The Scout Report -- Volume 12, Number 34

August 25, 2006

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

Research and Education

General Interest

Network Tools

In The News

Research and Education

Mapping Medieval Townscapes: A Digital Atlas of the New Towns of Edward I

In the waning decades of the 13th century, King Edward I was concerned with several things in his kingdom. While England was growing more prosperous, he was also concerned about the rising trend towards urbanization and about the Welsh. In an effort to deal with both situations, Edward proposed the creation of a group of new towns in both Wales and other parts of the kingdom. Out of this
desire to maintain social and political order arose such places as Conwy, Newborough, Rhuddlan, and Aberystwyth. Seven hundred years later, a group of researchers from Queens University Belfast, working with funds from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, created this digital atlas of those towns. Drawing on the work of archaeologists, GIS experts, and other specialists, this atlas contains copious information on each locale. Visitors can look through each interactive map, and toggle various data layers, such as town walls, trenches, streets, and so on. Along with these maps, visitors can also read about how each map was created, and download the data sets used to generate each map. [KMG]

Selections from the Naxi Manuscript Collection

Residing today primarily in the northwestern part of Chinas Yunnan province near the Tibetan and Burmese borders, the Naxi people are one of Chinas fifty-six ethnic national minorities in the country. Their kingdom flourished for close to a thousand years, and along the way they created a language that used primarily pictographs. Recently, the Library of Congress completed cataloging their tremendous collection of Naxi manuscripts, and since that time, they have also created this online presentation. The materials available here include 185 manuscripts, a 39 foot funerary scroll, and an annotated catalog. Visitors may wish to start by reading the overview of the collection, then continue on to search all of the documents here by subject, keyword, or title. Visitors should not miss the lovely Warrior riding a white cow or the fragmentary, yet powerful, Serpent King. [KMG]

From Traditional to Reformed: A Review of the Land Use Regulations in the Nations 50 largest Metropolitan Areas [pdf]

In the ancient world, the king or a clutch of religious leaders had the final say of what was built in cities, and where it was built. Several millennia later, the situation is governed by a wide range of regulatory bodies and elected councils, and in some parts of the country, it is easier to start work on ones tax returns than taking on the valiant task of understanding local land use regulations. Stepping into that mucky situation boldly are Rolf Pendall, Robert Puentes, and Jonathan Martin who have recently completed this 40-page paper on behalf of The Brookings Institution. In the survey they offer here, they find a wide variety of regulatory regimes in the nations 50 largest metropolitan areas. The report relies primarily on factor analysis, which might make it a bit on the technical side for some audiences, but overall it presents a fine survey and some good insights into the world of land use regulation. [KMG]

Doing Business [pdf]

Several years ago, the World Bank became concerned about the business climate and environment in different countries around the world. After a time, they decided to embark on the creation of a database that would provide indicators of the cost of doing business in various countries. With a keen eye towards looking at existing laws and regulations in each country, their team of researchers looked at such topics as starting a business, protecting investors, paying taxes, getting credit, among others. Visitors with an interest in such matters can download their annual reports, view country specific reports (such as Doing Business in Brazil), and also take advantage of 155 printable country data profiles. Additionally, visitors can view the studys complete methodology and also compare economies on various metrics. [KMG]

National Academy of Sciences: InterViews [Real Player]

The National Academy of Sciences has over 2000 members, and they have all distinguished themselves in one of the many learned fields, ranging from biology to geography. In an attempt to offer the general public insights into the lives and careers of some of their members, they have created the InterViews website. As its name implies, the site consists of first-person accounts of the lives and work of National Academy of Sciences members. Each interview is about an hour long, and visitors can view the currently available interviews alphabetically or by subject area. There are a number of revealing moments here, such as Roger Beachys recollections of his fathers love of nature and Robert Kirshners work on supernovas. [KMG]

Learn. Genetics from the Genetic Science Learning Center [Macromedia Flash Player, pdf]

Whats a gene? What exactly is a trait? And can I really remember what a chromosome is, or what it does? Some of our readers might be asking themselves these questions, and if they are, they will definitely want to browse on over the tremendously helpful and easy to use Learn. Genetics website. Created by a team of experts at the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah, the site provides basic overviews of various aspects of genetics, along with a number of fine resources (such as lesson plans and activities) for educators. The basics of genetics can be gleaned within the Genetic Reference Series area, which includes a virtual biotechniques laboratory, and a series of features that answers some of the basics in jargon-free language. Moving on, the Genome Science Series includes features that address recent manifestations of genetics in public discourse and discussion, such as Stem Cells in the Spotlight and Gene Therapy: Molecular Bandage? Finally, visitors can take a bit of the website with them if they elect to download one of their Biobits in Depth, which address topics like cystic fibrosis research and the social issues surrounding the use of medical marijuana. [KMG]

