The Scout Report -- Volume 14, Number 40

October 19, 2007

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

My [pdf]

The world of personal and business finance is an interesting one, and the U.S. Financial Literary and Education Commission has created this excellent site to educate the American public about these matters. The site brings together important information from twenty federal agencies and it covers everything from 401k investments to just balancing a checkbook. Visitors to the homepage will find a list of topics that include "Credit", "Paying For Education", and "Retirement Planning". Also included on the homepage is a "Tools & Resources" area, which will bring users up to date on financial education grants and a few calculators that can help with planning a budget for college or purchasing a home. Many of the materials on the site are also available in Spanish, and visitors may also wish to sign up to receive updates when new material is added. [KMG]

ActionBioscience: Identifying Angiosperms [pdf]

Resources for teaching botany and taxonomy can be difficult to locate online, so locating this nice teaching activity and guide was quite a find. The resource is offered as part of the ActionBioscience website, and it was written by Pamela Soltis. The guide begins by discussing the importance of angiosperms, and the site also includes an in-depth interview with Soltis. Moving on to the activity, the lesson uses visual literacy to reinforce understanding of the Linnaean classification system. It is designed for use at the college level, and the guide also includes a host of links to related sites that will be useful for educators and their botanically-minded students. [KMG]

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [pdf, Real Player] (Last reviewed in the Scout Report on December 2, 1997)

Since the Scout Report last profiled The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) website, they have added dozens of new reports, created a helpful calendar of events, and they also found time to receive a Nobel Peace Prize. Certainly one of the highlights of the site is their annual climate assessment report. Visitors can download the report in its entirety, and also look at previous editions of the report as well. Scientists and policymakers will also want to look at some of their exhaustive scholarly works which include "Safeguarding the Ozone Layer" and "Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage". Visitors will also want to look through the "Activities" area, which brings together all of their technical reports along with information on their National Greenhouse Gas Inventories Programme. [KMG]

University College Writing Workshop: Writing Handouts [pdf]

Whether it's an interrogative pronoun or just a dangling modifier, the University of Toronto's Writing Center can provide visitors with dozens of helpful writing tips. While certain services are only made available to current students, these writing handouts can be used by anyone with the desire to improve their writing. The handouts cover topics like organizing an essay, the effective and correct use of quotations, and the use of articles. Each section includes specific advice and guidance, and even the most effective writers may learn something new from these guides. Composition instructors may also wish to recommend this site to their students if they are looking for additional high-quality writing resources. [KMG]

Illinois Digital Archives [Real Player]

The state of Illinois is many things to many people, and visitors to this very fine digital collection will no doubt discover new things about the Land of Lincoln. Created by a dedicated team at the Illinois State Library, these collections cover everything from the planned community of Park Forest to the evolution of the O'Hare International Airport. Visitors can search the entire collection at their leisure and they can also just wander through the various thematic collections of documents as they see fit. There are some unexpected gems here, such as the "Oral Histories of Centralia" collection. In this collection, visitors can listen to residents of Centralia speak about their lives and their town via interviews conducted in 1975. Moving on, the site also contains several interesting scrapbooks documenting the life of poet Vachel Lindsay created by his sister, Frances Hamilton. [KMG]

How Does This Button Work? [pdf, Quick Time]

Just about everyone has wondered: "How does this button work?" They may not have been thinking of the world of dynamic geometry, but Chris Sangwin of the University of Birmingham has been thinking about just this subject. He recently contributed an interactive learning resource to the Journal of Online Mathematics and its Applications, and his work will no doubt command the attention of mathematics educators. Along with providing details about this nuance of dynamic geometry, the article contains several interactive applets and two short video clips. The article also contains contact information for Sangwin, so users can contact him with any queries. [KMG]

Amusement Park Physics

It's one thing to learn about physics in a lab, but it can be quite another thing to make a pilgrimage to an amusement park to take in the laws of physics. Users will have to supply their own corn dogs and popcorn, but this rather nice educational resource from Annenberg Media will be quite useful for budding physicists and their teachers. The resource allows users to design their own roller coaster, and along the way they will learn a thing or two about the laws of gravity, pendulums, and kinetic energy. Along with explanatory essays, this resource contains interactive graphics and a glossary of terms. Sit back and enjoy the virtual roller coaster ride, as this site provides a rather novel way of introducing students to physics. [KMG]

