Human Sciences [pdf]

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has five specialized sectors, and one of them happens to be dedicated to examining the social and human sciences. Within this broad heading, this sector examines a number of key themes, including ethics, human rights, philosophy, and social transformations. The well-designed homepage allows visitors easy access to the organization's various programmatic areas of action and links to a number of helpful features including its newsletter. One particularly timely feature is a link to the upcoming International Forum on the Social Science-Policy Nexus planned for September 2005. Also, within each primary section there are links to publications and subthemes, such as gender equality and development and human security and peace. [KMG]

How the United States Funds The Arts [pdf]

There is a considerable debate going on around the country about who should be responsible for funding the very diverse activities that fall under the umbrella of the "arts". Some say that it is better to allow private groups and charitable organizations more leeway in this area, while others favor giving the federal government a greater role in this process. This helpful and intriguing 31-page paper in pdf format from the National Endowment for the Arts, first published in October 2004, offers some compelling insights into how various programs fund he arts throughout the country. Prepared by Professor Tyler Cowen of George Mason University, the report contains four chapters, which deal with such subjects as the nature of direct public support for the arts and so on. [KMG]

NASA's Return to Flight [Macromedia Flash Reader]

Since the Columbia tragedy of two years ago, NASA has spent a great deal of time getting ready for its next mission, and this well-thought-out website provides a host of important information about the next mission, which has a launch window beginning in May. Designed for the general public this site affords interested parties some unique insight into the details of both the enhanced shuttle system, the crew of the mission, and the specific objectives of the upcoming mission. Through the innovative interface design, visitors can view brief overviews of each section of the site, then proceed to learn more detailed materials about each area. The crew section of the site is quite nice as well, as it provides some insight into the work and duties of each crew member. Overall, the layout of the site is quite appealing, as are its various graphic elements. [KMG]

The Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation [Macromedia Flash Player]

To many Salvador Dali remains a rather enigmatic man, and to others, somewhat overly commercial in his artwork. He was always quite a savvy self-promoter, so many will not be surprised to learn that he created the Gala-Salvador Foundation in 1983 (six years before his death) in order "to promote, boost, divulge, lend prestige to, protect and defend in Spain and in any other country the artistic, cultural and intellectual oeuvre of the painter" and so on. This website provides information about the Foundation, the three museums it manages, and the outreach programs it performs, including the conservation department and study center. Visitors to the site can take interactive tours of the three museums here, and also learn about the general operations of each place. Of course, visitors will not be surprised to learn that in the "Collection" area of the site that they may also view selected works by Dali along with taking a look at a "Work of the Month" here as well. [KMG]

Network Tools

TimeLeft 3.04

As a popular T-shirt of late proclaims, "Time is an invention". While this may in fact be true, a number of computer users will find this small application a helpful way to manage their own time. Timeleft effectively acts as an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a timer and time synchronization utility. Perhaps the most compelling feature of Timeleft is that it can remind users before a specified event occurs so that they may plan accordingly. This version is compatible with Windows 95 or newer. [KMG]

SILC 0.9.19

With collaborative projects that incorporate teams of people in different cities, states, and even different countries, Scout readers may find this latest live conferencing protocol worth examining. Using the Secure Internet Live Conferencing (SILC) server, users can send all kinds of messages such as images, video, and audio streams. SILC 0.9.19 is compatible with all operating systems. [KMG]

In The News

College students continue to have strong interest in spirituality

Surveys: Young Adults Search Spiritually,1280,-4934728,00.html
Campus groups connect students of minority faiths [Free registration required]
Spirituality in Higher Education
Spirituality and Young People [RealPlayer]
A Teacher's Guide to Religion in the Public Schools [pdf]

Despite certain claims to the contrary, a recent survey from UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute indicates that college students in the early 21st century maintain a strong interest in spirituality and self-discovery. Released this Wednesday, the study noted that, of more than 100,000 freshmen who started college in 2004, four in five reported an interest in spirituality. Additionally, the news release from the Institute noted that three in four of those surveyed were searching for meaning or purpose in life. Commenting on these results, the Institute's Helen Astin, remarked that "They are looking inwardly and they are searching for ways to cultivate their inner selves." Those students surveyed who exhibited high levels of religious engagement were generally more likely to have conservative social views, although some issues (including affirmative action) did not often corroborate with some of the standard issues that are sometimes taken in the whole to be representative of a conservative ideology.

The first link leads to a news piece from the Guardian that discusses the findings of this spirituality survey. The second link will take visitors to a well-written article from the University of Wisconsin's student newspaper The Daily Cardinal that talks about the ways in which campus groups work to support students of diverse faiths. The third link leads to the homepage of the Spirituality in Higher Education research group at UCLA, where visitors may learn about the recent findings and read some of the group's other reports. The fourth link leads to the homepage of the REBOOT organization, which is a group committed to exploring the nature of Jewish identity, with an emphasis on young people. The fifth link leads to a radio feature from National Public Radio that offers a bit of recent historical perspective on the subject of young people and spirtuality, as it was originally broadcast in December 1998. The sixth and final link leads to a helpful guide for public school teachers on teaching religion in the classroom, offered by the Freedom Forum organization. [KMG]

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