Calculus on the Web

The thought of learning calculus has struck fear into the heart of many students for several centuries, but this most intriguing subject need do so no longer. Developed with assistance from the National Science Foundation, the Calculus on the Web (COW) project was created by Gerardo Mendoza and Dan Reich of Temple University. As their mission statement notes, The principal purpose of COW is to provide you, the student or interested user, with the opportunity to learn and practice problems in calculus in a friendly environment via the Internet. Certainly after considering their site, one can accurately say with gusto: Mission accomplished. The site is divided into a number of thematic modules, including those that deal with linear algebra, abstract algebra, and number theory. Along the way, users will be guided through sets of problems where they will be asked to fill in certain variables, and so on. The program will tell students about their progress, and help them if they are experiencing difficulty. Finally, the site also has a complete index which will come in handy. [KMG]

Inside the Vault [pdf]

A number of recently published books have reinvigorated the publics general interest in the so-called dismal science of economics, and students across the country have shown a penchant for enrolling in beginning and advanced economic courses during their time in higher education. One fine tool to explore some aspects of economics is the Inside the Vault newsletter, which is published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Published biannually, the newsletter contains several feature articles, a lesson plan for teachers, and a delightful Q&A section. The Q&A section is helpful for students in particular, as it answers such topical queries as Why are many states experiencing budget deficits? and Why is the growth rate of the U.S. economy stronger than that of Western European countries? Visitors may also wish to view previous issues of the newsletter, which are also available here, all the way back to 1996. [KMG]

General Interest

Europa Nostra [pdf]

Its fairly safe to say that Europe has a great deal of valuable cultural resources, and one of the most well-known umbrella organizations that deals with promoting a high quality of standard in the fields of heritage conservation and such is Europa Nostra. The group was started in 1963, and since then they have worked with their individual members to safeguard many of these heritage objects and places. On their website, visitors can read about their organization structure and financing, peruse a calendar of heritage events, and also learn about the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage and its recipients. Visitors with a specific interest in cultural preservation policy will want to wander on over to the Influencing Policy area. Here they can learn about Europa Nostras work in this area by reading the archived position papers, declarations, and statements located here. [KMG]

Mass Moments [Real Player]

Mass Moments is not a website dedicated to celebrating public rebellions, uprisings, or other such activities of the masses, but rather it was created to serve as an electronic almanac of Massachusetts history. Started on January 1, 2005, the site serves as a repository of brief moments in the states history, such as vignettes that tell the story of Worcesters first airport or Frederick Douglasss first appearance before a white audience. Visitors can play each moment, or just read the script. Historic photographs and/or other documents, as well as a nice selection of sources for additional information accompany each script. Visitors can also search all of the previous moments by subject or geographic region, and in keeping with the times, they can also receive each new moment by RSS feed or podcast. [KMG]

Electronic Privacy Information Center [pdf] (Last reviewed in The Scout Report on June 13, 1997)

When the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) was started in 1994, there were already substantial privacy issues surrounding the collection and use of electronic data at play. Since that time, such issues have grown exponentially in their scope, and EPIC continues to perform valuable research in the area. A good place to start exploring their site is right on the homepage, namely their collection of resources on domestic surveillance. Here visitors can read white papers, view letters from government officials on these programs, and also listen to speeches on the subject. For their own personal protection, visitors may want to look over the practical privacy tools offered here, such as anonymous surfing applications and secure instant messaging. Additionally, the Policy Issues section contains helpful resources and news updates on free speech, voting, and a privacy A to Z primer. [KMG]

Vatican Museums Online

Visiting the Vatican and its splendid museums can be hard. Navigating through the throngs of camera-ready tourists and other such features of the place can try the patience of even the most seasoned traveler. For edification and leisure, the Vatican Museums Onlines website is a good surrogate, especially if one is unable to make the journey in person. The site affords visitors access to the Sistine Chapel, the Gregorian Egyptian and Etruscan Museums, the Pinacoteca, and the Ethnological Missionary Museum. With the help of Java, visitors can take 360 degree tours of each museums rooms, and view each object in context. Then they may wish to go back and look at the contents of each room in detail. All of the exhibits are lovely, but the Gregorian Egyptian Museum is a real treat, as it contains various reliquaries and artifacts which were transferred to Rome in the Imperial age, and then subsequently moved to the Vatican. Specifically, visitors should look at the statue of the god Anubis and the granite statute of Queen Tuya. [KMG]

International Labour Organization [pdf]