USGS CoreCast [iTunes]

Just about everyone seems to be creating a podcast these days, and a number of government agencies have entered the fray as of late. The United States Geological Survey recently decided to hang out their own podcast shingle, and the results of their labors can be explored here. The site states that their "CoreCast" is "natural science from the inside out", which seems like an appropriate label. The podcasts range in length from two to fifteen minutes, and they cover topics such as polar bear research, sex-changing fish, and climate change. One podcast that shouldn't be overlooked is "This Episode of CoreCast is Highly Questionable". In a mere three minutes, host Scott Horvath responds to a number of questions in an engaging fashion. After listening to an episode or two, visitors will probably want to sign up to receive email updates about new episodes. [KMG]

General Interest


Billed as "The world's leading resource for European research", AlphaGalileo is a tremendous resource for those with a penchant for keeping tabs on Continental scholarship that deals with science, art, technology, health, society, and the humanities. The team at AlphaGalileo includes a multilingual group of specialists and their coverage is very broad, a fact that will be welcomed in many quarters. Visitors need to complete a brief registration before using the site, and after that they can browse and search through the materials offered here. The site also allows users to perform thematic searches and the opportunity to look over press releases. It's also worth noting that after logging in, visitors can also post their own items. [KMG]

Poets & Writers

With offices in New York and Los Angeles, Poets & Writers, Inc. covers the world of creative writers across the United States. Created in 1970, it remains the largest nonprofit literary organization serving poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers. Visitors to the site can read selected pieces from their magazine, and they can also learn about various funding opportunities for readings and workshops. Writers will also want to sign up for the Speakeasy Message Forum. Here users can discuss such timely topics as David Sedaris, the publishing world, and the state of modern poetry. One of the most useful areas of the site is the "Top Ten Questions Writers Ask". This area provides answers to queries such as "Do I Need An Agent?" and "Should I pursue an MFA?" [KMG]

Reporters Without Borders [pdf, Macromedia Flash Player]

Based in Paris, Reporters Without Borders was started in 1985 and it continues to fight "for press freedom on a daily basis." Their work has found them defending journalists who have been imprisoned and also working to improve the safety of journalists in war zones. From their homepage, visitors can explore sections that include "Regular Reports", "Our Campaigns", and "Investigation Reports". Within the "Regular Reports" area, visitors can avail themselves of their annual Press Freedom Index rankings and related documents. Moving back to the homepage, visitors will find a host of news reports from countries around the world, along with a listing of upcoming events. Finally, visitors can also sign up to receive updates via a RSS feed and they can also even peek in on the Reporters Without Borders office on Second Life. [KMG]

Atomic Platters: Cold War Music [Real Player]

Along with ushering in a new age of global unrest and high anxiety, the emergence of the atomic bomb had a curious and not totally unpredictable effect on the world of popular (and not-so-popular) music. This site brings together these various subgenres of "atomic" music in a way that's rather fun, intriguing, and at times, a bit scary. Visitors can look through such subgenres as "Atomic", "Cold War", "Flying Saucer", and so on. While most of the songs are not available in their full form, visitors can read all of the lyrics and interpretive essays. Of course, visitors can find plenty of audio joy at the "CONELRAD Audio Archives" area. Herein are contained such gems as the positively odd "The Complacent Americans" and the equally lovable novelty album "The Goldwaters Sing Folk Songs to Bug the Liberals". [KMG]

Decade Volcanoes [Macromedia Flash Player]

In the 1990s, the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior started the Decade Volcano Project. As part of their work, they designated sixteen volcanoes particularly worthy of study "because of their explosive histories and close proximity to human populations." The group recently teamed up with National Geographic to create a guide to these volcanoes via this interactive map. Navigating through the map, visitors can learn about Mount Rainier, Colima, Galeras, Santorini, and other prominent volcanoes. For each volcano, there's a brief sketch that gives the date of its last eruption, its elevation, nearby population centers, and a photograph. Additionally, visitors can learn more by clicking on the sections titled "Did You Know?" and "Eruption Interactive". [KMG]