Created in the aftermath of World War I, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has a rather unique distinction in that it is the only remaining major creation of the Treaty of Versailles. For the past sixty years, it has been a part of the United Nations, and along with formulating international labor standards it provides technical assistance in such fields as employment policy, working conditions, and labor statistics. While the reach of the ILO is quite broad, a good way to get a sense of this range is to look over the Whats New section on the homepage. Here visitors will find information about such events as the International Day of the Worlds Indigenous People and a recent report on street children in St. Petersburg. Visitors can also read their in-house publication, World of Work, and watch a movie about child labor. It is worth noting that many of the publications offered here are available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish and German. [KMG]

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa [Macromedia Flash Player]

New Zealand has been front and center in the mind of many as of late, in no small part due to a number of prominent films that have showcased its very diverse set of landscapes and peoples. Visitors who wish to get inside the history and culture of the country (without taking a long plane ride to Wellington) can click their way over to the website of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Visitors can navigate the site in English or Maori, and a good place to start is the Learning section of the site. First-time users will want to take a look at Tai Awatea, or Knowledge Net, which offers interactive modules that offer insight into the peoples of the Pacific Islands and New Zealands famed sheep farming industry. [KMG]

RAND: Homeland Security [pdf]

A number of educational institutions and organizations have set up graduate programs and research centers around the growing interest in homeland security. The RAND Organization is part of this trend, and their Homeland Security Program website provides access to some of their publications that deal with this topic. Visitors can learn a bit about their staff members, and then continue on to the Publications area, which features documents organized into categories from intelligence, to emergency management, and terrorism risk management among others. For visitors with limited time, their in-house newsletter may be a good place to start, as it offers brief synopses about some of the longer research papers found here. That being said, policy analysts and scholars working in the field will definitely want to look over the full report titled Evaluating the Viability of 100 Percent Container Inspection at Americas Ports. [KMG] Free web training for computer courses

As more and more people find themselves needing introductory materials that deal with all aspects of computer operation and the like, its good to know that there are a number of websites that provide a nice range of basic tutorials in such matters. The folks at have created just such a resource on this site, which includes basic tutorials for Microsoft Windows, XHTML, and on how to design a web page using Word. While the site itself doesnt contain a search engine, visitors can just scroll down the homepage to locate any tutorials that might be of interest. Teachers might also find the site helpful as they could easily place some of these materials on a projection device and have students follow along as they go through the tutorials as a class. [KMG]

Network Tools

MyTunes RSS 2.2.3 [iTunes]

As more and more music listening and storage applications continue to tout their competitive advantages, users are drawn closer to some of them than others. iTunes is a popular choice for some, and this latest application will allow persons using that program to access their iTunes library from any computer connected through a network. Visitors can create RSS feeds in their browser, and of course, just browse and search their libraries as they see fit. This application will work on any system that utilizes iTunes and Java Runtime 1.5. [KMG]

SurveillizCam Lite 1.14

For users with a web cam or video capture card, SurveillezCam 1.14 will be a real find. With this application, users can use their home computer as a way to monitor their home or office while they are away. The application has the ability to detect motion and log surveillance video into AVI as well. Visitors will also be monitored of abnormal motion via a sound alarm or live videos. This version is compatible with computers running Windows 2000 or XP. [KMG]

In The News

Policy experts, politicians, and others debate successes and failures of welfare reform

10 years of welfare reform assessed

On and off the rolls, women work to get ahead

NPR: Legislator Offers First-Person View of Welfare [Real Player]

In Focus: Ten Years of Welfare Reform [pdf]

NPR: Where the Welfare Law Failed Fathers

Fact Sheet: The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996

Some sixty years after its introduction during the New Deal era, the essence of social welfare in the United States was dramatically transformed with the passage of The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Despite its cumbersome name, the Act effectively placed a five-year time limit on welfare assistance, and also required a significant commitment on the part of recipients to find work. As various groups and individuals reflected on the past ten years, some were quick to note that the number of people on welfare has dropped 60 percent. Others have been more sanguine, noting that these reforms continue to inadequately address deeper problems, particularly those of single mothers with few job qualifications or education. Some critics continue to suggest that these problems are related to structural changes in the economy, and others continue to blame the so-called culture of poverty. The debates over what to do in order to solve the problems of working families continues to be intense, with some groups pushing to encourage marriage as a solution, and others seeking to provide more money for child care and higher minimum wages. [KMG]

The first link will take users to a piece from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazettes own Steve Levin that takes a closer look at the effects of welfare reform on several local residents. The second link leads to a similar piece which looks at womens experience with the welfare system in and around Kansas City. The third link leads to a provocative piece from National Public Radio which features Montana legislator Mary Caferro talking about her own first-hand experience as a welfare recipient. Moving right along, visitors will find a diverse set of scholarly writings on welfare reform at the fourth site, offered courtesy of The Brookings Institution. The fifth link offers commentary by two scholars (Ron Haskins and Ronald Mincy) about how public policy should be adjusted over the next decade to meet the needs of poor families. Finally, the last link leads to a basic fact sheet on The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. [KMG]

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