Index on Censorship

The basic human right of human expression is tremendously important, and this is not lost on the good and dedicated people at the magazine "Index on Censorship". Founded in 1972, the magazine has published opinion pieces, analysis, and reporting by Vaclav Havel, Nadine Gordimer, Noam Chomsky, and Umberto Eco. Along with their actual magazine, they also keep many of their feature pieces online here. Visitors are encouraged to read pieces on censorship in Britain, the rights of journalists, and the suppression of certain political-minded weblogs. Given the breadth of material offered here, it's easy to see how this site could also be used in a journalism classroom. [KMG]

2010 Census [pdf]

Short forms, long forms, Alaska Native, and so on. Anyway you look at it, the United States Census is a complicated and fascinating event. It happens ever yen years (as dictated by the U.S. Constitution), and it is a process that is evaluated almost constantly. Recently, the U.S. Census Bureau created the 2010 Census site in order to inform the general public about the next census. Visitors to the page will be delighted to learn that they can read about census updates and statistical modifications on the homepage. The site also contains links to previous data from previous censuses, and a fun "Did You Know?" section. Interested parties can also look at the current U.S. population, learn about part-time job opportunities with the Census Bureau, and look over a FAQ area. [KMG]

Network Tools

JAlbum 7.3

With a bold visual look and a smiling amphibian as their mascot, JAlbum remains a popular online photo album application. They recently released a new version that contains a host of new features, including streamlined publishing functionality. Additionally, users can also customize their albums' appearance with some new skins, such as "PostcardViewer" and "Hearts". This version is compatible with computers running Mac OS X. [KMG]

Winamp 5.5

As an application, the popular multimedia player Winamp is as old as the virtual Internet hills. The application remains on top of these hills fortunately, and their latest tenth anniversary edition is most welcome. With this version, users now have support for album art, an integrated browser for playing MP3 files straight from the web, and several new skins. This anniversary edition is compatible with computers running Windows 98, 2000, and XP. [KMG]

In The News

In an attempt to deal with budget woes, a number of states are considering privatizing lotteries and roads

Some U.S. states consider privatizing their lotteries

Big picture for roads will be costly

Illinois ranked 49th in state funding

Gambling on the Future: Should California Privatize The State Lottery? [pdf]

Privatizing Roads

Would You Pay To Drive on Drew Carey's Private Freeway?

Back in 1964, the state of New Hampshire took a bold and somewhat adventurous policy move as they decided to begin a state-sponsored lottery. Now, lotteries are more or less commonplace across the United States, and there are a number of such games that span multiple states. Lotteries are increasingly on the minds of state officials, as they find themselves faced with financing pension plans for employees and providing for new programs. One solution to this problem that is floating around is to privatize lotteries and allow them to be run by outside operators. Californias Department of Finance recently received such an offer from Goldman Sachs. The proposition suggest that the state could find itself with an extra $14 to $18 billion dollars in its coffers if they agreed to lease the lottery out to this prominent investment company. Such a proposition has been met with skepticism, as many politicians and public policy experts have commented that lottery games essentially function as a regressive form of taxation. Lotteries are not the only state-run enterprises at stake, as a number of state and municipalities have begun to lease various pieces of their highway systems to private companies in recent years. [KMG]

The first link will take visitors to a piece on privatizing state lotteries which appeared in the International Herald Tribune on Sunday. The second link leads to an opinion piece on privatizing roads in Georgia by the Atlanta Journal-Constitutions Lyle V. Harris. On a related note, the third link leads to a piece from Illinois State Universitys own Daily Vidette which talks about how much money from the Illinois lottery goes to support public schools in the state. Moving on, the fourth link leads to a thoughtful policy brief from the California Budget Project on the prospects and pitfalls of privatizing the state lottery. The fifth link will take visitors to a weblog post on privatizing roads offered by Professor Tim Haab of The Ohio State University. Finally, for those who thought funny man Drew Carey wasnt in tune with the world of congestion pricing and road privatization, the last link leads to a video featuring Carey engaging those very topics in the City of Angels.

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